Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is now out in theaters worldwide, and with it, Ryan Coogler is able to tell yet another great story about the legendary hero of Bast and the people it’s sworn to protect.
However, the movie doesn’t just follow the folks in Wakanda. On top of revealing the new nation of Talokan, It also starts to pave the road for Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ Val in the MCU going forward.
The character was first seen in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, where she recruited a US Agent for her unknown cause. Following that, she showed her face in Black Widow, where she gave Yelena Belova her mission in Hawkeye.
Now, she’s busy cracking down on traitorous US government officials (poor Ross) ahead of her confirmed starring role in the Thunderbolts movie. But what’s next for Val and her likely-evil plans?
Comparing Val to Her Comic Counterpart
The comic version of this character isn't all too similar to the version of Val that fans see in the MCU. What they do share, however, is that they're both involved in some shady dealings.
In the comics, Contessa Valentina Allegra de la Fontaine once took on the name of Madame Hydra during her time as part of the evil organization behind SHIELD's back. Though, she wasn't on Hydra's side either, as she also double-crossed them, revealing herself to be a member of the Soviet-based terrorist organization Leviathan.
Her connection to Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury remains to be explored on screen, but in the source material, the two actually become lovers for a time. She was also generally considered to be a fiercely loyal ally of his at SHIELD.
Of course, things went on to get complicated after all of her double-crosses.
As everything stands now, it's impossible to tell if the MCU will also adopt her sleeper agent tendencies. But, while SHIELD doesn't currently exist there, they could be using her place in the US Government in the same way or potentially switching her over to SWORD later down the line.
What's Next After Wakanda Forever?
While it’s never confirmed that Val was involved with the team from the beginning of the film that Namor slaughtered out on the ocean, it could have easily been the case. Such a move certainly seems like it might align with her undisclosed shady goals.
One key scene to note is when she tells Everett Ross, shortly before arresting him, that she literally dreams of the US having sole access to Vibranium. Might she already be working towards gaining a foothold in the world’s supply of the insanely valuable resource?
If so, what exactly will be her next step?
One thing is for sure: she’ll undoubtedly aim to use Ross’ actions as an example to try and further her mysterious goals.
Starting a War With Wakanda
With Vibranium on her mind, Val’s theoretical goals to acquire some will almost certainly lead her on a collision course with Wakanda. The nation will very clearly be on her radar thanks to the kidnapping of Everett Ross, something that will likely give her the advantage of getting any help she could ever need from the US military.
But how could Val stand up to the might of the Wakandans? Well, perhaps she is forming a team for just that purpose: the Thunderbolts.
With this team, which might be the product of a completely unsanctioned endeavor, she could easily have a formidable force to try and take whatever she wants. Though, even with the members who do make up the questionable team, Val likely isn’t going to have a great time infiltrating Wakanda is her main mission.
Perhaps she’ll put together a mission for Florence Pugh's new team under the false pretense that they are saving Martin Freeman’s Ross from the foreign nation after they violently kidnapped him. Hopefully, at the very least, Bucky will feel something is off.
Even Worse, Discovering Namor
When the credits roll, it’s unclear if Val knows anything about Namor and his people. Considering that Wakanda never even told Ross about the new world nation, their location and existence likely remain a well-kept secret.
For now, at least.
Val’s curiosity is likely through the roof at this point, and she’ll want to know who this new mysterious world power is that was embroidered in conflict with Wakanda.
Could she continue prying for more information? This might lead to her uncovering exactly what she wants (information on Talokan, or Vibranium in general) while then opening up the surface world to Namor’s wrath.
If it’s Wakanda she’s targeting, her crusade against them could easily trigger the newfound alliance between the advanced nation and their secret ocean allies. If the Thunderbolts are Val's weapon, and they're used against Wakanda or Talokan, then the 2024 team-up movie is going to be a lot bigger than anyone originally thought.
So what if her hypothetical Thunderbolts don't accomplish all that she wanted, or they simply start a war that doesn't end by the time the credits roll? Perhaps this plot could even carry over into Black Panther 3 and bring Doctor Doom and his fictional nation of Latveria into the fold.
What About That Secret Invasion?
Before any of the above happens, there’s another project which is likely to feature at least an appearance by Val: Secret Invasion. She’s not confirmed to appear in the show, but it does seem like a natural fit for such a shady figure
The trailers make it clear that the project will have the feel of an espionage thriller. Given Val’s high rank in the government, it would make perfect sense for her to show up at some point in the show’s six-episode run.
Honestly, it would be strange not to have her involved in such a global affair. But will she be a Skrull herself?
Val’s Time to Shine
Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ role in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is an interesting one. While it may not seem all too important, it does feel subtle and organic to the events of the film.
She never steals the spotlight from what’s happening in the wider movie while also never feeling shoehorned into the narrative.
But, her time in Coogler’s sequel is no doubt still just the beginning of her time in the MCU. Whatever evil plans she might be cooking up may not be revealed just yet, but this latest Marvel Studios film likely provides the biggest clues to date as to what she might be up to.
At least fans know they’ll get some proper answers regarding Dreyfus’ mysterious schemer in the upcoming film Thunderbolts, which debuts on July 26, 2024.
Wakanda Forever is now playing in theaters worldwide.