Get To Know The New Faces Of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

Photo: Courtesy of Marvel Studios.
It’s been four long years since the Marvel Cinematic Universe last whisked us to Wakanda in Avengers: Infinity War, and a lot has changed since Thanos (Josh Brolin) snapped half of the universe into oblivion with his completed infinity gauntlet. The Avengers as we knew them are no more after Endgame, the multiverse is on the brink of collapse, and, most devastatingly, King T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) is now resting in the ancestral plane. In Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, the most powerful nation on earth is reckoning with the loss of its leader while also banding together to fight against a terrifying new threat. Thankfully, they’ve gained a few very important allies to help keep their borders safe, and you’ll want to pay attention to these new faces; they’re going to be very key for the next phase of this universe.
Writer and director Ryan Coogler was already working on the script for the Black Panther sequel when the shocking news broke that his friend and leading man had passed away after a private battle with colon cancer. Because the MCU (correctly) decided not to recast the character of T’Challa, Coogler pivoted to a new heartbreaking story. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever will explore the intense emotional and political repercussions of T’Challa’s untimely death. Though we don’t yet know the details of how exactly the superhero will die in the story, trailers of the upcoming MCU film reveal that his passing will have very serious consequences for Wakanda — and maybe even the rest of the world. 
“I am the queen of the most powerful nation in the world,” sobs Queen Ramunda (Angela Bassett) in the first full length trailer for the highly anticipated sequel as Wakanda is mercilessly ravaged. “And my entire family is gone!”
In the wake of T’Challa’s death, the fate of Wakanda hangs in the balance. Not only is the rest of the world eyeing the country’s unique and powerful natural resources — as colonisers do — but a new threat emerges from beneath the ocean’s surface in the form of Namor (the very fine Tenoch Huerta of Narcos: Mexico fame), a powerful half-human, half-Atlantean king looking to wage war on Wakanda. According to Marvel Comics lore, there’s a deep, deadly history of beef between the two kingdoms; in the comics, Atlanteans and Wakandans are mortal enemies because of a bloody period of war that led to them killing each other. That violence plays out during the Incursion, the calamity and destruction that results from the multiverse essentially folding in out itself and causing the various universes to collide with each other. (Check out Loki and Doctor Strange: Multiverse of Madness if you’re wondering just how serious this Incursion could potentially be.) 
Coogler’s adaptations of the comics will uncover the mysterious roots of Namor’s grudge against Wakanda and the lengths that T’Challa’s family must go to in order to protect themselves from his attacks. And if Wakanda Forever’s trailer is any indication, things are dire in Wakanda right now. They’re going to need all the help they can get.
Shuri (Letitia Wright), who is seemingly confirmed as our next Black Panther, won’t have to bear the burden of safeguarding Wakanda on her own. In addition to the warriors who fought valiantly beside her brother in the past — Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), Okoye (Danai Gurira), and M’Baku (Winston Duke) — a few new comrades have touched down just in time to join the fight. The latest trailer for Wakanda Forever offers glimpses of Aneka (Emmy winner Michaela Coel) and Riri Williams (newcomer Dominique Thorne). Though Aneka is a new face in the MCU, she’s no stranger to Wakanda. In Black Panther comics, the character is the powerful combat instructor for crown's all-women guard, the Dora Milaje. She’s also Black Panther's first queer character, known to have a romantic relationship with fellow Dora Milaje soldier Ayo (played by Florence Kasumba in the MCU). 
Riri Williams, on the other hand, isn’t a Wakanda native, but she’s going to play a huge role in the fight against Namor and Atlantis. Though just a teenager, Riri is already known as one the smartest people in the world, and her genius-level intellect attracted the attention of the late Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.). Under Tony’s mentorship, she developed his Iron Man technology beyond even what he was capable of and is now saving the world under the moniker of Ironheart. What’s a super-genius from Chicago doing all the way in Wakanda in the middle of a war anyway? We’re about to find out. 
Like I said, a lot has changed in Wakanda since we last saw it, and to say that the stakes are high for this film would be an understatement. In addition to navigating the grief of Boseman’s death while shooting the film, Coogler and his talented cast also had to work under the enormous expectations from MCU fans and the culture as a whole. Black Panther is a cultural relic with an impact that can’t be understated — trying to follow up that special story, especially without its star, is a Herculean task. But if anyone can honour Boseman’s legacy and weave this narrative into the fabric of the twisted MCU timeline the way it’s supposed to be, it’s this group. 
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever hits Australian cinemas on November 10, 2022.
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