There is no question that Black Panther, releasing this week will be a big deal for several reasons; not only as a stand alone film, but also leading up to Avengers: Infinity War in just a couple of months. I’m all but certain we will see the final Infinity Stone pop up somewhere. This will definitely be one you won’t want to miss.
Who is Black Panther, anyway? Many movie goers will not be overly familiar with this character going in, however he is a heavy hitter in the Marvel universe that shouldn’t be overlooked. While there is a far richer background for the character in the comics, I’ll stick to covering primarily the cinematic counterpart to keep things simple.
First, I highly recommend at least making sure you’ve seen Captain America: Civil War before catching the movie, as this is where Black Panther makes his first appearance in the MCU.
A quick history lesson.
Black Panther, or the character’s real name T’Challa (“Ta-Cha-lah”), was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1966, during a time when comic book heroes were not ethnically diverse at all. In fact, he is the first African superhero to hit mainstream comics, paving the way for others to follow such as Falcon and Luke Cage…in other words, he’s a big deal.
Contrary to what some think: Black Panther does not have a connection with the Black Panther Party, and actually predates it by 6 months. For a brief time, Marvel even changed the character’s name to “Black Leopard” in an effort to sidestep any controversy, however it didn’t last long as the name didn’t sound quite as badass.
“Black Panther” is actually the ceremonial title passed down to each successive king of the fictional African nation, Wakanda. The title signifies that the king is both the ruler and protector of the people of Wakanda. During the events of Civil War, T’Chaka, T’Challa’s father, is the current king until he is murdered during the UN meeting to ratify the Sokovia Accords. This means that the kingdom, as well as the mantle of Black Panther now passes on to T’Challa.
As king, T’Challa also has an all female royal guard, known as the Dora Milaje (“The Adored Ones”) and are highly skilled with various weapons and fighting styles.
Wakanda is one of the most technologically advanced civilizations on the planet, and sits on one of the largest vibranium deposits anywhere. If that word sounds familiar, it’s because vibranium is the metal Captain America’s shield is made out of, so it’s an extremely valuable commodity. For comparison, much of the tech in Wakanda rivals that of what Tony Stark can cook up, in some ways even surpassing.
Vibranium plays a significant role for the hero, as the Black Panther suit is highly advanced and made out of the material, including retractable claws on both hands, effectively making him bulletproof.
Furthermore, T’Challa also has enhanced abilities including speed, agility, strength, and durability; gained from eating something called the Heart Shaped Herb. In the comics, (and most likely the movie) this herb is believed to grant a mystical connection to the Wakandan Panther God, however in reality, the plant is mutated from a vibranium meteorite that crashed to Earth long ago.
T’Challa/Black Panther is essentially the Marvel equivalent of Bruce Wayne/Batman; except T’Challa is not only richer than Bruce (by far), but also has super powers, unlike The Dark Knight.
A couple other characters you should know
Ulysses Klaue, the smuggler and arms dealer who lost his arm in Avengers: Age of Ultron will return in Black Panther. He’s actually been to Wakanda before, where he enslaved Wakandans to illegally mine vibranium for him.
Everett Ross is the CIA operative from Captain America: Civil War that worked with the government to attempt to control the actions of the Avengers. He will be returning with unknown motivations so far.
Stay tuned for my full review at the end of the week!
Black Panther is releases in theaters tomorrow.
Black Panther follows T’Challa who, after the death of his father, the King of Wakanda, returns home to the isolated, technologically advanced African nation to succeed to the throne and take his rightful place as king. But when a powerful old enemy reappears, T’Challa’s mettle as king—and Black Panther—is tested when he is drawn into a formidable conflict that puts the fate of Wakanda and the entire world at risk. Faced with treachery and danger, the young king must rally his allies and release the full power of Black Panther to defeat his foes and secure the safety of his people and their way of life.