Ever since Black Panther changed the cinematic landscape in 2018, fans have been clamoring for the return of the hero. But in the wake of the death of Chadwick Boseman, who so memorably brought King T’Challa to life, there remained the question of who would on the mantle of Black Panther when the highly-awaited sequel hits screens. The release of Wakanda Forever, of course, brought answers. As many fans suspected, it is T’Challa’s sister Shuri who is the new MCU Black Panther. This was always a pretty smart guess, though, especially if we look at her comic backstory. Here’s a rundown of Shuri’s relationship to the mantle of Black Panther.
Has Shuri Been the Black Panther in Marvel’s Comic Books?
Shuri was first introduced in 2005’s Black Panther Vol. 4 #2, created by Reginald Hudlin and artist John Romita Jr. Just like in the movies, T’Challa’s younger sister is a powerful, funny, smart sibling to the Black Panther. But it wasn’t until nearly five years later in Black Panther Vol. 5 #5 when she’d take on the mantle of Black Panther herself. This came about during the Dark Reign saga at Marvel. As Norman Osborn gathered his Cabal, Namor asked T’Challa to join them in the fight. Soon, after the King refused, his ship crashed. This left T’Challa in a coma and Wakanda without a Black Panther. T’Challa’s wife, the X-Men hero Storm, suggests Shuri become the Black Panther in his stead. It makes a lot of sense as he’s long been training his sister to take his place. But when Shuri visits the Panther God, she refuses to let her take the mantle of Black Panther, claiming that she’s too arrogant.
Despite this rejection of Shuri, the Panther God allows her to live. That goes against everything the Wakandans expect, so Shuri decides it’s because she still has a greater purpose. With her brother in a coma, Storm in Limbo trying to recover him, and the evil Morlun encroaching on her country, she puts on the Black Panther costume and goes out to protect her people. It’s a controversial choice as Bast refused her, but it also gives Shuri more agency than her brother. After her bravery and smart wits defeat Morlun and save T’Challa and Storm from the underworld, the Panther God finally recognizes Shuri as the new Black Panther.
How Did Shuri Get Her Black Panther Suit in Marvel Comics?
It’s unclear how Shuri got her Black Panther suit, as the suit simply exists when Shuri puts it on. That makes us think that she may have built it herself. Just like her brother’s iconic suit, it’s made of vibranium but is more form-fitting, especially in the eyes of series artist Ken Lashley and cover artist J. Scott Campbell. The biggest visual differences from T’Challa’s Black Panther suit are that Shuri has a slimmer helmet (which looks similar to the one Marvel Studios teased on their poster), cape, and a now instantly recognizable fur collar. In issue eight of the series, Shuri’s Black Panther suits gets many upgrades too. One of her Wakandan scientists, N’Iix, offers her weapons. These include “holopods, spider bites, desert sand, and shok-nets.”
The coolest part, though, are the kevlar and spider-silk mesh gloves, with adamantium-tipped, vibranium claws. Perhaps we could see the arrival of the metal, most closely connected to Wolverine, in Wakanda Forever?
Shuri as the New Black Panther in the MCU
Ever since Letitia Wright’s breakout performance in Black Panther, fans wondered whether she’d take on the mantle; would Shuri become the new Black Panther in the MCU? With Boseman’s tragic passing, Shuri seemed more likely than ever to follow in his footsteps. And indeed, she did. This choice not only fits with the comic book canon, but it falls in line with Marvel Studio’s current era of exploring legacy heroes.
We saw in early trailers that the new MCU Black Panther had a suit with markings that mirrored Shuri’s ceremonial white dots. And Shuri also keeps her favored gauntlets as her Black Panther weapons of choice. In Wakanda Forever, Shuri takes on the role of Black Panther but forgoes the crown. The Black Panther is greatly needed in the conflict with Atlantis, but where the mantle goes from here throughout the future of the MCU is not certain.
Of course, Shuri is not the only person in the comics to have donned the mantle of Black Panther. Among the few who have been called Black Panther are NYC cop Kasper Cole, T’Chaka (T’Challa’s father), and even Erik Killmonger. In fact, a new upcoming Marvel comic book series Wakanda will be a “definitive overview of all the Wakandans who have held the mantle of the Black Panther.”
But it seems like the most likely candidate for the next Black Panther will be a new MCU character, T’Challa’s son Toussaint, also known as T’Challa. Before that happens, though, it would be nice to see a few more outings for Shuri as the Black Panther in the MCU. Maybe she’ll even get to meet Bast.
Originally published on July 26, 2022.