The Striking Parallels of the Black Panther’s Journey and What It Means for Shuri Moving Forward

If you’ve been following my blog or my Twitter page recently you will know that I LOVE Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. I was already excited about the movie but when I actually sat in my local IMAX theater and watched it I was blown away by its profound storytelling and awe-inspiring moments. Shuri commanded the screen as the film’s lead and Namor pierced my heart with his searing performance, instantly joining my personal pantheon of favorite Marvel characters.

The movie, now having received five Academy Award nominations including Best Supporting Actress for Angela Basset, is filled with layers upon layers of details that make the film all the more rewarding. But a striking detail that I actually discovered several months ago but have only now decided to share is the fascinating parallels between T’Challa and Shuri’s journeys as the Black Panther. Let’s dive deeper.


In the MCU there are a lot of storylines and underlying motivations for the heroes’ journeys in their respective origin stories but revenge isn’t usually the driving force of these characters’ narrative. And then there’s Black Panther.

In 1965 Black Panther made his debut as the brief foe of the Fantastic Four in the iconic Fantastic Four #52 issue. It was a striking debut that revealed the character as a powerful hero when he takes on the Fantastic Four and defeats them. It also reveals the protective nature of the character as he seeks to defend his secret homeland, Wakanda.

Like his comic counterpart, T’Challa’s debut in Captain America: Civil War doesn’t place him as an immediate ally alongside the Avengers but rather as a brief antagonist. He seeks to kill Bucky as revenge for his father’s death and that leads to an expected clash with Captain America. For the most part in Captain America: Civil War, T’Challa’s whole purpose is fueled by rage and his yearning for revenge.

It isn’t until he reaches the moment that he can exact his revenge on Zemo that his heroic nature takes over. He realizes that killing Zemo will only harden his heart and make him the very person he wasn’t raised to be.

On the other hand, Erik Killmonger’s journey is a little bit different but entirely laced with his self-proclaimed mission for revenge: revenge for his father’s murder and revenge against the world for its treatment of people who looked like him.

As a child, he lost both his parents to unfortunate circumstances. While it is never made fully clear how his mother dies it can be assumed that she was either killed by drugs or the police. Both of which are horrifying conclusions. And then his father was killed by his own brother, King T’Chaka, leading Erik on a very dark path.

We see this revenge-laden journey of his culminate in his decisive usurping of Wakanda’s throne when he challenges his cousin, King T’Challa, and beats him in ritual combat. This allows him to become, albeit briefly, the Black Panther.

It is then his mission to destroy the world in the way that the world destroyed him. Unlike T’Challa, he never chooses to take the heroic route. Because he has had decades for his anger and hatred to fester there is no path in front of him except one which ends with everything he hates being eliminated. This darkness that has consumed him culminates in his eventual defeat and unfortunate death at the hands of his cousin, T’Challa. And even then, in the end, he is defiant.

Now we reach Shuri whose story as the Black Panther has just begun. Like T’Challa and Killmonger, her journey is weighted by loss.

She lost her father, she lost her brother, and she even lost her mother. Shuri’s personality in Black Panther was one of levity and kindness. Her heroism was always on full display as she helped protect her country from Killmonger and Thanos’ forces. She was even there to stand alongside the Avengers in Endgame to help save the world once again.

But then, with Namor’s arrival, her world turned absolutely upside down. In a spiteful attack on Wakanda for killing two of his people, Namor unleashes the wrath of Talokan in one fell swoop, leaving the bodies of civilians and Wakandan warriors in his wake. Of course, most importantly, is his killing of Queen Ramonda which sets Shuri on her personal revenge tour as the Black Panther.

What Ryan Coogler illustrates so perfectly is the familial blending of T’Challa and Killmonger’s storylines with hers.

Like T’Challa couldn’t save his father from a massive explosion at the UN meeting, Shuri can’t save her mother who was killed when she was drowned by Namor’s water bombs.

It is the devastating nature of Ramonda’s death and Namor’s ruthless taunting that adds an extra dimension of sorrow to the moment.

But unlike T’Challa and more like Killmonger, who was now an orphan after he lost his father, when Ramonda died she thought she had no loved ones left. This leaves her with the same all-consuming vengeful rage as her American cousin but it is her heroism, that lovable nobility that was so prominent in T’Challa, that reminds us that she is his sister.

When she fights Namor she brings him to the brink of death, thus tapping into her Killmonger-level rage. It is only then with the spear at his neck, that she realizes that killing him will not bring her solace. In fact, killing him would be a grave mistake for her people. Like her brother, she chooses forgiveness and this choice will, of course, lay down the groundwork for her journey moving forward.

The Black Panther Lives!

At the end of Wakanda Forever we see Shuri as a leader of her people but unlike T’Challa and Killmonger she chooses not to become the ruler of Wakanda, instead passing that duty onto M’Baku. This is where her story detracts from her brother and cousin and we will see her forge her own unique story moving forward.

She will always be Wakanda’s protector but she has left her homeland to instead begin this new phase of her journey with Nakia and her nephew, Toussaint. This fits with her inherently rebellious nature to not follow tradition considering that throughout Wakanda’s history, the Black Panther is the ruler of the sovereign nation. It also shows that she’s finally allowing herself to grieve.

She lost too much in Wakanda. Living there would not bring her the peace she needs. But where does this place her in the MCU?

The president and the government seem to be preparing to attack Wakanda for their vibranium. With the Midnight Angels saving Ross from imprisonment and Black Panther outside of Wakanda she will most likely act as a bit of a war dog for a portion of time, taking on small missions as Wakanda’s protector.

All in all, the attention to detail for these stories surrounding Black Panther has been such a joy to watch. I can’t wait to see her again and I can’t wait to eventually see her and Namor team up as the powerful duo that they are. It’s going to be such a showstopping moment.

Until then, I thank you for reading and I hope you have a phenomenal day.

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