Why Does Namor Say Imperius Rex In Black Panther: Wakanda Forever?

This post contains spoilers for "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever."

One of my favorite two-dimensional crushes has finally entered the Marvel Cinematic Universe in all his live-action glory! Played by Tenoch Huerta Mejía, Namor the Sub-Mariner is the main antagonist of "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever," though you won't hear me call him a villain. Similarly to Erik Killmonger, who was the Big Bad in "Black Panther," Namor may be at odds with our heroes, but that doesn't necessarily make him a villain. Much like his comic counterpart, the Sub-Mariner is a very complex character.

Co-writer (with Joe Robert Cole) and director Ryan Coogler called dibs on bringing Namor to life quite a while ago and completely reimagined him for the MCU. While so many aspects of the Sub-Mariner have changed going from page to screen, his motivations of protecting the seas and his people have been kept intact. If you've seen "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever," chances are you'd like to know more about Namor. If you're not a comic fan, you might even be wondering why the character utters the phrase "Imperius Rex" during a key moment in the film. The answer is actually pretty simple.

Who doesn't love a catchphrase?

Namor the Sub-Mariner was created in 1939 by Bill Everett for a project that initially fell through, but he then debuted in the pages of "Marvel Comics" #1 for Timely Comics — which would later become Marvel Comics. Everett took inspiration for the Sub-Mariner from Samuel Taylor Coleridge's "The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner" and when it came to the name Namor, that was just the artist spelling Roman backwards. Considered by many to be comics' first antihero, Namor, along with his contemporaries, would be somewhat reinvented in the Silver Age of American superhero comics. And with those changes came a new catchphrase for the character: "Imperius Rex!"

Namor primarily uses the phrase as a battle cry, though he has been known to say it on other occasions as well. If we look at the word imperious (spelled correctly), the definition is "assuming power or authority without justification; arrogant and domineering." As much as I love comics Namor, if I could sum the guy up in one word, it would be arrogant, so that certainly tracks. Imperious does come from the Latin word imperium, which means "command, authority, empire" and rex is Latin for King. But why exactly does Namor say "Imperius Rex?" Is he declaring his authority by calling himself the empire king? Honestly, we're probably all overthinking it. As with many of comics' greatest mysteries, the simplest answer is probably the correct one: it sounds pretty cool.

Even Thor wants to know

Namor did kind of explain the phrase himself in 2018's "Thor" #1 from Jason Aaron and Mike Del Mundo. It turns out the God of Thunder has questions about the Sub-Mariner's battle cry just like the rest of us. After Namor says his famous words during a fight, Thor explains that after all these years, he still has no clue what Imperius Rex even means. The Sub-Mariner responds by saying, "It means I'm going to feed your sorry Asgardian hide to the biggest sharks I can find!" Kind of evasive, but I think that's the closest thing to a definition we're likely to get. 

Marvel loves giving us these delightful comic Easter Eggs, so having Namor say those words in "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" is a fun callback to the source material — I know Namor's a jerk in the comics, but I blame Jae Lee's art for my crush on him. Seriously, his Sub-Mariner is a dreamboat. While we're on the subject of dreamboats, Tenoch Huerta Mejía did a fantastic job portraying the character. There are some exciting opportunities for Namor to return in future projects, especially with X-Men and Fantastic Four on the horizon. I really hope the MCU has bigger plans for him.