Who Is Wearing The New Black Panther Suit In Wakanda Forever? An Investigation

For the first time in three years, Marvel Studios and head honcho Kevin Feige made their way to San Diego Comic-Con to bombard fans with big reveals and footage from the next wave of Marvel Cinematic Universe projects. For my money, however, by far the best thing to come out of the studio's Hall H panel was the trailer for Ryan Coogler's "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever." It's a preview that stirs up a whole spectrum of emotions with its visuals and music — from the awe-inspiring first look at Namor the Sub-Mariner to the heartbreak of Wakanda's citizens grieving the death of King T'Challa in the wake of "Black Panther" star Chadwick Boseman's tragic passing from cancer in 2020. 

The trailer then closes with an intriguing final shot of someone suited up in the Black Panther costume, which you can check out below. But who, exactly, is wearing the suit?

This image doesn't reveal much about the new Black Panther, other than their suit is laced with gold accents — a change from T'Challa's costume, which has silver accents — and they have a fairly slim build. We can safely assume that isn't Hulk who's extending their vibranium claws in this shot (no disrespect to our beloved green, beefy boy), but what about all the far more likely suspects either confirmed or rumored to show up in "Wakanda Forever?" Let's break it down.

Could Killmonger be resurrected?

Let's start with the least likely, but not impossible, candidate: Erik "Killmonger" Stevens. As you may recall, T'Challa's cousin-turned-nemesis (played by Michael B. Jordan) briefly overthrew his relative as the king of Wakanda in the first "Black Panther" movie. He then ingested the Heart-Shaped Herb to gain the powers of the Black Panther and donned a super-suit that, notably, also had gold accents.

The biggest obstacle to this theory, naturally, is that Killmonger died in "Black Panther," and resurrecting him in "Wakanda Forever" risks under-mining the gravitas of his demise. But at the same time, if it were handled right, there could be something powerful about Killmonger returning from the Ancestral Plane in the wake of T'Challa's death and becoming the new Black Panther, giving him a real shot at being a proper hero for the first time. What's more, Killmonger asked to be buried at sea before he died, and the concept of enemies rising from the sea is going to be a motif of sorts in the sequel.

Lest we get ahead of ourselves, though, it's worth noting the gold accents on the legs and hands of the new Black Panther suit look different from those on Killmonger's iteration. Plus, resurrecting Killmonger could open a whole can of worms in terms of MCU canon (if he can come back, why not T'Challa?), and that includes the idea of "Wakanda Forever" featuring a version of the character from another universe. Best to leave those sorts of multiverse hijinks to "What If...?," where Jordan has already reprised his role in animated form.

Shuri, fighting for family

Being T'Challa's sister, Letitia Wright's Shuri is now next in line to the Wakandan throne after Queen Ramonda and should be a full-grown adult by the time "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" takes place. She also has the know-how to create a new Black Panther suit that mimics the powers granted by the Heart-Shaped Herb. (In case you forgot: Killmonger had the rest of the crop burned after taking it and the last herb was given to T'Challa to restore his super-abilities.)

Other clues similarly point to Shuri becoming the next Black Panther, starting with the fact that she's taken on the mantle in Marvel's comic books. On top of that, photos of the "Wakanda Forever" LEGO sets show Shuri wearing a Black Panther suit, albeit the older one with silver accents rather than gold. While that could simply be a way of throwing snooping fans off the trail, it could also mean Shuri will start out wearing her brother's costume early on in the film before donning an upgraded version later on.

Among the complicating factors here are Wright herself, whose controversial behavior casts doubt on the idea of Shuri becoming the face of the "Black Panther" franchise moving forward. And let's not forget: If Shuri's out there protecting Wakanda as the Black Panther, who's back at home serving as her person-in-the-chair (a role she filled when T'Challa was alive)? Lucky for her, though, there's another young tech-whiz in the film who could fill that position, at least for a while.

Nakia, fighting for love

"It was my duty to fight for what I love."

So says the Wakandan spy Nakia in the first "Black Panther" movie when T'Challa states she saved both him and Wakanda. Who better then to take up his old mantle in "Wakanda Forever," with no less a talent than Lupita Nyong'o leading the charge? Plus, we know the Oscar winner's been working out extra-hard for the film since recovering from a bout with Covid mid-production.

Still, if we're going to be quoting things Nakia has said in the past, we can't overlook her response when Queen Ramonda told her she should be the one to take the last of the Heart-Shaped Herb after T'Challa was seemingly killed in combat by Killmonger: "I am a spy with no army. I wouldn't stand a chance." Would her attitude have changed, now that she's had time to reflect on her lover's for-real passing? Either way, Nakia is the first person to appear in the "Wakanda Forever" trailer, suggesting she's one of many returning characters with a bigger role to play this time around.

Okoye, fighting for duty

Few people in Wakanda take their loyalities to the country's throne as seriously as Okoye (Danai Gurira), so much so that she even served Killmonger when he became king and turned against her own lover, W'Kabi, when forced to choose between her loyalty to him and T'Challa. Plus, as the leader of the Dora Milaje, she's an incredibly strong fighter who's more than up for the task of being the Black Panther, Heart-Shaped Herb or not.

In light of T'Challa's death, it's possible Queen Ramonda would turn to Okoye to take up his old mantle rather than risking losing yet another family member by allowing Shuri to become the next Black Panther. Okoye likely wouldn't hesitate to fulfill such a request, either, choosing her devotion to her queen over her fellow Dora Milaje. Then again, might Wakanda be better served by Okoye using her tactical skills and field experience to support someone else as the Black Panther? If only there was another Wakandan warrior with related training who could fill that role in her place...

Aneka, the newcomer

If you're not familiar with Michaela Coel, that's about to change in a major way. The creator and star of the critically-acclaimed TV shows "Chewing Gum" and "I May Destroy You" is co-starring in "Wakanda Forever" as Aneka, a Wakandan character who's served as a combat instructor for the Dora Milaje in Marvel's comic books. Needless to say, like Okoye, she has the fighting expertise to take up the role of Wakanda's defender, with or without whatever new doohickeys Shuri might add to the latest version of the Black Panther costume.

Having a newcomer to the MCU serve as the next Black Panther would certainly be one of the less predictable choices Ryan Coogler and Marvel could make with "Wakanda Forever." But by that same count, it would also be a bold one and give Aneka an arc worthy of someone with Coel's screen presence. Either way, it will be interesting to see what comes of this particular character in the film.

M'Baku, the rebel

Winston Duke was a real scene-stealer in "Black Panther" as T'Challa's enemy-turned-friend and leader of the Jabari tribe, M'Baku. The actor is also said to play an expanded role in "Wakanda Forever," with Duke himself having hinted at M'Baku fully embracing his Wakandan identity in the film. So why not have the warrior-leader who nearly bested T'Challa in ritual combat take up the mantle of Wakanda's greatest defender?

There's just one problem. With no disrespect to Duke (again, we love our beefy boys!), the figure in the Black Panther costume in the "Wakanda Forever" trailer is noticeably slimmer than him, as recent photos of the actor can attest. That doesn't mean M'Baku won't have a vital part to play in the movie or that he won't be heading into battle against Namor and his people. But unless there are two Black Panthers in Ryan Coogler's sequel (which, hey, maybe there are), we can probably rule this possibility out.

Ramonda, the queen

Might that secretly be Wakanda's own Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett) suited up as Black Panther in the "Wakanda Forever" trailer? As noted by "The UnCommons" comics creator Tony Weaver Jr., the costume in the trailer bears a resemblance to the one that T'Challa's father, T'Chaka, wore in the MCU back when he was serving as Wakanda's warrior. Could it be that Ramonda will wear that same suit at some point in the "Black Panther" sequel, perhaps in a flashback to the aftermath of Thanos' snap when both Shuri and T'Challa were "dusted?" That would further explain the moment in the "Wakanda Forever" trailer where a distressed Ramonda declares her "entire family is gone."

Bassett, as it were, only recently played one of several deadly assassins in "Gunpowder Milkshake," so she may've well been up for a more action-heavy turn in "Wakanda Forever." This is also a situation where we can't rule out the idea of two people suiting up as Black Panther in the movie, with Ramonda passing the torch to someone younger at some point. That would, in turn, afford the character a moving storyline in the sequel, enough so as to warrant taking this theory seriously.

"Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" opens in theaters on November 11, 2022.