Let's Try To Solve The Biggest Unsolved Mystery In Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

This post contains spoilers for "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever." Please proceed with caution.

Like any good piece of art, a movie can make the audience think. An exceptionally executed film can leave audiences pondering the meaning of life or their place in the world, or maybe the special effects are so well done you wonder how the filmmakers pulled it off. But on the flip side, you may be left wondering about a murky plot point that wasn't explained very well or revisited by the time the credits rolled. 

Though the rest of the movie was fine for the most part, there is one detail about "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" that stood out and remains a mystery: did Riri Williams actually build the vibranium detector?

Namor believes that the future Ironheart is the one that built the machine in conjunction with the CIA in order to mine the precious metal. But later, even though the tech was seemingly cobbled together with used car parts, the MIT student shares with Shuri and Okoye that her professor said that it would be impossible to build. Plus, if Williams did build it for the U.S. government, then why would she be so surprised when the Wakandans bring it up? There has to be another scientist that utilized Riri's designs and that the Tālocāns should be targeting.

Honestly, this seemed like the perfect thing to explore in a post-credits scene. But since this question is a confusing one that has seemingly gone unanswered, we've looked into a few possible suspects that may or may not have an appointment with a certain uncharted underwater kingdom's ruler in the future.

Doctor Doom

The first suspect for this scientist is Victor Von Doom. Before becoming the Supreme Leader of Latveria, a powerful sorcerer, or even the archenemy of the Fantastic Four, Doom was a diligent student of science. Considered one of the top minds in the Marvel Universe, it's possible that he could have taken a side gig as a professor at MIT and found a way to make Riri's vibranium detector work by taking advantage of the CIA's resources.

As both Wakanda and Tālocān have shown, vibranium can be used to create powerful weapons. With access to it, Doctor Doom could incorporate the metal into his various world-conquering contraptions, including his Doombots. But considering that he's one of the biggest bads in all of the House of Ideas, he probably wouldn't like being relegated to a post-credits scene when his debut in the Marvel Cinematic Universe could be as the primary antagonist of a major motion picture, so the world can bask in his glory for an extended period of time.

In other words, Doctor Doom is coming to the MCU sooner rather than later, so it wouldn't make sense to waste his reveal before Kevin Feige and company have to. And while it would have made sense for him to appear in this movie alongside fellow Marvel monarchs, we'll probably have to wait until Matt Shakman's 2025 film to see Doom on the big screen.

Reed Richards

Speaking of the Fantastic Four, it's also possible that Mister Fantastic could be the scientist Namor is looking for. 

Throughout Marvel Comics history, Richards and Namor have been at odds a number of times, especially when it comes to Sue Storm. But they have more in common than they realize. Like Namor and his determination to kill Riri, Reed can also have a one-track mind when he believes that he could help people. In this case, maybe the CIA approached him about their search for vibranium and he only saw the good it could do for the world rather than its potentially destructive consequences.

Since Richards has a history with MIT as he studied there himself, it's possible that Earth-616's (or Earth-199999's) version of the character was teaching at the university when Riri attended as a student. It doesn't sound like the leader of the Fantastic Four would discourage a young scientist by telling them that their idea was impossible, so if it was in fact him, he may have thought that he was protecting her somehow. At the same time, thinking that he could handle whatever repercussions might come from building a vibranium detector, he could have "borrowed" Riri's designs and brought them to life for the U.S. government.

But like Doctor Doom, it doesn't seem likely that the MCU's Mister Fantastic would debut in a cameo. This is also why it feels unlikely that John Krasinski will reprise the role in the upcoming Phase Six film after playing the character in "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness." 

Bolivar Trask

Probably a much more far-fetched choice as the scientist, it would absolutely make sense that Bolivar Trask would want to get his hands on vibranium. As a military scientist and the creator of the Sentinels, the head of Trask Industries would love to upgrade his mutant-hunting weapons. With an indestructible metal at his disposal, his army of giant robots would be unstoppable, which would be even worse news for Namor since Trask sees all mutants as a threat to society. And with his government connections, it wouldn't be difficult for the CIA to retain his services if need be.

Though previously unimaginable since the X-Men were cut off from the House of Ideas due to character rights issues, Marvel Studios has access to the character played by Peter Dinklage in "X-Men: Days of Future Past" once again since the Walt Disney Company acquired Fox. Now, the floodgates are wide open for Marvel's mutant characters and those associated with them to pop up in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. We've already seen Patrick Stewart as Professor Charles Xavier in "Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness." Then in 2024, we'll see Ryan Reynolds and Hugh Jackman reunite for "Deadpool 3." 

With the MCU's X-Men on the horizon, it wouldn't hurt for a character like Trask to pop up to tease what kind of threats the team could be facing.

Alistair Smythe

This pick may be even more unlikely than Trask, but Alistair Smythe is another robotics expert that could have some nefarious plans in the works if he were able to obtain some vibranium. 

Smythe's father made it his life's mission to eliminate Spider-Man. But when he died while hunting down the web-slinger, Alistair adopted the alias of the Ultimate Spider-Slayer and an army of robot minions in order to get revenge. In the same way that Trask could make his Sentinels unstoppable with vibranium upgrades, Smythe could do the same with his Spider-Slayer robots. And as seen in "Spider-Man: The Animated Series," he isn't afraid to work with prominent members of society or future politicians like Kingpin to fund his missions.

Of course, the Ultimate Spider-Slayer is probably tied up at Sony Pictures along with the rest of the Spidey-adjacent characters. Kevin Feige would probably have to jump through a good number of hoops in order to get Sony to play ball and allow them to use this character. It may be more trouble than it's worth since there are plenty of other scientists at their disposal. Regardless, it would be cool to introduce him into the MCU and even bring back BJ Novak from "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" to play him. 

Obviously, the character isn't as in-demand as the quintet of villains from "Spider-Man: No Way Home," but Smythe could prove to be an interesting opponent for Tom Holland's wall-crawler or even Dominique Thorne's Ironheart.

Lucia von Bardas

Now that we mention Ironheart, there is one suspect that makes the most sense above the rest: Lucia von Bardas. 

While Doctor Doom did seem like a shoo-in as the scientist at first glance, the Latverian cyborg that also serves as the Prime Minister for Doom's kingdom is the next best thing. The reason for this is that von Bardas is one of Riri's most significant enemies in the comics. 

With "Ironheart" reportedly picking up right after the titular hero's introduction in "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever," it would make absolute sense for Lucia von Bardas to be the person that brought the vibranium detector to life using Riri's designs. Possibly acting on Doom's behalf, she could pose as a professor at MIT, steal Williams' homework, and utilize America's resources to build it. When the show starts, von Bardas could be exposed and the two could come to blows over Namor nearly killing Williams for her foe's actions. 

It's also worth noting the rumor that Lake Bell's Dr. Graham (who we don't actually see die at the hands of Namor) is really Lucia von Bardas. If she made it off that rig in one piece, it would be great to see the talented actor play a larger (and live-action) part in the MCU, especially if her character paves the way for Doom. 

Riri Williams' upcoming Disney+ series doesn't have a release date just yet, but the show is currently in production. Along with whatever is going on with Anthony Ramos' The Hood, hopefully it picks up this loose thread of the scientist from Ryan Coogler's latest superhero blockbuster because the Chicago native almost certainly has some choice words for whoever almost got her killed by the ruler of a previously undiscovered underwater kingdom.