Black Panther: Wakanda Forever has undeniably the toughest job of any MCU film to date: continuing an award-winning and record-breaking franchise with the absence of its beloved lead actor. Chadwick Boseman's sudden passing forced Marvel Studios and director Ryan Coogler to totally switch course with the sequel as side characters step up to leading roles and a new Black Panther emerges into the MCU.
Not only will the next Black Panther define the course of the Wakandan franchise forever, but it will also prove to be a game-changing moment for the MCU as a whole - whoever takes up the mantle also assumes a critical role in the Avengers.
Up until now, all bets have been on Letitia Wright's Shuri, although recent reports of on-set difficulties and anti-vaccine troubles have led some to speculate Marvel will shift course. While fans will have to wait until Wakanda Forever releases in November 2022 for a definitive answer, Spider-Man: No Way Home may have hinted that another Wakandan may already be operating as Black Panther.
Did No Way Home Tease a New Black Panther?
Spider-Man: No Way Home confirmed Wong became the Sorcerer Supreme during Avengers: Endgame's Blip because Doctor Strange was a victim of Thanos' snap and was dead for that five-year period:
Peter: "Wait, I thought you were the Sorcerer Supreme."
Strange: "No, he got it on a technicality because I blipped for five years."
Just as the mystical world continued to function in Doctor Strange's absence, Wakanda would presumably also move forward from T'Challa's death and replace him as Black Panther to ensure the country remains protected.
Who was Black Panther during the Blip?
In Black Panther, Kilmonger defeated and seemingly killed T'Challa in ritual combat in a challenge for the Wakandan throne. Following this, Shuri and company offered Jabari Tribe leader M'Baku the heart-shaped herb and therefore the Black Panther mantle in a plea for help to take down Michael B. Jordan's villain.
Since M'Baku was Wakanda's likely first choice to become the Black Panther after T'Challa's apparent death, it's safe to assume he would have been that choice once again. While he previously rejected the title as he instead revealed the fallen king to be alive, perhaps he would accept the mantle after watching his fellow Wakandans disintegrate.
While Winston Duke's Wakandan does appear to be the strongest candidate to become The Blip's Black Panther - especially following promises he will assume a bigger role in the sequel - there are some other possibilities. T'Challa's warrior lover Nakia and Dora Milaje leader Okoye both survived the snap and remain viable candidates for the mantle.
Will M'Baku Be the Next Black Panther?
In the same way that Wong has held onto his Sorcerer Supreme title upon Doctor Strange's sudden return to life, perhaps whoever took on the Black Panther mantle did too. If this were to be the case, M'Baku, Nakia, or Okoye could be the MCU's next Wakandan Avenger.
The final moments of Avengers: Endgame saw T'Challa, Shuri, and their mother Ramonda, standing over the kingdom of Wakanda, so there's no doubt Chadwick Boseman's hero retook the throne. Although, he may have allowed someone else to serve as the Black Panther, just as his father once did in his older years.
Whatever the status of the Black Panther was during the Blip, Wakanda Forever will have a tough task explaining T'Challa's absence in a fulfilling way. Even if another Wakandan were to have taken up his heroic mantle, the Avenger should still be around in his regal capacity.
Perhaps Boseman's Avenger may simply be killed off between films, or maybe he'll be sent off on a diplomatic mission around the world, but either way, the MCU will have its new Black Panther before the credits roll on Wakanda Forever.
With all the recent controversy surrounding Shuri actress Letitia Wright amid rumors of troubling behavior on-set, T'Challa's sister may not end up being the next Black Panther as most had assumed. If that were to be the case, Winston Duke's M'Baku may be the right choice to move forward with.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever hits theaters on November 11, 2022.