Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is only a couple of months out from its November release in theaters, coming as the final movie in Phase 4 of the MCU.
This movie is set to bring some intense emotions as Wakanda goes to battle with Namor the Sub-Mariner’s Talocan, although the African nation will also be mourning the loss of the late Chadwick Boseman’s King T’Challa. Multiple supporting characters from 2018’s Black Panther will have to step into more prominent roles after Marvel decided not to recast the role of T’Challa, which is sure to make for one of the most heartbreaking movies in MCU history.
But even though T’Challa is gone, the Black Panther has to live on in the MCU, as was teased at the end of the movie’s first trailer with a shot of a new heroic vibranium suit in action. The big question now is who will step into the Black Panther suit - a question that surely won’t be answered until the sequel debuts.
Wakanda has a handful of worthy successors to the mantle, including a couple of important leaders from various national tribes and members of T'Challa's own family. And with the King of Wakanda having built up relationships with all of them over the years, fans are eagerly waiting to see who will be the one to take on the responsibility of leading Wakanda into the future.
Without further ado, here are five different characters who could be wearing the Black Panther suit in November's Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and beyond.
At the top of the list of potential candidates is Letitia Wright's Shuri, for a number of reasons. She's the late King T'Challa's sister and part of the royal family, she helped to design the very suit she'd be wearing as the Black Panther, and she also fits the build of the body seen at the end of the first trailer for Wakanda Forever.
Additionally, a LEGO set for the movie seems to reveal that Shuri wears the suit in the movie, although it's difficult to tell with the image being so small. While her role in Black Panther 2 is already an important one, she would be young enough to carry the mantle for some time while still serving as one of Wakanda's leaders through its transition period.
When asked about whether she'd be the new leading hero, Wright even played coy with the answer, telling fans to get their ticket shortly after the first trailer debuted at San Diego Comic-Con. An answer like that unquestionably puts Shuri in contention to be the new Black Panther, not confirming anything one way or the other.
But even if Shuri is the new Black Panther in Wakanda Forever, there are other characters who the mantle could be passed to afterwards...
After appearances in Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame, Winston Duke's M'Baku will be back to play a significant role in Black Panther 2. This role is so big that he even negotiated a significant pay raise to appear as M'Baku for the fourth time, which could tease a promotion in the story itself.
M'Baku remains the leader of the Jabari tribe, which would allow him to at least challenge for the throne of Wakanda, just as he did against King T'Challa in 2018's Black Panther. The previously mentioned raise could indicate that he'll honor T'Challa by ruling over Wakanda after his death, which could be especially meaningful now that the Jabari tribe is united with the rest of their people again.
Michael B. Jordan's Erik Killmonger is certainly the wildest option on this list, simply due to the fact that he was killed at the end of Black Panther in his fight with T'Challa. But given his popularity, and looking at a couple of interesting MCU theories, there's a slight chance that fans could see the fan-favorite Marvel villain back in action for Black Panther 2.
One theory notes that Killmonger could simply be in a state of limbo in the Wakandan afterlife, the Ancestral Plane, similarly to how Marc Spector was stuck in the Field of Reeds during Episode 5 and Episode 6 of Disney+'s Moon Knight. There's also the fact that Killmonger wanted to be buried in the ocean, and with Namor the Sub-Mariner playing a big role as the sequel's antagonist, Erik Stevens' body could certainly come into play with the ocean being such a big factor.
While Killmonger may be unlikely, nobody is ever truly dead in the MCU, opening the door for him to potentially make a glorious comeback this year.
Nakia was first shown as somebody who wasn't one of Wakanda's fighters in the original Black Panther, even making a point to Shuri that she's "not a Dora [Milaje]" when Shuri gave her armor to wear in the final battle. But considering her close relationship with T'Challa, she could find herself in the running to become the new Black Panther.
T'Challa's death is unquestionably going to hit her hard, and with Lupita Nyong'o's hero always looking for ways to help her country, she could find inspiration to take on more responsibility to protect Wakanda without its king. Fans also haven't seen her in action since 2018, giving her plenty of time over the years to become a more capable fighter while developing as a character in other areas.
Danai Gurira's Okoye still holds a prominent role as the general of the Dora Milaje, although she took on even more leadership after The Snap by meeting with the Avengers during Endgame. And after T'Challa's death, her place as the leader of Wakanda's army should lead to the general taking more responsibility, which might wind up with her suiting up as the new Black Panther by the end of the sequel.
While Okoye certainly has all the skills and experience necessary to take over as Wakanda's protector, there's a chance she may feel more comfortable remaining in her position with the Dora Milaje. She'll be a key player in the country's future endeavors no matter where she stands with Wakanda's leadership, although there are certainly plenty of fans who would enjoy seeing her in the vibranium suit.
Who Will Become the New Black Panther?
All five of these options are certainly worthy of continuing the Black Panther legacy in Wakanda, and anticipation is high to see who will have to take on those duties come the end of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.
For now, the most likely option seems to be Shuri due to how the hero looks in the first trailer on top of her place as T'Challa's sister and the princess of Wakanda. But there's also a chance that the suit goes through more than one wearer through the course of the movie, with the final decision potentially coming during an intense final moment in the story.
Regardless of who winds up in this position, it will remain an intense mystery for fans to see resolved as Phase 4 comes to an end.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever will debut in theaters on Friday, November 11. Who do you think will take over as the new Black Panther? Let us know on Twitter at @MCU_Direct and @TheDirect.