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Is Shuri the New Black Panther? The Marvel Comics History of the Role Explained

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 has also been a question of who will take on the mantle of Black Panther when the highly-awaited sequel hits screens. At San Diego Comic-Con 2022, director Ryan Coogler shared the first stunning trailer for the movie. While the trailer didn’t reveal who would be taking on the role of Black Panther, it did tease a look at a new suit for the protector of Wakanda. That, alongside a poster showing the new hero’s helmet, had many fans wondering if T’Challa’s sister Shuri is the new Black Panther. It’s a pretty smart guess, 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.

Marvel Comics/Paul Renaud
How Did Shuri Get Her Black Panther Suit in Marvel Comics?
Marvel Comics/Stephanie Hans

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, including “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?

Will Shuri Become the New Black Panther in the MCU? 
Marvel Studios

Ever since Letitia Wright’s breakout performance in Black Panther, fans have wondered whether she’d take on the mantle; would Shuri become the new Black Panther in the MCU? With Boseman’s tragic passing, Shuri seems more likely than ever to follow in his footsteps. Not only would it fit with the comic book canon, but it would be in line with Marvel Studio’s current era of exploring legacy heroes. It should be noted, though, that Shuri isn’t the only other person who’s held the Black Panther mantle in Marvel’s comics. And so she isn’t the only candidate to become the new MCU 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. While Cole and Killmonger had both been floated as possibilities, it still seems most likely that the next MCU Black Panther will be Shuri. But that doesn’t mean she’ll stay Black Panther.

Marvel Studios

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,” So it could be that we see Wright’s Shuri take it on in Wakanda Forever and become the new Black Panther, but leave the mantle open for others to come after her. For now, the new Black Panther suit from the Wakanda Forever trailer does seem to have eye marks that carry a striking resemblance to Shuri’s.

Originally published on July 26, 2022.

Featured Image: Marvel Studios/Marvel Comics

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