Who rules Wakanda now? What does Namor’s name mean? What is Julia Louis-Dreyfus up to?

Christian Holub

Warning: This article contains spoilers for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.

At long last, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is here. The tragic death of original Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman in 2020 left many fans wondering how Marvel could craft a worthy sequel. But now that the highly anticipated film is in theaters, fans will probably leave with all-new questions. Below, we do our best to answer them.

Black Panther Wakanda Forever

Letitia Wright as Shuri in ‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.’

| Credit: Annette Brown/Marvel Studios

Who rules Wakanda now? 

Until Wakanda Forever, Shuri (Letitia Wright) was the kingdom’s resident scientific genius, responsible for innovating new technologies both for combat and medicine. Shuri’s love of science is core to who she is, and she has no intention of giving that up. But now she’s also taken on the mantle of Black Panther, protector of the kingdom. Either of those responsibilities would be a lot for one person, so then to also be queen of a world superpower would be way too much. That explains why Shuri organizes the traditional coronation ritual at the end of the film, but then ducks out to allow M’Baku (Winston Duke) to make his claim without resistance. For now, it seems, Shuri will protect the kingdom as the Black Panther and lead its science division, while M’Baku reigns from the throne…at least until a certain heir is old enough to challenge him for it. 

Why was Daniel Kaluuya absent from Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

In the original Black Panther, Daniel Kaluuya played W’Kabi, the husband of Okoye and an advisor to T’Challa who eventually sides with Killmonger’s attempted coup before being defeated by his wife. Kaluuya did not reprise his role for the sequel, mostly because the filming schedule conflicted with Jordan Peele’s Nope, in which Kaluuya had a much larger starring role. In Wakanda Forever, the explanation for W’Kabi’s absence is that he’s still in prison for siding with the traitor.  

What is Julia-Louis Dreyfus’ character up to? 

Julia Louis-Dreyfus has already popped up in a few MCU stories as Valentina Allegra de Fontaine, but her role in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is her meatiest yet. Throughout the film, we see the new CIA director playing dumb in the style of Veep‘s Selina Meyer, only to reveal toward the end that she’s been paying a lot closer attention to Wakandan affairs than her ex-husband Everett Ross (Martin Freeman) thinks. Although she seems to be on board with Ross’ advocacy for friendly relationships with Wakanda, by the end of the film it’s clear that she’s been setting him up to be discredited and arrested as a traitor — presumably so she can go forward with military action against Wakanda that Namor has predicted and the U.S. President demands.

In her other appearances, we’ve seen Fontaine recruiting superpowered individuals who don’t necessarily fit the good-guy mold of the Avengers, including Wyatt Russell’s U.S. Agent from The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and Florence Pugh’s Yelena Belova from Black Widow and Hawkeye. They are destined to become the Thunderbolts, a team of “superheroes” loyal to the American state. 


The cover to a 1968 issue of ‘Namor the Sub-Mariner’ by John Buscema.

| Credit: Marvel

Why do the characters pronounce Namor’s name differently? 

Namor the Sub-Mariner was created by writer-artist Bill Everett in 1939, and was not originally a Mesoamerican character. Everett came up with the name because he thought “Roman” spelled backward looked cool. Over the subsequent decades of the character’s existence in the Marvel Universe, the assumed pronunciation has been “NAY-more,” and that has been used when he appeared in Fantastic Four cartoons. 

In order to create continuity with the character’s Marvel history, that traditional pronunciation of Namor’s name is used by certain characters in Wakanda Forever. But in rewriting Namor to be Mesoamerican for the MCU, director Ryan Coogler created a new backstory for the name. We see in flashback that Namor (Tenoch Huerta) was first called that by a dying Spanish colonizer, who used it to mean “child without love.” In Spanish, the name would be pronounced “NAH-more,” so that’s how Namor uses it himself after claiming the epithet as a badge of honor. 

That’s why different characters say it differently — but if you want to interpret the Wakandans’ pronunciation as a microaggression against their enemy, that reading certainly seems viable within the film. 

Namor is referred to as a “mutant.” Does this have anything to do with the X-Men? 

Yes, it does! Namor has quite a multifaceted heritage: He’s part human and part undersea being (known as “Atlantean” in the comics and “Talokan” in the movie), but his human half also brings the same kind of genetic mutation that gives the X-Men their powers. Namor’s mutant power is flight via his winged ankles, which is why no other Talokan has them (this is even remarked upon in the movie). Although Kevin Feige has yet announce a new X-Men film, Namor is now the second MCU character to be defined as a mutant after Ms. Marvel‘s Kamala Khan (and the multiversal cameo of Patrick Stewart’s Professor X in Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness shows that they’re in play). 

Why does Namor say “Imperius Rex”? 

That’s his classic catchphrase. When Everett first wrote Namor, the character’s language was colloquial and confrontational. But over the years, as different writers and artists worked on Namor, his language became more neo-Shakespearean. He acquired a new battle cry, “Imperius Rex,” which he has continued to use ever since. For one thing, it sounds awesome — and for another, it serves as a literal reminder to other Marvel characters that Namor isn’t just an arrogant antihero: He’s the true king (“rex”) of a powerful empire (“imperius”) with an army to back him up. 

Why is T’Challa’s son named Toussaint? 

The post-credits scene for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever reveals the unexpected existence of T’Challa and Nakia’s son. Like Erik Stephens/N’Jadaka, another Wakandan who was raised outside the kingdom, this boy has two names: His Wakandan name is T’Challa, after his father, but his Haitian name is Toussaint. This makes sense, since the real-life Toussaint Louverture (1743-1803) was the leader of the Haitian Revolution and the founding father of the world’s first free Black republic.

Like Killmonger, Toussaint will eventually bring an outside perspective to Wakanda. Presumably when he comes of age, he too will return to claim the throne and put that perspective to use. Before then, we might see him link up with the Young Avengers

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