Who is Black Panther in ‘Wakanda Forever’?

**Major spoilers for 'Black Panther: Wakanda Forever' below**

With King T’Challa dying at the very beginning of Wakanda Forever, the role of Black Panther is up for grabs.

The super-powered guardian of Wakanda, keeping this fictional African nation safe, is not a mantle easily taken on. “The Black Panther is a relic,” argues T’Challa’s younger sister Shuri, played once again by British actress Letitia Wright. But that changes as events unfold and Shuri inherits the role, stating: “My brother is dead but it doesn’t mean the Black Panther is gone.”

In truth, Marvel hadn’t exactly kept this plot development under wraps, from merchandising reveals to the poster that showed Shuri front and centre, with the Black Panther suit behind her. There was also a precedent in the comics. In 2010’s Doom Wars, T’Challa is injured, following an encounter with a gang of supervillains run by Doctor Doom, and Shuri takes the Black Panther suit and saves Wakanda. It’s a plotline that is, to some extent, adapted for the film by director Ryan Coogler and his co-writer Joe Robert Cole, with Shuri battling Talokan leader Namor.

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As Coogler recently told NME, Letitia Wright’s evolution into the leading figure of the franchise taps into the film’s main theme, “about what it means to get older”. As he said, “It’s a transition and to find yourself in a role that was usually occupied by somebody else… that’s a very human thing, you know what I mean? In life you can be the child, and you can blink fast. And all of a sudden, you’re the parent, and if you’re fortunate enough to keep living you blink again, you’re the grandparent now. And you’re in this role that was defined historically, for your life, by other people. And now it’s like, ‘Oh, man, well, what kind of father am I going to be now? What kind of grandparent am I going to be?’ These questions are cosmic questions.”

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