Welcome to the first Comic Character spotlight of the new school year! Hope everyone is ready for what will likely be a jam-packed fall term. In light of the upcoming film “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” (2022), we’ll be venturing into the Wakandan realm of the Marvel Universe and spotlighting Shuri!
Shuri first appeared in “Black Panther” volume 4, issue #2 in May 2005 and was created by writer Reginald Hudlin and artist John Romita Jr. Her story primarily takes place in the fictional African nation of Wakanda, where she initially resides as a princess. Other members of her family include the previous king T’Chaka and her brother T’Challa – King of Wakanda and the Black Panther.
To be adorned with the title of ‘Black Panther’ is a great honor, solely meant for the most paramount chief of the nation. This led Shuri to harbor envious feelings towards her brother as he received the Black Panther title she actively sought. Interestingly, her jealousy is further put into perspective considering her originally being a side character in stories centered around her brother.
While not initially trained in combat, Shuri is an incredibly intelligent scientist, engineer and inventor. Later, in an attack on Wakanda by Klaw, she uses the Ebony Blade to overpower and kill one of his mercenaries. In noticing her distress at ending another’s life for the first time, T’Challa vows to train her in combat so she may potentially inherit his role as the ruler of Wakanda one day.
The trajectory of her story is later altered as Prince Namor of Atlantis and other members of the Cabal — a secret council of supervillains run by Doctor Doom — leave T’Challa in a comatose state. Following this incident, Queen Ororo proposes that Shuri take on the mantle of Black Panther as T’Challa’s successor. However, despite completing various trials and obtaining the heart-shaped herb that would subsequently imbue her with the powers of Black Panther, the Goddess denies Shuri the opportunity.
The Goddess’ rejection is attributed to Shuri’s long-standing envy of her brother’s position and arrogant assumption the mantle would automatically be granted to her. This later changes when Wakanda is endangered by a powerful foe — Morlun — who seeks to destroy it. In an effort to save her country and people, Shuri equips the Black Panther costume, without its powers imbued, and saves both her country and brother. This altruistic and heroic act presents her as suitable for the role of Black Panther in the Goddess’ eyes, and she gains its abilities.
Her range of abilities include an extensive skill set in the martial arts, enhanced speed, agility, strength, endurance, senses and temporarily reanimating Wakandan corpses. Additionally, the uniform she adorns as Black Panther is composed entirely of vibranium — a fictional metal known for its abilities to absorb, store and release large amounts of kinetic energy.
With Shuri taking charge as Black Panther, in 2018 Marvel published her first solo comic series entitled “SHURI,” written by Nnedi Okorafor, which further explores her character and highlights how she grapples with her newfound role of leadership in her brother’s absence.
In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Shuri is portrayed by Letitia Wright and appears in the films “Black Panther” (2018), “Avengers: Infinity War” (2018) and “Avengers: Endgame” (2019), and she will be in the upcoming November release “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” (2022).
It’s been so exciting to see Shuri’s slow rise to prominence — both in the comics and the Marvel Cinematic Universe! Although the comics have already explored her rise to the position of Black Panther, she’s primarily remained as a side character in the films despite her talent and charisma. However, this is likely to change in the next film as the previews have heavily implied a vacancy in the Black Panther position that needs to be filled. Assuming she’ll be taking on the mantle of Black Panther in the film, I’m looking forward to seeing how it explores her slowly becoming acquainted with the position — both on and off the battlefield.