Cropped image of Chadwick Boseman as T'Challa on one of Marvel's "Black Panther" posters

Who Will Be the Next Black Panther?

Black Panther premiered in 2018 and has become one of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s (MCU) most critically acclaimed films. The film is the first and only Marvel movie to ever be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture, winning three Oscars for Best Costume Design, Best Production Design, and Best Original Score. The film also made history as the first big-budget superhero film to feature a predominantly Black cast and a Black director. It proved to be a truly groundbreaking and stunning celebration of every aspect of Black culture.

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Chadwick Boseman brought the character of King T’Challa (a.k.a. Black Panther) to life in a way that no one else could. He made his debut as T’Challa in Captain America: Civil War, but Black Panther truly gave him the stage to shine. Boseman perfectly encompassed T’Challa’s intellect, dignity, humility, and compassion, as well as the weight he bore by wearing the crown of Wakanda. However, he never failed to let T’Challa shine through as one of the most genuinely wholesome, pure, and likeable characters of the MCU.

Unbeknownst to most at the time, though, was that Boseman had quietly been fighting colon cancer since 2016. It was a battle he chose to keep private until his passing on August 28th, 2020. He gave his final performance as Black Panther in What if…? which released posthumously. When the Black Panther sequel, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, was confirmed, it raised the question of whom could take up the Black Panther mantle in a way that honored and respected the legacy of Boseman.

Spoilers for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever ahead!

Who is the Black Panther in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever?

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever premiered on November 11, 2022, and unveiled the new Black Panther. As suspected, T’Challa’s younger sister, Shuri (Letitia Wright), donned the mantle in the film. After Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) destroyed all of Wakanda’s heart-shaped herbs, it seemed no one could take up the mantle of Black Panther again. Then, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever revealed that Shuri, using her genius intellect, attempted to recreate the precious plant in hopes of saving her brother’s life.

She initially abandoned her attempts after T’Challa’s death. However, when Namor (Tenoch Huerta) launches a merciless attack on Wakanda that threatens the nation’s existence, Shuri realizes that the Black Panther must live again. As a result, she returns to her original project and manages to perfect the replica of the heart-shaped herb. Upon consuming it, she is enhanced with the powers of the Black Panther. After meeting Killmonger on the ancestral plane, she donned a gold Black Panther suit that bore resemblance to his suit. Utilizing her Black Panther mantle, she set off to fight Namor and save Wakanda.

Initial Black Panther rumors

While Shuri has been confirmed as the next Black Panther, it was initially unknown if anyone would take up the mantle. Things became uncertain because the Black Panther sequel was confirmed in 2019, but its initial plans were modified after Boseman’s passing. Fortunately, Marvel made the right choice early on to refrain from recasting the role of Black Panther. Boseman was also not digitally recreated for the film.

The fact that T’Challa wouldn’t be recast was all we knew about Black Panther: Wakanda Forever for a time. Director Ryan Coogler confirmed he would be continuing the story of Wakanda and the development of its characters that started in Black Panther and would do so in a way that would pay tribute to Boseman. Yet, it wasn’t known that there would even be a new Black Panther in the film until Black Panther: Wakanda Forever released its official teaser trailer.

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever teaser

On July 23, 2022, the official teaser trailer confirmed that, while a new actor wouldn’t be recast as T’Challa, that didn’t mean that a different character couldn’t take on the mantle of Black Panther. After all, Shuri became Black Panther in the comics and was very capable of taking on the mantle in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. The teaser confirmed Boseman’s T’Challa still exists in the film. However, it also confirmed that T’Challa has passed away. As Wakanda remembers T’Challa, it is also embroiled in a brutal war with another tribe.

At the very end of the trailer, viewers got a brief glimpse of someone wearing a Black Panther suit and extracting their claws. There were no hints as to whom it could be, but it confirmed that someone else does become the Black Panther in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. Fans online speculated that the returning Black Panther could be Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) or a variant of the character that didn’t die in the finale of the first film. This theory came from the gold accents on Black Panther’s costume, which echo the gold accents on Killmonger’s suit.

black panther wakanda forever
(Marvel Studios)

Given the multiversal shenanigans in the MCU, anything was truly possible. Still, many held to the belief that one of the show’s excellent women would take on the mantle, be it Shuri, Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), or Okoye (Danai Gurira).

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever official trailer

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever‘s official trailer dropped on October 3, 2022. The trailer showed a grieving and vulnerable Wakanda that has lost its protector. Meanwhile, Namor has snatched at the opportunity to attack Wakanda in its weakened state. Despite losing their protector, though, Wakanda wasn’t ready to back down and had plenty of formidable warriors ready to face the threat. Check out the trailer below:

The trailer included many thrilling first looks such as Namor’s flight and a brief glimpse of Riri Williams in her Ironheart suit. However, at the very end, it gave the first full glimpse of the new Black Panther in an upgraded suit. We still couldn’t tell who it was behind the mask, but the shot confirmed that the next Black Panther was, indeed, a female.

Black Panther in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever trailer
(Marvel Studios)

Many took the image as all but an official confirmation that Shuri was the next Black Panther. Of course, there were still other strong female choices for the next Black Panther, such as Nakia or Okoye. However, going off of the comic books, Shuri certainly was the likeliest woman behind the Black Panther mask. She took up the mantle in the comics and now Black Panther: Wakanda Forever has officially confirmed there isn’t anyone more deserving of taking on T’Challa’s legacy than his sister.

(featured image: Marvel Studios)

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Rachel Ulatowski
Rachel Ulatowski is a Staff Writer for The Mary Sue, who frequently covers DC, Marvel, Star Wars, literature, and celebrity news. She has over three years of experience in the digital media and entertainment industry, and her works can also be found on Screen Rant, JustWatch, and Tell-Tale TV. She enjoys running, reading, snarking on YouTube personalities, and working on her future novel when she's not writing professionally. You can find more of her writing on Twitter at @RachelUlatowski.