In its first weekend alone, Black Panther slashed its way through records worldwide, becoming both the highest rated superhero film ever made and the top grossing movie directed by a black filmmaker. However, as the film’s impact continued to be felt in the weeks that followed, it became clear that this kitty has lives to spare and the eyes of fans are now looking forward to the future of the franchise.

Given how audiences have responded to the groundbreaking way that Black Panther has represented both black and female characters on screen, a sequel is all but guaranteed at this point. However, there’s still a way that future instalments can push female representation even further forward to the point where we might even see a woman don the mantle of Black Panther - thus becoming the first black female superhero to headline her own Marvel movie.

Queen Shuri Of Wakanda

As everyone’s new favorite Disney princess, Shuri impressed filmgoers worldwide with both her humor and sheer determination to protect the people that she loves most. More intelligent than even Tony Stark, T'Challa's 16-year-old sister will undoubtedly play an important role in defending the Earth from Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War, but Shuri might lend more than just her smarts to the fight.

As Marvel fans already know, the comic book incarnation of Shuri dedicated her life to becoming the first female Black Panther ever since childhood. At first, T’Challa beat her to it, but Shuri continued to protect Wakanda against the likes of Ulysses Klaw and Radioactive Man, proving that she was worthy of the mantle. Soon after, T’Challa vowed to train his sister how to fight, and ended up replacing the King of Wakanda as Black Panther after he fell into a dangerous coma, even though the Panther god, Bast, initially rejected her.

While Ryan Coogler’s movie adaptation does stray from the source material at times, subtle hints threaded throughout Black Panther suggest that actress, Letitia Wright, may still claw her way to center stage in the MCU one day, mirroring Shuri’s path in the comics.

The most notable example of this occurs early on in the film when Zuri (Forest Whitaker) asks if anyone is willing to challenge T'Challa for the power of Black Panther. Shuri shocks everyone in attendance by raising her hand, only to then reveal that she’s joking, but this interest in the crown could develop into something more concrete in future sequels.

By the end of Black Panther, Shuri also proves herself more than capable in combat, fighting alongside the Dora Milaje with the help of her inventions and advanced technology. It wouldn’t be much of a stretch to imagine Shuri developing new versions of the Black Panther suit for herself that could bestow similar gifts to the Heart-Shaped Herb.

It’s The Wright Move

The idea of Shuri replacing T’Challa as Black Panther or even joining him as a second version of the hero is one that holds a lot of power for young black women everywhere, but none of this matters if actress Letitia Wright isn’t on board. Fortunately, the Guyanese-born star recently revealed to that she “would happily” take over as Black Panther if that’s what the story requires. However, Wright was also quick to point out that Chadwick Boseman is currently “killing as Black Panther,” so she’s just “happy to help out with the gadgets for now.”

While Wright still seems to doubt whether Shuri could become a superhero in her own right, the man who originally created her character back in 2005 is far more certain that we’ll see a female Black Panther fight in the MCU. Speaking to The Washington Post, comic book writer Reginald Hudlin explained that Shuri will certainly “don the habit, as well,” arguing that “Everyone should be a Black Panther… I’ve got a son and a daughter, and they should both have cool ass Black Panther costumes on Halloween.”

The decision to crown Shuri as the first female Black Panther in the MCU presumably falls now to director Ryan Coogler, producer Nate Moore, and the Marvel Studio heads. Regardless of when this happens, it’s clear that the future of Wakanda and Marvel at large is female. More than any other film from the studio so far, Black Panther stars a wide range of female heroes alongside Shuri - including both Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), Okoye (Danai Gurira), and the entire Dora Milaje.

But How Will Shuri Become The Black Panther?

Whether Shuri suits up to help her older brother out in combat or whether she outright replaces him as Wakanda’s champion, T’Challa’s younger sister might need to find alternative means to match his power. In the comics, Shuri consumed the Heart-Shaped Herb to become Black Panther, but Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) burned the entire crop that remained in the MCU. Because of this, the princess might have to resort to other technological or even mystical means instead, depending on how future sequels pan out.

We’ve already seen a glimpse of how these mystical powers work when T’Challa visited the ancestral plane, which just so happened to be populated by both men and women. If we assume that each of these figures once wore the mantle, then it turns out that Shuri wouldn’t even be the first female Black Panther in the MCU, setting a precedent for her to inherit the power at a later time. This was reinforced by the scene where Ramonda (Angela Bassett) encouraged Nakia to take the Heart-Shaped Herb for herself, so we already know that the current Queen of Wakanda isn’t opposed to the idea of a female successor.

Of course, it hasn’t been long since Boseman first stepped up as Marvel’s first African hero, so it’s doubtful that Wright would take center stage straight away in Black Panther 2. What’s far more likely is that Boseman will headline one more film in the franchise alongside his various other MCU appearances before Wright takes on the role in a third Black Panther movie later down the line. In fact, we wouldn’t be surprised if the seeds are sown during Avengers: Infinity War when Black Panther joins the Avengers to fight against Thanos.

Now that Wakanda has exposed itself to the world, the citizens under T’Challa’s rule will need a new leader to guide them and Shuri is the natural successor. Whether she dons the vibranium outfit or builds her own suit of armor, there’s no question that Shuri will one day become the queen we already know her to be. After all, Letitia Wright has already won our hearts in the role and she didn’t need a Heart-Shaped Herb to do it.

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