Spoilers ahead for Black Panther.
In Black Panther, T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) may be the heir apparent to the throne of Wakanda, but he’s not the sole member of the royal family. After King T’Chaka (John Kani) was assassinated in Captain America: Civil War, Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett) remained in Wakanda to eventually welcome her son back into the fold. But in the meantime, T’Challa’s younger half-sister Shuri (Letitia Wright) had already risen to become the head of the Wakanda Design Group at the age of 16. That’d be an impressive achievement anywhere, but the fact that Wakanda is decades ahead of the rest of the world when it comes to their technology means that Shuri is truly exceptional.
During our set visit last year, Black Panther producer Nate Moore said as much, calling the character of Shuri “the smartest person in the world, smarter than Tony Stark.” Shots fired, Iron Man. Not a bad person to have at your side as you attempt to restore balance to a nation in upheaval while also staving off interference from enemies outside of Wakanda’s borders. But while Shuri may very well prove to be a fan-favorite character in Black Panther, her comic book history suggests there’s much more story ahead for her if the MCU decides to explore it.
Audiences were introduced to Shuri as a tech expert and gadget-provider for T’Challa, sort of like how Q works alongside James Bond. The first clip from the film even featured Shuri taking charge of a tense situation while T’Challa sprang into action, but it was only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what exactly Shuri can do. Originally introduced in the comics in 2005 by writer Reginald Hudlin and artist John Romita, Jr., Shuri showed a fascination with the mantle of Black Panther from an early age. She also proves herself quite capable at defending Wakanda through combat against numerous invasions.
The Shuri we meet at the beginning of Black Panther is a little less tested on the battlefield, but exceptionally gifted where tech is concerned. The Wakanda Design Group was originally introduced in the comics in 1999 in order to manufacture Quinjets, but Black Panther has repurposed it as a sort of Wakandan Silicon Valley with Shuri as its leader. The facility, located on Mount Bashenga, also looks quite different from the other locations in Wakanda. Did you spot the use of sand in its design and throughout the film? That element was brought to life courtesy of Production Designer Hannah Beachler, who also mentioned that Shuri’s artistic ability informed her space every bit as much as her technological know-how: “And she also likes to do some graffiti, so you’ll see a lot of her graffiti up on the walls and in her main computer.”
Black Panther set Shuri up as quite the character, leading us to wonder if the MCU will explore more of her story. We’ve already seen her assisting T’Challa in his heroics and even getting into the action herself. But when the producer describes a character with a superlative like “smartest person in the world” and explicitly mentions that she’s smarter than Tony Stark, you can’t help but get the feeling that bigger things are ahead for Shuri. In the comics, and this is going to get a bit spoilery if you care about such things, Shuri has actually had quite a complicated history that includes acting against T’Challa, banishing him from Wakanda and assuming leadership of the nation both as queen and as the new Black Panther. In this role, she reinstated the Hatut Zeraze that T’Challa had disbanded and led an invasion force into Atlantis against Namor. (Don’t expect Marvel’s precursor to Aquaman to arrive in the MCU anytime soon.) The siblings shared the title of Black Panther for a time, though their powers have changed and evolved over the years. If that brief tease interests you, you should definitely dive into the comics.
Could the future of the MCU have a place for Shuri both as an heir apparent to Tony Stark and as another Black Panther? (Personally I’d love to see Shuri and Riri Williams’ Ironheart team up alongside Captain Marvel, Scarlet Witch, The Wasp, and, hey while we’re at it, Jane Foster’s Thor!) And since Marvel has a habit of signing actors up for multiple movies–Wright will be appearing in Avengers: Infinity War at least–there’s every chance she’ll have a bigger role to play in the future. Be sure to let us know your thoughts in the comments below!