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One of the most exciting superhero films due out in the next year, Black Panther is set to be one of Marvel's most unique movies yet. Black Panther will introduce us to the fictional African nation of Wakanda, and promises to be a political thriller in which Chadwick Boseman's King T'Challa struggles to keep his throne.
The odds seem to be stacked against Black Panther. He's up against a dark conspiracy that threatens to consume his kingdom; one involving traitors in the Wakandan court, and outsiders who covet the secret of Wakanda's vibranium. Here's your guide to the confirmed bad guys in Black Panther!
Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan)
Erik Killmonger is one of the Black Panther's classic villains, created back in the 1970s. In the comics, he's a Wakandan native whose family were press-ganged into working for Ulysses Klaw when he launched an attack on Wakanda. Orphaned and exiled, Killmonger headed to New York, where he plotted his revenge. Years passed, and T'Challa unwisely gave Killmonger a chance, allowing him to return to Wakanda. He became a dangerous subversive, opposing any Wakandan involvement in the outside world, and dreaming of unseating the King and restoring Wakanda's ancient isolationist ways.
There's no reason the #MCU version of Killmonger couldn't retain his ties to Ulysses Klaue (in fact, given we've been told T'Challa is facing an international conspiracy, that seems pretty likely). So Killmonger can easily retain a personal grudge against T'Challa. Meanwhile, the MCU has just seen Wakanda break with its isolationist tradition and step on to the global stage; Killmonger could easily be leading a political movement in opposition to this. Disturbingly, though, it seems that he'll be colluding with enemies of T'Challa from overseas — including Ulysses Klaue...
Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis)
We were introduced to Andy Serkis's Ulysses Klaue in Avengers: Age of Ultron, where he was a black market arms dealer who'd managed to smuggle vibranium out of Wakanda. The character is inspired by T'Challa's deadliest enemy in the comics, Klaw. In the comics, Klaw is a physicist whose body is transformed into solid sound. He's most famous for losing his right hand, which is replaced by a sonic emitter that focuses sonic energy in devastating attacks.
As teased in the trailer, Klaue is an important figure in the MCU; he's one of the few men to have seen Wakanda and lived to tell the tale. It seems that he'll wind up an important ally of Killmonger (the trailer shows Killmonger springing him from jail), and there have been hints that he'll ultimately gain his trademark sonic emitter. We can presume this is derived from Wakandan tech.
M'Baku (Winston Duke)
One of Black Panther's most dangerous villains, M'Baku — better known to comic book fans as the Man-Ape — is actually T'Challa's brother. In the comics, he sought to restore Wakanda to a more traditional way of life, and was drawn to the Cult of the White Gorilla. These cultists gain superhuman strength and endurance by consuming the flesh of the sacred Wakandan White Gorillas, and by undergoing this ritual M'Baku became a ferocious warrior. He's attempted to usurp T'Challa's throne many, many times.
With the conspiracy against T'Challa even reaching into his own family, Black Panther is sure to be one emotional rollercoaster of a superhero film! As with Michael B. Jordan's Killmonger, the political background of Black Panther gives M'Baku a deep philosophical reason to oppose his brother.
Tilda Johnson (Nabiyah Be)
The latest confirmed supervillain is Nabiyah Be's Tilda Johnson — better known to long-term comic book readers as Nightshade. She's a fantastical supervillain with an proclivity for drugs and poisons; to give you a idea of her skills, in the comics she once managed to create a serum that transformed men into werewolves! We know that a soil rich in vibranium has transformed the Wakandan ecosystem, with the Heart-Shaped Herb granting T'Challa his powers. It stands to reason an expert in drugs would be fascinated by Wakanda.
Nightshade is traditionally a US supervillain, and actually has a history of crossing paths with Captain America. Presuming Killmonger's backstory remains relatively unchanged, we can suppose he allied with her while in New York. In a strange twist, it seems Luke Cage Season 2 will include Gabrielle Dennis playing another version of the character.
A Mystery Villain (Isaach De Bankolé)
Black Panther is a political thriller, and we know that T'Challa is set to face a lot of opposition in his homeland. Isaach De Bankolé is playing the leader of the River Tribe, and the trailer lingers on his face for an intriguing length of time. To many fans, it suggests that the character is going to play an important role. Entertainment Weekly reported:
"The camera lingers on one especially compelling presence among the tribal rulers. Coogler says the man with the emerald suit and lip plate is “the elder of one of the largest tribes in Wakanda.” He’s played by actor Isaach De Bankolé, known for brutalizing Daniel Craig’s 007 in Casino Royale. Across from him sits T’Challa’s widowed mother, Ramonda (played by Angela Bassett)."
A popular fan theory is that De Bankolé is playing the part of Achebe, a power-hungry Wakandan who came close to successfully taking over Wakanda. He may well be one of the key Wakandan conspirators.
Marvel has come in for a lot of flak over the years for failing to develop its bad guys, but this time round we have some fascinating characters. You've got a sibling rivalry, a potential political and military coup, and foreign powers eagerly awaiting a chance to take Wakanda's precious vibranium. The Black Panther could well be in trouble!
(Sources: Entertainment Weekly)