This ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’ Moment Pays Homage to Namor’s Comics History
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever introduced Tenoch Huerta as Namor of Talokan, known in the comics as Namor the Sub-Mariner. Marvel has massively reimagined Namor for the big screen, giving him a gorgeously rendered Mesoamerican background. However, one crucial point in the film pays homage to his comics counterpart—and that homage centers on the phrase “Imperius Rex.”
This post contains massive spoilers for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. You’ve been warned!
Namor and Black Panther’s battlecries
In Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, the nations of Wakanda and Talokan erupt in war when the Wakandans refuse to hand over Riri Williams, who has built the machine that the United States used to find Talokan’s vibranium. Shuri, who has become the new Black Panther, fights Namor on a beach. For Shuri, the fight is deeply personal—Namor killed Queen Ramonda during his attack on Wakanda, and Shuri wants revenge.
During the battle, Shuri shouts “Wakanda forever!”, which is the rallying cry of Wakanda. Namor responds by yelling a phrase we haven’t yet heard in the film: “Imperius Rex!”
If you don’t have any context from the comics, then you’ll likely come to the conclusion that “Imperius Rex” is Namor’s own battlecry, similar to “Wakanda forever.” It’s a Latin phrase that roughly translates to “Empire King.” Namor is the ruler of Talokan, so it makes sense that he would proclaim that kingship in battle. If you really want to get creative, you could surmise that he came across some Latin when he encountered the priests among the Spanish conquistadors. But coming up with a backstory for “Imperius Rex” within the Marvel Cinematic Universe takes some serious mental gymnastics.
Luckily, there’s a much simpler explanation! You see, “Imperius Rex” is Namor’s catchphrase from the comics.
Namor is Marvel’s oldest character, dating all the way back to 1939, so he’s been using the phrase “Imperius Rex!” as a battlecry since the 1960s. What’s the deal with the catchphrase?
Well, it sounds cool.
What, you were hoping for a dissertation? It just sounds cool, that’s all. It evokes strength and royalty! Plus, Atlantis is a mythological island from antiquity, and Marvel writer Bill Everett came up with Namor’s name by writing “Roman” backwards, so a Latin catchphrase isn’t that farfetched in the comics.
Of course, there is one comic in which we sort of get an explanation: Thor #1 from 2018. In this issue, Thor and Namor are battling, Namor says his thing, and Thor finally asks him what it means. Namor’s answer? “It means I’m going to feed your sorry Asgardian hide to the biggest sharks I can find!” There you have it, it’s canon.
As for Namor in the MCU, don’t worry too much about the specific meaning of the phrase. Just enjoy it for what it is: a callback to Namor’s long history in print, and a celebration of his long-awaited film debut.
(featured image: Marvel Entertainment)
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