In Chadwick Boseman’s first appearance as the Black Panther, T’Challa tells Steve Rogers, “The Black Panther has been the protector of Wakanda for generations. A mantle passed from warrior to warrior.” Just as T’Challa’s father, T’Chaka, was once the Black Panther and passed the mantle onto his son, in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, the title changes hands again. After Chadwick Boseman’s heartbreaking death, and thus, T’Challa’s death, Wakanda is in need of a new Black Panther. As T’Challa himself knew, the title is not one person or one warrior but passes on so that Wakanda can remain protected and defended. But who is the new MCU Black Panther in Wakanda Forever? Many of us already strongly suspected who the next defender of Wakanda could be after watching the trailers for the movie, but now it’s official.
Of course, the MCU’s newest Black Panther is none other than the Princess Shuri, herself. We couldn’t imagine a person more deserving of holding the mantle in the wake of T’Challa’s passing. Shuri is a brilliant scientist and a terrific warrior. But most importantly, she has a compassionate heart and deep, fierce love for her family and nation. (Even if she briefly lost her way in a tsunami of grief, rage, and vengeance.) There’s no doubt Shuri will make for an incredible protector of Wakanda for as long as she holds the title in the MCU. Shuri also has a rich comics history with the role of Black Panther, which future movies will likely delve deeply into.
Shuri’s ascent to Black Panther in Wakanda Forever is bittersweet. In the world of the MCU, we learn retroactively T’Challa’s illness existed for some time. The disease T’Challa suffered from remains unspecified, but Wakanda Forever makes it clear this was not a sudden death. For Shuri’s part, of course, the tech genius sought to save her brother. But unfortunately, not even the brightest minds can always find an answer.
Shuri was unable to genetically engineer and 3D print a new Heart-Shaped Herb to save T’Challa. The Heart-Shaped Herb possesses many powerful qualities. And in the world of the MCU, ingesting/imbibing another one may have saved T’Challa’s life. But Erik Killmonger destroyed Wakanda’s garden of herbs in the first Black Panther movie. The Heart-Shaped Herb, of course, is also necessary to enshrine new Black Panthers. It grants them their superpowers of speed, agility, and healing, among others.
Ultimately though, once another highly advanced civilization, Talokan, enters the world of the MCU in Wakanda Forever, everything changes. Shuri and her AI computer are able to recreate the heart-shaped herb using a bracelet Shuri receives from Namor. The bracelet contains fibers that come from the same type of vibranium-rich soil as the herb. Along with Shuri’s intellect, the materials are enough for the herb to be restored. And from there, with the help of Nakia, Shuri rises as the Black Panther in the MCU.
We hope that Shuri can have a long run as the warrior protector of Wakanda. But in a lovely move, Shuri also plants a new garden of heart-shaped herbs at the end of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Thus, Shuri ensures that, though she is Wakanda’s new Black Panther, the kingdom will always have its protector, from generation to generation.