When Black Panther was released worldwide in 2018, the film became an instant hit for Marvel Studios––the story of Chadwick Boseman's T'Challa fighting against Michael B. Jordan's Killmonger brought conversations into the spotlight, which were long overdue. In fact, Erik is often listed as many fans' favorite villain in the entire MCU.
It's certainly a bold claim, one which shares the company of people like Tom Hiddleston's Loki, Josh Brolin's Thanos, and Michael Keaton's Vulture.
Sadly, by the end of Black Panther, the character is laid to rest––though, thankfully, What If...? gave fans a little more time with Erik, even if it wasn't the most critically praised outing.
There's a big question that has been posed about the antagonist over the years, one which creates a heated debate every time: is Erik Killmonger truly a villain?
Jordan Makes His Case: Killmonger Isn't A Villain
In an interview with Bleacher Report, Black Panther actor Michael B. Jordan, who played Erik Killmonger, explained why he thinks his character is misunderstood as a villain.
The actor noted that "he was a necessary part of the conversation," and that Erik "just had a different way of going about [it]":
"No... he was a necessary part of the conversation... he cared about his people just as much as T'Challa. He just had a different way of going about and getting it done. He was a historian that studied history. The history of government and oppression. Erik is a really smart guy; MIT graduate... he saw that there was really only one way to change things, and he went about that."
Jordan went on to say that he "[didn't] think his argument was completely wrong," and he felt the same towards T'Challa:
"I don't think his argument was completely wrong, [and] I don't think T'Challa's argument was completely wrong. I think it was a necessary conversation that needed to be had. But you know, it's a movie also. I'm willing to take life to do whatever it takes, and this is what I've been taught. This is what I've been shown that works. You can not like it, but this other version of trying to get change done is just kinda taking a little too long for me. I ain't got that time..."
Killmonger, Not A Villain?
A character can still be a villain if their intentions are pure or even just in the ballpark of necessary. Those are how the best ones are born; they genuinely believe themselves correct, but are simply going about things the wrong way.
Killmonger's ways of going about it all would have resulted in war across the world, with millions of innocent people in the crossfire. It's interesting to try and claim then how he isn't a villain––because it sure seems like that's the correct term.
Despite that, the core of Jordan's viewpoint is undoubtedly correct: he was an essential piece of the conversation behind Black Panther's themes and questions. It's a massive part of why the film was so successful.
Plenty of fans have voiced their desire for the character to return in some fashion for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever when it releases in theaters on November 11, 2022. Fans will just have to wait another year to find out if their hopes come true.