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Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022) December 27th, 2022

Chadwick Boseman’s death significantly disrupted Marvel Studio’s plans and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever respectfully dedicates a significant portion of its plot and screen time to his passing. In Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, his character T’Challa’s sister Shuri reluctantly assume the mantle of the Black Panther and eventually meets her long lost nephew. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is a singular cinematic experience allowing the audience a peak at a film franchise grieve the death of its star in a very silly make believe world.

Before Avengers: Endgame I wouldn’t have missed an MCU moment but as soon as the pandemic hit it suddenly felt optional. Delayed releases, flooding content onto Disney+, maybe I don’t think The Eternals can carry their own franchise? Whatever the reason I found myself opting out of more and more. I skipped Black Widow, Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, The Eternals, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania and I wish I could get back the time I lost seeing Thor: Love and Thunder. I would’ve skipped Black Panther: Wakanda Forever too but for the chance, the slim chance, that they could make Namor as cool as he should be.

Archival knowledge of Marvel Superheroes is a cheap commodity nowadays but when I was a kid I stockpiled this shit like it was Aztec gold. None of it does me any good now because no-one wants to see an old man talk shit about superheroes on TikTok, but you’re here now so as long as you keep reading you’re gonna get an eyeful of me gushing about Marvel’s Aquaman. Namor, the Sub-Mariner is a freak. Ruler of Atlantis and billed as Marvel’s ‘first mutant’, Namor lives an amphibious lifestyle riding the waves between land and sea. Famous for wooing Sue Storm away from Reed Richards and being one of the strongest sluggers in Marvel history, Namor is most notable to me for his feet. His ankles… his wings.

In the late 1930s when Namor made his first appearance, superhero gimmicks were straightforward with characters like Man O’Metal, The Clown, or Dr. Hormone… you know exactly what you’re getting when you buy one of their books for a dime. Namor wasn’t much different, he didn’t have a name that told you everything about him but his look sure did. He was buff like a circus strongman, he wore trunks like a swimmer, and he could fly. But how should you illustrate that ability? Angel wings would conflict with his underwater esthetic and THAT aspect of Namor isn’t going anywhere… everyone knows Superman can fly but nothing about his look tells you he can fly (fun fact, he didn’t! The original Superman just jumped real far and high! How quaint!). Namor needed something that instantly told the audience “Hey, this dude flies!”. Sigh, if only there was some other cultural touchstone Namor creator Bill Everett could reference to help solve his problem. Someone fleet of foot and famously aerial from myth or legend… someone like Mercury? Arguably the original superhero team, the Greek pantheon provided Everett his solution in The Messenger. Just put some chicken wings on his ankles and call it a day.

WHAT?!? That’s so fucking weird and wild! Who thinks that’s cool? He’s an aquatic 1940s strongman with winged feet like a greek god and the hair and ears of Dr. Spock! How does this seven-layer anachronism end up as the cool antihero in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever? They can’t possibly pull that off… right? Wrong. Namor rules and always will precisely because he’s a fucking freak. Nothing about him should be appealing but he is. He’s a superhero platypus.

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever could’ve easily botched the job with Namor but they didn’t. They spent their time wisely establishing the history and lore of the Atlantean people and their king while incorporating the more fun aspects of Namor’s character. The pissed-off ankle-winged sea king is coming ashore… but don’t worry, if he’s out of water for too long he dies like a fish flopping around on a dock (guess he’s not going on any space adventures). Most importantly, they didn’t skimp on the wing feet.

I couldn’t care less about Black Panther: Wakanda Forever as a Black Panther centric movie. With Chadwick dead and Shuri’s repellant anti-charisma and anti-vax stance make it difficult to borrow much from the first film’s success. In that aspect this movie isn’t for me, but as a sub-verseive Namor story? I’m all in. Imperious Rex!

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