New fan art envisions the supervillain Erik “Killmonger” Stevens, played by Michael B. Jordan, returning from the dead in Black Panther 2.
New fan art envisions what it might look like if Killmonger were to return from the dead in Black Panther 2. Ryan Coogler’s Marvel movie Black Panther grossed over $1.3 billion at the box office in 2018 and has inspired a passionate fanbase. The MCU movie chronicles T’Challa’s struggle for political control over the fictional African nation of Wakanda after he’s crowned King, a job that includes donning the Black Panther costume. Chadwick Boseman immortalized the character as an icon of cinematic history with a performance that was equal parts strong and vulnerable, before passing away in August of last year due to colon cancer.
Killmonger (Wakandan name N’Jadaka, English name Erik Stevens) is T’Challa’s antagonist and his estranged cousin. Unlike T’Challa, who was raised in a prosperous country surrounded by his respected royal family, Killmonger grew up in the projects in Oakland, raised by a father who was hawking precious Wakandan metal on the black market. The cousins’ starkly different outlooks on the world, one optimistic and the other cynical, reflect their divergent upbringings, which in turn affect their respective codes of ethics. Where T’Challa feels a responsibility to first and foremost protect his own people, Killmonger is motivated by a sense of the world’s injustice that, while noble, he seeks to rectify via self-serving and misguided means. When Killmonger learns of his Wakandan heritage, he challenges T’Challa to the throne in a battle to the death that he loses. He has the opportunity to be healed by Shuri, but his pride gets in the way.
A Black Panther fan, professional digital illustrator Yadvender Singh Rana who goes by the username ultraraw26, drew up a visual of Killmonger (played by Michael B. Jordan) in Black Panther 2 in an Instagram post. The movie poster mock-up shows the supervillain standing with Shuri (Letitia Wright), T’Challa’s genius teenage sister who engineers technology for the Wakandan government. In the image, Shuri is forming the country’s official salute with her arms, while Killmonger is represented as a more abstract figure with mostly his head and shoulders shown. See the art below:
In the post caption, Singh Rana writes that some fans were upset about a previous post showing Shuri (as opposed to N’Jadaka) in the Black Panther costume. After Boseman’s passing, it was obvious to both fans and the movie’s creators that recasting the role would be both disrespectful and impossible: a version of T’Challa played by any other actor would be a poor facsimile of the real thing. The idea of Shuri taking up the Black Panther mantle has been bandied about, and would logically make sense according to Wakandan law, but may or may not be the right job for a brainy scientist. It sounds like there may be even more fan support for the idea of Erik Stevens returning to assume the throne, but Singh Rana is right to observe that fan art won’t influence the script one way or the other.
Setting aside his tragic fate at the end of the first movie, Killmonger is an obvious candidate for the job of Black Panther/leader of Wakanda, in part because he’s one of only a few who applied for the position. T’Challa and Killmonger are such direct foils of one another that the characters themselves almost seem aware of it: T’Challa is pained by his cousin’s misfortune, while Killmonger envies the hand T’Challa was dealt in life. Both characters struggle with internal crises that affect their leadership styles: in T’Challa’s case, his commitment to moral purity impairs his ability to make tough decisions. Erik Stevens, by contrast, is weakened by psychological damage that makes him distrustful and defensive in the face of any perceived challenge. A sequel exploring Killmonger’s reign over Wakanda would allow Black Panther 2 to continue exploring the complicated philosophical questions posed in the first movie.