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As anyone who’s been paying attention to the studio’s output over the last few years already knows, it’s clear that Marvel likes to give advance warning of what audiences should be concentrating on for future movies. The Avengers ended with a Thanos cameo that sent eager fans to The Infinity Gauntlet comic books, and just the title of Captain America: The Winter Soldier was a signpost directing them to track down the comic book collection of the same name. With that in mind, there’s one character’s mythos which appears to be increasingly important for Phase 3 of Marvel’s plans: Black Panther.
That the Black Panther will show up in the Marvel Cinematic Universe isn’t a surprise; his 2017 solo movie was announced by Marvel in October at the same time that Chadwick Boseman was announced as the actor who’ll bring the character to life. Officially, he’ll make his debut in next year’s Captain America: Civil War, but the second trailer for Avengers: Age of Ultron offers a couple of hints that the audiences might get a glimpse inside his world far sooner than that.
I’m referring not only to the mysterious character played by Andy Serkis — a character who resembles the pre-supervillain look of Ulysses Klaw, one of Black Panther’s rogues gallery — but also woman taking off her robe in a cave at 0:32 in the trailer. With literally one second of footage, shot at a distance and with the character’s back to the viewer, it’s hard to know who or what she’s doing there, but just as Serkis matches the visuals for a Black Panther villain, so does that woman look very much like she might be one of the Dora Milaje, a group of bodyguards for the Black Panther.
Does this mean that the Black Panther himself might show up in Avengers: Age of Ultron? Well, yes and no. One of the wonderful things about Marvel’s Black Panther mythos is that there is no one singular Black Panther; unlike its current movie hero line-up, the Black Panther is a title that’s passed down from one leader of the (fictional) African nation of Wakanda to the next, with each leader having to survive a number of trials and tasks before being deemed worthy of claiming the mantle. That means that we could see a Black Panther in the second Avengers movie without it necessarily being Boseman in the role — in fact, if audiences are introduced to a Black Panther who dies as a result of Ultron’s plan, then future appearances of Boseman’s character have already been imbued with an emotional resonance that it would otherwise lack.
Of course, the obvious question at this point becomes “Well, why would Ultron be dealing with the Black Panther, anyway?” There’s already an answer in-built to Marvel’s comic book mythology for this: Wakanda, the Black Panther’s kingdom, has been established in early comic book appearances to be the most common source of Vibranium, a fictional substance that can be transformed into the strongest metal known man — something which, were you an unstoppable killer robot bent on self-improvement, you might find yourself particularly interested in.
(Adding fuel to this fire, somewhat; the comic book origin for the aforementioned Ulysses Klaw centers around a Vibranium device and other countries’ greed for access to the Wakandan Vibranium source. As those involved in Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD are fond of saying, “it’s all connected.”)
All of the above is speculation and supposition, of course; similarities between actors and comic book characters may simply turn out to be unlikely coincidences, and Black Panther, his kingdom, villains and bodyguards might stay under wraps until their official debut in 2016 and 2017, respectively. However, given the way that Marvel has enjoyed last minute reveals that no-one was expecting in the past… it’s not impossible that this summer will see a massive spike in interest for all things Wakandan. Consider this a heads-up for those looking to get ahead.
Avengers: Age of Ultron is released May 1.
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