Chadwick Boseman made history as the first Black superhero to lead an MCU feature in 2018’s Marvel blockbuster Black Panther. The film stormed the box office grossing $1.3 billion during its run. However, the real importance and pinnacle of Boseman‘s legacy came from the cultural impact of a powerful and incredibly aspirational Black hero taking center stage. The late legend died tragically in 2020 after a battle with colon cancer and its evident his loss was felt in homes across the world. However, his on-screen legacy was proudly carried forward in Ryan Coogler‘s sequel, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.
A new poster for the film has, for the first time, put a spotlight on the next actor taking on the Panther mantle, Letitia Wright. Wright portrays T’Challa’s on-screen genius younger sister Princess Shuri. The striking image shows Shuri in a new Panther suit, which features a similar base black finish to Boseman‘s titular character, in what feels like a nod to the actor’s legacy character. However, Shuri’s suit also features gold accents set into the armor, making a clear statement that she can – and will – be her own version of Wakanda’s hero. Displaying a fierce and unwavering expression, Shuri has her arms crossed in the signature “Wakanda Forever” salute. The poster feels like a clear embrace of Shuri’s taking of the mantle, as is depicted in the film when she first reveals her new identity.
Shuri’s character arc in the lead-up to putting on the iconic suit is in many ways heroic. Audiences witness her battle with coming to terms with her brother’s death and the guilt of not being able to save him. The weight of the loss inevitably ages her alongside the mounting responsibilities stacking up against her following T’Challa’s death. In spite of all the loss she’s confronted with, she manages to carve out her own identity as a hero.
Wright recently told how the grief her on-screen character felt was echoed deeply beyond the camera. In an interview with The Guardian, Wright explained that she went to therapy to help her come to terms with losing Boseman, who she very much counted as an older brother behind the scenes. “I was devastated, as you can imagine,” she said. “I’ve had to process it through therapy. It’s not like I had a two-year break to process it and then came back into the film. We had to start six months after Chad died.” She also touched on how she felt “connected” to Boseman from the first screen test, a sign of the great things that came after that.
Boseman‘s King of Wakanda set up the perfect platform for Shuri to shine. Whilst Black Panther earned praise for spotlighting a Black hero in the titular role, it also made history for the way it showcased powerful Black women. The sequel takes this up a notch with Shuri’s hero arc. The character challenging the stereotypical passive princess was certainly something that appealed to Wright, who admitted the helpless princess role wouldn’t have been for her. It’s clear audiences are responding well to the passing of the Panther mantle with the film set to cross $290 million at the domestic box office after only two weekends in theaters.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is in theaters now. You can check out the poster featuring Shuri below: