'Black Panther' and Wakanda: A Guide to Marvel's Fictional African Nation

The world is about to discover Marvel's fictional, secret African nation, and it's a complicated place.

Marvel Studios released a full-length Black Panther trailer on Monday, teasing more about superhero T'Challa's home nation, Wakanda. Here's your spoiler-free guide to the kingdom Marvel will introduce in 2018's Black Panther, from its warring tribes to the Afro-futurism introduced in the comics—all made real by director Ryan Coogler (Creed).

Why does no one in the MCU know what Wakanda is?

wakanda1 Black Panther's troop ship, inspired by bird skeletal structures, enters the protective barrier surrounding Wakanda. Marvel Studios

In both the Black Panther teaser and trailer, we hear CIA operative Everett Ross (Martin Freeman) ask incredulous questions about Wakanda, mystified by the kingdom's technology. How is it that an American intelligence officer is completely baffled by the existence of an entire nation? Because there's a protective, illusory web around Wakanda that keeps the kingdom's gigantic vibranium mines (crucial for weaponry) and advanced technology hidden from outsiders. To the United Nations, Wakanda looks like any other African nation: rich in culture and dependent on technology from elsewhere in the world. But that's not true.

Wakandan technology is so far advanced, in fact, that the only comparable work being done in weaponry and AI is happening at Stark Industries, the company owned by Anthony "Tony" Stark (aka Iron Man). The Wakandan version of Stark is T'Challa's sister Shuri; Stark gives every American superhero the technology they need to kick ass, and Shuri does the same for Wakandan heroes. Both use vibranium, Marvel's made-up super-metal—Stark because his father employed it during WWII to make Captain America's shield and other weapons, and Shuri because she lives in the country that mines it. Not only does she have direct access to the raw material, she also knows what happens when Western forces make demands. 

wakanda5 Angela Bassett as Ramonda, Queen of Wakanda and mother to T'Challa, aka Black Panther. Marvel Studios

Who are the Wakandans?

Wakanda is a benevolent aristocracy. The royal family lives in Birnin Zana, the capital of the small nation. King T'Chaka, you may recall, was murdered at the United Nations in Captain America: Civil War, leaving his leadership position to his eldest son, T'Challa. The royal family also includes Ramonda, T'Challa's mother (Angela Bassett), and Shuri, T'Challa's sister (Letitia Wright).

T'Challa inherits his father's personal army of bodyguards, the Dora Milaje, an all-female task force (a more bad-ass Civil Service) of combatants that we saw briefly in Civil War. Each of the women is a top female assassin nominated from Wakanda's many tribes; as long as there's a balance in ranks, the peace is kept. So far, we've met Nakia (Lupita N'yong'o) and Okoye (The Walking Dead's Danai Gurira), though the new trailer debuts a bevy of additional warriors. Also present is Zuri (Forest Whitaker), a well-respected Wakandan shaman who carries out the traditional crowning of T'Challa, W'Kabi (Get Out's Daniel Kaluuya), a loyal adviser to T'Challa, and several antagonists.

wakanda4 Members of the Dora Milaje greet T'Challa as he lands on Wakandan soil. Marvel Studios

Why would anyone want to hurt T'Challa?

Wakanda has its share of social unrest. T'Challa is not the only meta-human (superhero with unusual abilities) in Wakanda, but because his lineage has been in power for so long, when his father dies in the U.S., he's made king by default. Those snubbed for the crown respond in different ways. 

wakanda10 N'Jadaka (Michael B. Jordan) studies a collection of Wakandan art just before Klaw (Andy Serkis) approaches. Marvel Studios

N'Jadaka (Michael B. Jordan) works with Civil War villain Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis), the man who killed T'Chaka, to develop synthetic technology and a rival Black Panther suit. Other challengers include M’Baku (Winston Duke), who appears in the trailer wearing fur on his armor and screaming into the horizon; in the comics, he belongs to a Wakandan mountain tribe that glorifies the White Gorilla instead of the Black Panther. We don't know yet whether Black Panther will keep M'Baku's uncomfortable supervillain title, Man-Ape. In addition to the White Gorilla cult, there are cults of the Hyena, the Crocodile and the Lion. If T'Challa is going to keep his title as King, he'll have to find a way to unite these tribes. 

Black Panther hits theaters February 16, 2018.

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