Black Panther: Wakanda Forever Gives M'Baku One Of The Best Arcs In The MCU

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is filled with memorable characters, from heroes you root for and want to see succeed, to villains you love to hate, and all sorts of side characters that populate the world and make it feel lived-in. The "Black Panther" movies have helped in this regard, with Wakanda feeling like a vast, real place thanks to exquisite production design that is rich in detail and some of the best characters in the franchise. 

You also have some of the best villain stories in the entire MCU, like Killmonger and his quest to right the wrongs of the world by brute force, or Namor and his quest to prevent the horrors of the past from being repeated. There are also the side characters that make Wakanda feel like a real place, from Okoye and Nakia, to Shuri and the elders, to Zuri in the first film. Even in a relatively short amount of time, you get a sense that this is a place with a long history, with societal rules and traditions. The sequel doubled down on this, with "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" finding time to not just mourn the loss of Chadwick Boseman and set up a huge conflict with repercussions for the MCU moving forward, but also enough time to introduce a whole new kingdom and two big new characters.

Then there's M'Baku, a character that — like Killmonger and Namor — is very different from his comics counterpart. Though he first seemed like a simple comic relief character, "Wakanda Forever" shows M'Baku has quietly gone through some of the best character development in the whole Marvel universe.

Hail to the king

When we first meet M'Baku, he is introduced as an antagonist and a rival. He is the leader of a tribe that has long been isolated from the rest of Wakanda, that scoffs at the other tribes and rejects their overreliance on vibranium and dependency on technology. We instantly see him as an antagonist when he challenges T'Challa for the thrown and insults him for not saving his father. Even before Killmonger showed up, M'Baku was a formidable villain with a reason to want to take over the kingdom. Yet he is not without honor, as he takes the loss during the challenge and goes home without a hitch.

Sure, he is not really friendly with T'Challa or the other Wakandans, but M'Baku does seem to care for the stability of the country and for tradition, as seen when he decides to help T'Challa fight Killmonger for the way he broke the rules of the royal challenge. By the time the first film ended, M'Baku was an ally, even if a reluctant one.

But by the time we meet M'Baku again in "Wakanda Forever," he is no longer an angry and isolated man who cares not about anyone but his own people. Instead, he is arguably the calmest, most caring of the generals and tribal leaders in Wakanda — as well as the funniest. This carrot-crunching king is now a full member of the Wakanda royal council, advising not just Queen Ramonda with international problems and matters of state, but even giving Shuri personal advice on grief and in dealing with the threat of Namor.

The king we need

Of course, just because he is sensible and smart doesn't mean M'Baku isn't still a mighty warrior and formidable commander of armies. After all, he is the quickest to call Wakanda to action against Namor, the one to lead the Wakandan forces, and the first to go up and fight Namor one on one. M'Baku also shows the power of the MCU to tell stories across different movies, even if they don't have a prominent role in all of them.

At the end of "Black Panther," M'Baku started to open up to the rest of Wakanda, and in "Infinity War" he was a prominent lieutenant fighting alongside T'Challa himself. With T'Challa gone during the Blip, it would make sense for M'Baku to step up and take more of a leadership position in the country. Best of all, it pays off, with M'Baku earning his righteous spot as king of Wakanda, a role he's been chasing since the first film, a role he earned by serving Wakanda and bleeding for it, by becoming the wisest of the side characters, and one who has grown and evolved right under our noses to become one of the best characters in the MCU.

"Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" is now in theaters.