As Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) reaches its final stretch of the road, there’s still one more story waiting to be told. Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther: Wakanda Forever isn’t due to arrive till 11 November, but it has invited discussion regarding the titular hero’s legacy for a while now, especially with the passing of actor Chadwick Boseman two years ago.
The decision made by Marvel then was to not recast the role. Instead, the sequel would explore a different approach and the ongoing story of Wakanda — a move taken to honour Boseman. But the choice didn’t quite sit well with some fans, who petitioned for a recast of the character on change.org, explaining their concern that the narrative importance and significance of representation might diminish with T’Challa’s absence.
One year on, Marvel boss Kevin Feige opened up to Empire on the decision to not recast the Wakanda superhero. “It just felt like it was much too soon to recast,” he said, likening their approach to Marvel’s long-standing ethos in the comics. “Stan Lee always said that Marvel represents the world outside your window. And we had talked about how, as extraordinary and fantastical as our characters and stories are, there’s a relatable and human element to everything we do. The world is still processing the loss of Chad. And Ryan poured that into the story.”
Once the narrative direction was settled, Feige and Coogler got back on track to figure out the makings of a sequel that would really matter. “The conversations were entirely about, yes, ‘What do we do next?’” Feige shared. “And how could the legacy of Chadwick – and what he had done to help Wakanda and the Black Panther become these incredible, aspirational, iconic ideas – continue? That’s what it was all about.”
And while Black Panther: Wakanda Forever seeks to honour that legacy, another new face has got fans excited. Namor the Sub-Mariner was long theorised to be the right villain, but it wasn’t until San Diego Comic-Con that audiences got a look at the antagonist. In the comics, he has often clashed with Black Panther, making him the ideal candidate to bring some conflict and drama into the movie. According to Empire, there’s another element that will be carried over from the pages, and that’s his status as a half-mutant. The outlet notes: “One detail that is carrying over from the comics? According to Huerta, his Namor is indeed a mutant.”
The distinction came as part of the confirmation that MCU’s version of the character, played by Mexican actor Tenoch Heurta, is inspired by Aztec mythology, resulting in Atlantis’ name change to Talocan. Namor’s mutant connections could be a very big deal for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and beyond, especially now that mutants have been officially inducted into the MCU — first with Professor X in Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness, and then Kamala Khan in Ms. Marvel.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is slated for release in theatres on 11 November, and will feature both familiar and new characters alike.