Black Panther is unstoppable. With an estimated $235 million and counting at the domestic box office — that's only four days after its release — Ryan Coogler's majestic entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is breaking records and inspiring audiences everywhere to unleash their inner hero.
As the first black superhero movie helmed by a black director and starring a predominantly black cast, the cultural significance of Black Panther cannot be overstated, but for ardent Marvel fans the film also marks the final piece of the MCU puzzle before Earth's mightiest heroes' converge in this May's superhero spectacular, Avengers: Infinity War. As such, the ending of Black Panther — especially that final post-credits scene — probably left you with a few questions. (Though, kudos to Coogler for keeping T'Challa's solo outing pointedly intimate.)
With that in mind, let's break down the most pressing questions following Black Panther, starting with the big one (spoilers ahead, obviously):
Is Killmonger really dead?Marvel
Two words: Kimoyo beads. Agent Ross would be dead had T'Challa not stabilized him with the Wakandan tech following that fatal shoot-out with Klaue's motley crew of criminals. T'Challa had contemplated doing the same for Killmonger until the latter proclaimed that he'd rather choose death over bondage, removed the spear from his chest, and seemingly bled out on the ground as the camera cut to a cinematic wide shot. We see T'Challa fold Killmonger's hands on his chest — and that's it. Could he have slipped a Kimoyo bead into the wound? Or did he adhere to his cousin's final wishes?
On one hand, it's hard to imagine that Marvel would introduce its best villain yet only to kill him off at the end of the film. After all, how many opportunities has the studio had to off Tom Hiddleston's devilishly mischievous Loki? On the other, however, it's unlikely that a filmmaker like Coogler would trivialize the emotional poignancy of Killmonger's final words by bringing him back in an inevitable sequel.
So even though Shuri — and the Marvel Powers That Be — could bring Killmonger back from the dead, it would ultimately undermine Coogler's carefully crafted story. As much as we love Michael B. Jordan, this king is dead.
What about Malice?Marvel Studios
In the comics, Nakia takes a villainous turn as Malice. Though she was originally part of the Dora Milaje, her unrequited infatuation with T'Challa nearly turned deadly and resulted in her banishment from Wakanda. Obviously, Lupita Nyong'o's Nakia is a very different version of the character — though, she's just as strong-willed. But that doesn't mean Malice won't rear her jealous head at some point. Nakia is loyal to her king, but if his loyalty to her is compromised somehow — possibly by the introduction of the X-Men mutant Storm, T'Challa's wife in the comics — then maybe that would be enough to turn her to the dark side.
That being said, one of the best things about Coogler's take on Black Panther is how he and co-writer Joe Robert Cole present a version of Nakia that's mostly uninterested in T'Challa. In fact, it's T'Challa who's crushing on her for most of the film. So unless some outside force turns her against T'Challa and her country, it's hard to see Nakia spiraling into villainy because she's jealous of another woman.
Where is the Soul Stone?Marvel Studios
Of the five Infinity Stones, only one stone is still unaccounted for in the MCU: the Soul Stone. In the comics, the stone allows the bearer to manipulate all life in the universe, so it would be catastrophic if it fell into the wrong hands. So where is the stone? Before Black Panther's release, I would have said Wakanda, but the coveted stone didn't pop up in Wakanda or its sacred ancestral plane. That's not to say it won't, per se. After all, judging from the trailers, a hugely important battle takes place in Wakanda in Infinity War, so it's possible that Thanos and the Black Order storm the nation looking for the stone. (I still think it's hidden in the ancestral plane, protected by centuries of Black Panthers.) Given its immense power, it makes a lot of sense that it would reside in the most technologically advanced and protected place in the world.
So what brings Thanos's army to Wakanda in Avengers: Infinity War?Marvel Studios
Either Thanos is on the hunt for that Soul Stone, or he wants his hands on Wakanda's Vibranium — a.k.a the strongest metal in the world. In the mid-credits scene, T'Challa goes public with Wakanda's most precious resource at the United Nations. As a result, Wakanda is now vulnerable to outside attacks. Perhaps Thanos sees the Vibranium-rich country as his only major threat and therefore he sends the Black Order to destroy it. Or maybe the Vibranium is the key to the Soul Stone. If Vibranium powers Wakanda and gives it life, then the Soul Stone could be powering the Vibranium. What if the thing that makes Vibranium so powerful is the Infinity Stone? Either way, Nakia better hope that she was right when she said, "Wakanda is strong enough to help others and protect itself at the same time."
Does this mean Shuri has cured Bucky Barnes from his HYDRA-induced brainwashing?Marvel Studios
The post-credits scene featured the thrilling return of Bucky Barnes and his luscious chestnut locks. Earlier in the film, Shuri called Agent Ross "another broken white boy" for her to fix. Of course the first broken white boy was Bucky, formerly known as the Winter Soldier, who was in a cryostasis chamber in Wakanda at the end of Captain America: Civil War. But thanks to Marvel's official Infinity War lead-in comic, Avengers: Infinity War Prelude #1, we know that T'Challa's genius teen sister, Shuri, has found a way to reverse the effects of HYDRA's brainwashing. (It involved digitally remapping Bucky's mind, not unlike the way she digitally remapped Ross's spine.) More importantly, she found a way to bring Bucky — Cap's best friend Bucky! — back. And his hair is looking better than ever.
OK, so maybe he's missing his arm, but you know Shuri is going to hook him up with some indestructible Vibranium invention. He's packing one in the Infinity War trailer!
Was the White Wolf more than a fun easter egg for fans?Disney/Marvel Studios
When Bucky emerges from his tent in that remote Wakandan village, the children call him "White Wolf." Hardcore Marvel Comics fans will know the name White Wolf as T'Challa's adopted white brother, Hunter, who was raised by T'Chaka after his parents died in a plane crash. Living in the shadow of T'Challa, the rightful heir to the Wakandan throne, Hunter took the name White Wolf and led the Hatut Zeraze, or Dogs of War, the country's spy network. (In the film, Killmonger attempts to send Vibranium weapons to Wakandan "War Dogs" stationed around the world.)
It's unclear if Bucky being called White Wolf was just a nod to the comics, or if he'll adopt the moniker and work for Wakanda post-Infinity War. As a trained assassin, he certainly fits the bill of a spy-turned-mercenary, and it would be nice to see an outsider like Bucky find some semblance of a purpose after all he's been through.
Is the heart-shaped herb really gone for good?Marvel Studios
In order to harness the physical abilities of the Black Panther, the ruling sovereign must ingest the heart-shaped herb. But when Killmonger ascended the throne, he ordered the remaining mystical herbs to be burned. Nakia, putting her super-spy skills to good use, managed to escape Wakanda with the last heart-shaped herb, which she ultimately gave to T'Challa. So what does that mean for the future of the Black Panther? Without the heart-shaped herb, how will the power of the Black Panther be passed from one monarch to the next?
Either T'Challa can score some herb from the ancestral plane, or it's up to Shuri to figure out how to replicate the heart-shaped herb's mystical properties using science. (Seeing how Shuri takes up the Black Panther mantle for a short time in the comics, she might even use herself as a test subject.) Either way, T'Challa didn't seem too pressed about it at the end of the movie, so I'm just going to assume everything is fine.
Will Shuri suit up in Infinity War?Marvel Studios
Speaking of Shuri's comic-book destiny, T'Challa's little sister rocks a pair of Panther hand canons in the climactic fight against Killmonger and the Border Tribe. Up until this point in the film, Shuri had been contributing to T'Challa's missions behind the scenes; not only does she design the tech, but she also joins in the fight remotely from Wakanda using her remote-piloting mechanism. Does Shuri's willingness to jump into the fight and protect her country possibly hint as her future as the Black Panther? In the comics, she takes over Panther duties after her brother is badly injured. She initially doubts her own abilities before emerging as a true warrior. It would be an interesting path for tech genius Shuri to follow in the films.
Though, it's curious that Ramonda tells Nakia to take the heart-shaped herb when they flee Wakanda and not her daughter Shuri. Perhaps she knows Shuri's limitations as a fighter — she's a scientist, not a warrior — but it seems like a missed opportunity to nod to the Shuri's comic-book legacy. That being said, when Thanos comes knocking on Wakanda's door, you better believe Shuri will find a way to be on the frontline — possibly remote-piloting the Hulkbuster armor we peeped in the trailer?
When will Marvel Studios embrace its queer characters?Marvel Studios
Ta-Nehisi Coates's Black Panther run, as well as Roxane Gay's tragically short-lived World of Wakanda series, introduced the queer character Ayo, a member of the Dora Milaje who has a romantic relationship with Aneka, another woman in the all-female militia. However, Ayo's queer identity is not explored in the film, and furthermore, a flirtatious scene between Ayo and Danai Gurira's Okoye was reportedly cut from the movie altogether. Although Marvel clarified that Ayo and Okoye were not romantically involved, the film's co-writer later told ScreenCrush that the script did originally hint at a relationship between Okoye and Ayo.
If Black Panther's tremendous success at the box office means anything, it's that representation matters. Hopefully, Marvel takes queer representation into consideration next time.