You'd be forgiven for not thinking all that much about Black Panther right now, given that it's not set for release until July 2018. But you may not be forgiven for being unexcited about it — especially after we learned at the San Diego Comic Con that Danai Gurira had joined the already incredible cast as Okoye of the Dora Milaje.
We also learned a few more details about the specifics of the Black Panther cast and characters, specifically who Lupita Nyong'o and Michael B. Jordan are portraying. Whilst Nyong'o will also take on the mantle of one of the Dora Milaje (Nakia specifically), Jordan is set to step into some very big shoes indeed...
If you thought a supervillain named "Killgrave" was a bit on the nose ("Why not just Snuffcarcass?") try this one out for size. Erik Killmonger is one of Black Panther's greatest long-running enemies, hailing as far back as the early '70s.
Born in Wakanda and first named N'Jadaka, Killmonger was exiled after the death of his father and moved to New York. Blaming T'Challa/Black Panther for his father's death, Killmonger planned to return to Wakanda and rid the country of the Royal Family's influence. He did eventually return as an extremist, planning to overthrow what he deemed a "white colonialist" culture which had invaded the country.
He attempted to stage a coup d'état to overthrow the Royal Family — blaming the weakening of Wakanda on Black Panther's long absences from the country during his work with the Avengers — but the coup failed and he was killed. Like all good comic book characters though he didn't stay dead very long. He was brought back to life by Iron Man villain the Mandarin and returned to his home country, this time with his sights set firmly on taking T'Challa's head.
He was again defeated and killed, but his ideologies prevailed in his followers. They continued to make attempts to overthrow T'Challa's rule and eventually managed to resurrect Killmonger... again. Following this Killmonger did actually manage to defeat T'Challa, and briefly became the Black Panther himself.
His status was short lived though, as his attempt to consume the mystical Heart Shaped Herb from which Black Panther draws his powers nearly killed him due to his lack of a Royal bloodline. Talk about bourgeoisie.
Why Is He An Important Villain?
After his failed attempt to consume the pure Heart Shaped Herb, Killmonger managed to synthesise his own version of the herb which his system could handle. Consuming this herb granted him superpowers similar to Black Panther's, including enhanced senses, strength, speed, dexterity and durability.
Killmonger is notable because he's one of the few villains who has proven to be a match for Black Panther, not just physically but mentally too. T'Challa isn't just a master warrior, he's also a bonafide genius on the level of Tony Stark and Reed Richards. Killmonger is just as intelligent: An MIT graduate, he's a strategic genius and highly politically savvy. He challenges T'Challa not just on the battlefield but in a war of politics and social upheaval.
He's also physically a match for T'Challa. In addition to his version of the Heart Shaped Herb he's also a master warrior and martial arts expert; training his whole life to take his revenge upon the man he blames for the death of his father, and whose Kingdom he seeks to claim as his own.
Hang On, What About Klaw?
Well I'm glad you asked. We first met our Marvel Cinematic Universe Klaw/Ulysses Klaue in Avengers: Age of Ultron, here named Ulysses Klaw and portrayed by Andy Serkis. Klaw is generally considered Black Panther's greatest enemy, as the Vibranium-stealing mercenary was responsible for the death of T'Chaka — T'Challa's father and then-King of Wakanda.
Serkis is returning as Klaw for Black Panther, now sans-arm thanks to Ultron, but how does he fit in with Killmonger? In the comics Klaw hasn't just managed to get on T'Challa's bad side, he also has an important history with Killmonger himself. In fact, he's the very reason Killmonger ended up exiled from Wakanda in the first place.
When Klaw and his mercenaries attacked the Wakandan Royal Family and killed T'Chaka, they forced Killmonger's father to help them. After being attacked by T'Challa Klaw fled, taking the young Killmonger with him as one of many slave children and killing his parents.
Killmonger would grow to blame the weakness of T'Chaka as a contributor to his parents death, and swore revenge upon both his son T'Challa and Klaw. When an older T'Challa met Killmonger he granted him permission to return to Wakanda, not knowing of his true intentions.
What Does This Mean For Black Panther?
Not only does Killmonger hate T'Challa, he also hates Klaw. That means there's going to be a lot of old grudges floating around when Black Panther releases. So will the two villains be at cross odds, or will they end up working together?
A piece of information gleaned from Lupita Nyong'o at a red-carpet Black Panther Comic Con interview might have answered that question:
"The story of this Black Panther is — what am I allowed to say? — The story is that the Black Panther’s leadership is really threatened by two foes who come together, and so Black Panther gets the help of the C.I.A. and the Dora Milaje to try and defeat the enemy."
Nyong'o's comment about the two foes coming together does makes it sound a lot like we're going to see a Killmonger/Klaw team up in the upcoming movie. A little surprising, but then this is the MCU and they are not entirely beholden to the comic book lore.
Even if the backstory remains the same, it could be that Killmonger decides to let certain bygones be bygones, teaming up with the devil-he-knows in order to take down Black Panther. It could just remain an uneasy partnership, with one betraying the other before the conclusion of the movie; or the second foe mentioned by Nyong'o' could be someone we haven't heard about yet.
One thing is for sure though, bringing these two classic villains together on the big screen means there's going to be trouble for T'Challa when Black Panther rolls around. Perhaps enough trouble that the Winter Soldier has to emerge from his Wakandan tube? We'll find out for sure when Black Panther releases July 6, 2018.
What do you think Erik Killmonger's role will be in Black Panther? Have your say in the comments below!
Source: Screen Rant (Lupita Nyong'o comment)