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MARVEL MUSEUM: BLACK PANTHER MASK

MARVEL MUSEUM: BLACK PANTHER MASK

As the Marvel Museum Collection releases the movie Black Panther mask, Philip Bates ponders who could wear it next after Chadwick Boseman's much-too-early passing.

Chadwick Boseman's death in August 2020 shocked the world. His impact on cinema was massive, and comic-book fans were left questioning who could take on the mantle of the Black Panther in the sequel to the 2018 film. Kevin Feige called Boseman "an immensely talented actor and an inspirational individual who affected all of our lives professionally and personally. His portrayal of T'Challa, the Black Panther, is iconic and transcends iteration of the character in any other medium from Marvel’s past. And it's for that reason that we will not recast the character." Nonetheless, the question remains: who could be the hero of next year's Black Panther 2? Here are some possibilities. 

Shuri
T'Challa's sister (played by Letitia Wright) is the likeliest candidate, which might, sadly, mean it won't be her. Viewers fell in love with the character in the first film and, though it might be predictable, there's nothing wrong with giving the audience what it wants.

In the comics, Shuri did indeed become the Black Panther when her brother was injured. After her debut, which saw her kill for the first time, T'Challa promised to train her up. Could Black Panther 2 follow her journey as she tries to live up to his legacy? Though not adept at combat, she would benefit from the Heart-Shaped Herb, and, as one of the smartest characters in the MCU, could prove a genius on the battlefield. 

Nakia
The Nakia as portrayed by Lupita Nyong'o is far removed from that of the comic universe: while the former was T'Challa's on-off girlfriend who became a War Dog, Nakia in the source material was obsessed with the Panther,  subsequently exiled from Wakanda, and became Killmonger's protégé, Malice. Nonetheless, in the MCU, she has the physical training and dedication to become the next Black Panther. Might she do so to honour her former lover's legacy? 

M'Baku
The head of the Jabari Tribe went through quite a transformation in Black Panther, emerging a hero in Avengers: Infinity War (2018) and Endgame (2019). He's certainly got the physicality and strength of character to become the next figurehead. Plus everyone loved Winston Duke's performance. Making M'Baku the next Panther, however, might cause ripples in fandom as, in the comics, he's the sometimes-antagonist Man-Ape (or White Gorilla). He'd work best going forwards as an ally of Wakanda, one who isn't afraid to challenge the ongoing regime. 

Killmonger
This is surely a controversial choice: N'Jadaka's death was one of the most affecting in the MCU. Bringing him back at all would be damaging; nonetheless, Michael B Jordan is open to returning and seeing him become the Black Panther again would be interesting, especially as Queen Mother Ramonda would have to curb him somehow. Unless, that is, death has been a redemptive experience for the would-be dictator. 

Namor
This would certainly be a leftfield choice, but fans have been asking for the introduction of the Sub-Mariner, one of Marvel's oldest characters, and Atlantis into the MCU. In the comics, Namor and T'Challa have a bitter rivalry going on, at least since the former flooded Wakanda during the Avengers vs. X-Men event in 2012. Yet, they've also got a respect and understanding of each other too: after all, each can appreciate how heavy the crown is. If Namor debuts in Black Panther 2, as rumoured, the Panther's kingdom could look very different indeed.

Talos
Or another Skrull. Perhaps we never see behind the mask… If Wakanda has no figurehead, that could have grave consequences. Would SHIELD or SWORD, as introduced in WandaVision, wish to fill that void before another more malicious agent moves in? Ben Mendelsohn is confirmed for the upcoming Secret Invasion Disney+ series, playing Talos once more, so it's surely good to bed in the notion that the Skrulls have infiltrated everywhere. Where better than the seemingly uninvadable Wakanda?

White Tiger
Tenoch Huerta (Narcos: Mexico) was reported as being in Black Panther 2 late in 2020, and rumours immediately circulated that he'd play the White Tiger. The mantle of the White Tiger has been held by numerous people in the comics, but notably Hector Ayala and a couple of his relatives. Then there was Kevin "Kasper" Cole, a police officer who stole T'Challa's suit and began impersonating the Black Panther. The White Tiger is a lesser-known hero and it'd be pleasing for the character to get time on the big-screen – that would make his becoming the Panther a temporary measure, but could still fit into the empowering messages behind the ruler of Wakanda.

No One
Maybe we don't actually need a new Black Panther just yet? The second film in the franchise could be a study in grief, focusing on how the tribes cope with the loss of T'Challa, before potentially establishing a new successor for the inevitable third instalment. Director, Ryan Coogler is already signed up to develop a TV show centred on the nation as a wider presence, and, in doing so, could tie into Kevin Feige's assertion that Black Panther 2 will further explore Wakanda.

Black Panther 2 is expected at cinemas in July 2022.

The Marvel Museum Collection is a treasure trove of movie-accurate replicas from the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

These hand-painted polyresin collectibles bring to life the MCU’s most iconic weapons, masks and gadgets in exacting detail. Each miniature prop stands between 15-20cm tall, atop a stand emblazoned with its movie of origin. Black Panther's Mask is made with vibranium-weave, worn by generations of Black Panthers, the Panther Habit is the near-indestructible garb of Wakanda's protector – and this mask, their sacred visage. On ascending to Wakanda's throne, T'Challa's habit received a serious upgrade from his sister Shuri – woven from vibranium nanobots, the suit and its mask could retract to fit inside a ceremonial necklace.

Click here to pre-order the Black Panther mask. 

For more info on the Marvel Museum Collection, click here.