When it was first revealed that the already full-to-bursting Captain America: Civil War was intended to serve as the gateway to the Marvel Cinematic Universe for not only Peter Parker/Spider-Man, but also T'Challa/Black Panther, we were more than a little skeptical about how well the juggernaut superhero movie could balance everything out.
But pleasantly surprised we were when Chadwick Boseman's Black Panther rocked up and absolutely stole the show.
And this right here is your spoiler warning pertaining to T'Challa's role in the movie. So if you haven't yet seen [Captain America: Civil War](tag:994409), get outta here, unless — as Black Panther tells Hawkeye during the Leipzig Airport battle — you don't care.
The prince (now king) of the historically secretive African nation of Wakanda, T'Challa is thrust headlong into the conflict when the Vienna bombing — for which Baron Zemo frames Bucky Barnes — claims the life of his father T'Chaka.
From there he sets off on his quest for revenge by taking the life of Bucky, but along the way discovers the wider conspiracy and the true architect of his father's death.
Growing into the cool-headedness for which his genius-level comic book counterpart is known, Black Panther stops Zemo from committing suicide and instead forces him to serve punishment for his crimes. And he does it all while looking badass AF with the prowess of his catlike reflexes and vibranium suit.
But as Sam Wilson/Falcon says: "What? Dude shows up dressed like a cat and you don't wanna know more?"
So, here's more.
T'Challa hails from the rich and technologically advanced fictional nation of Wakanda, the concept of which was introduced back in [The Avengers: Age Of Ultron](tag:293035). Wakanda is the only source on Earth of the priceless metal vibranium — from which Captain America's shield is made — taken from a massive meteorite that crashed there long ago.
T'Chaka — the then-king of Wakanda and chief of the Panther tribe — kept the country hidden from outsiders, knowing that they would willingly exploit the nation in order to gain the rare vibranium resource. The Black Panther suit is made from the sacred vibranium of the Wakandan Panther Cult, passed down from father to son.
The Black Panther
"Your suit. It's vibranium?"
: "The Black Panther has been the protector of Wakanda for generations. A mantle passed from warrior to warrior. And now because your friend murdered my father, I also wear the mantle of king. So I ask you, as both warrior and king, how long do you think you can keep your friend safe from me?"
As T'Challa tells Cap and Falcon in Civil War, the importance of the Black Panther is to act as the guardian of Wakanda. In the comics his power is drawn from his connection to various Wakandan Panther deities — not unlike how Doctor Strange draws magic from the Vishanti.
Black Panther also uses a mystical plant known as the Heart-Shaped Herb, which grants him superhuman senses, strength, speed, stamina, reflexes and agility, as well as resistance to magic.
Whether we'll be seeing these mystical aspects in T'Challa's backstory remains to be seen, but — special herbs and Panther deities aside — he's also a world-class gymnast and martial artist, as well as an experienced hunter, tracker, strategist, politician, inventor and scientist. Phew!
In the comics, he's considered to be one of the eight smartest people on the planet, and possesses a Ph.D. in Physics from Oxford University. Not too shabby.
The Death Of T'Chaka
Going back to the vibranium resources of Wakanda, the specifics of his father's death is perhaps the biggest aspect of T'Challa's backstory altered for his MCU counterpart.
You may remember Ulysses Klaue — a.k.a. Klaw — who was portrayed by Andy Serkis in Age of Ultron. In the comic books, Klaw is the son of a Nazi war criminal, a long-running supervillain, and the archenemy of Black Panther.
Originally a physicist working in the development of sonic technology, Klaw steals vibranium from Wakanda for his research, murdering T'Chaka in the process. When a young T'Challa attacks him to seek revenge for his father's death, Klaw is able to escape, but loses his right hand in the attack.
He replaces this lost limb with a sonic gun in place of a prosthetic hand, and later invents a device that can turn his body into a being composed entirely of sound waves, which also makes him immortal, because comic books.
The MCU Klaw
In Age of Ultron, Klaw appears as an international arms dealer rather than a physicist. Interestingly, he carries a Wakandian brand on his neck that means "thief," so by this point he's clearly already crossed the nation. But as we saw by his presence in Civil War, he doesn't seem to have had a direct hand in the death of T'Chaka.
As seen in S.H.I.E.L.D.'s profile on Klaw from Age of Ultron, the arms dealer was paid a sum of $10 million to assassinate T'Chaka at the annual Bilderberg conference over the then-King's refusal to export Wakanda's vibranium resources.
He took the job due to a personal grudge against T'Chaka, as a former Black Panther killed Klaw's great-grandfather in the 19th century. Both Klaw's failed assassination attempt on T'Chaka and his desire for revenge over his great-grandfather would connect the two more thoroughly as part of T'Challa's backstory for the Black Panther solo movie.
Klaw does also lose an arm here, but not at the hands of Black Panther — instead, his arm is taken by Ultron as punishment for comparing him to Tony Stark. Clearly someone has daddy issues.
Klaw is rumored — though not yet officially confirmed — to be appearing in Black Panther, presumably with something dangerous in the place of his missing arm, though perhaps not a sonic emitter.
The Importance Of T'Challa
Black Panther was the first black superhero in mainstream comics, which is a big deal in itself. He's not the first POC superhero in the MCU, though — that accolade belongs to James Rhodes/War Machine — but he is the first to have his own titular feature film. If that's not enough for you, there's a good chance he'll be heavily involved with the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War two-parter.
Following his father's death, T'Challa then took the mantle of Black Panther and king of Wakanda, and set out to take revenge against Klaw — so there's a part of his MCU character that was taken directly from the comic books. Along the way to avenge his father, he meets and falls in love with Ororo Munroe — Storm of the X-Men — whom he later marries. He also befriends the Fantastic Four and joins up with the Avengers, so he's a busy bee — sorry, busy Panther.
He was also a member of the secret superhero team the Illuminati, which has been kicking around in comics since the 1970s. The Illuminati — who also included Iron Man and Doctor Strange — were once in possession of the Infinity Gems and the Gauntlet, each member given one gem to hide and protect.
Additionally, Black Panther was part of a scheme by the same Illuminati group to use the Infinity Gems to save Earth-616 from crashing into another version of Earth, which ends with the gems being destroyed, so — whoops. Good job, guys.
Does this mean he'll be popping up again in Infinity War? Maybe. Certainly the conclusion of Captain America: Civil War set up a partnership of sorts between Cap and T'Challa, so perhaps he'll join the Secret Avengers when Thanos comes to town. As for the answers to these questions, hopefully we'll find out when the Black Panther solo movie rolls around.
Black Panther is set for a February 16, 2018 release date.