**Warning Spoilers for Black Panther Below**
Black Panther has taken the world by storm, shattering box office records left and right. The film introduced us not only to Wakanda, but a bunch of new and interesting characters that really make the movie entertaining to watch! But some of the characters were much more interesting than others. We rank all nine of Black Panther’s new characters who joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe from worst to best.
Zuri, played by Forest Whitaker, was also one of T’Chaka’s War Dogs. However, instead of betraying his people he uncovers N’Jobu’s plot and is a witness to his treachery against Wakanda. While N’Jobu would die, Zuri would grow into old age and become the keeper of the Heart-Shaped Herb which grants the Black Panther his increased strength and agility. He would also act as a keeper of ceremonies presiding over the ritual combat to determine who would become the King of Wakanda. His story tragically ends at the hands of Erik Killmonger when he confesses he betrayed N’Jobu in order to protect Wakanda.
N’Jobu played by Sterling K. Brown is Erik Killmonger’s father and King T’Chaka’s brother. He plays a small, but significant role in the film. He has been assigned as one of Wakanda’s War Dogs, spies sent throughout the world to monitor the progress of foreign nations. However, while on duty in Oakland, California he witnesses suffering that he cannot bear. He chooses to act and do something about. He hires Ulysses Klaue and provides him information on Wakanda that allows him to steal vibranium and escape the clutches of T’Chaka. But his treachery is uncovered and T’Chaka mercilessly kills his own brother.
W’Kabi, played by Daniel Kaluuya, was one of T’Challa’s best friends growing up and he supports his claim to become the next king of Wakanda in the beginning of the movie. He also presses T’Challa to bring Klaue back to Wakanda for justice or kill him as he stands. W’Kabi is filled with vengeance and wants to see the death of his parents avenged. His parents were killed when Klaue stole the vibranium years ago. After T’Challa fails to bring him Klaue, W’Kabi’s allegiances switch to Killmonger who delivers him the body of Klaue. It’s a rather swift change and he uses his power to give Killmonger an army. It’s an interesting move given N’Jobu allowed Klaue access to Wakanda in the first place. His drastic change from friend to foe was one of the weaker points of the movie and why W’Kabi ranks so low.
Angela Bassett’s Ramonda was one of the emotional centers of the movie. Ramonda is portrayed as the mother of both T’Challa and Shuri and the wife of the late King T’Chaka. She fiercely defends her children in the political theater and is not afraid to make overtures to former rivals in order to ensure their survival. I especially loved Bassett’s strong emotions during both ritual duels T’Challa had against M’Baku and Killmonger. She really relayed the dire situation they found themselves in following T’Challa’s defeat at the hands of Killmonger.
Nakia, played by Lupita Nyong’o, is T’Challa’s former lover, but she is also a spy for the Wakandan nation. She’s strong and resilient and when we first meet her, she’s even defiant and upset that T’Challa has ruined her mission. She serves as an excellent foil to T’Challa and is able to fill in some of his own weaknesses. She shows him the suffering of the world around him and provides a case for Wakanda to help out. Nakia is also extremely resourceful. She was able to quickly act when T’Challa lost in combat to Killmonger and had a clear path of trying to save Wakanda from the interloper. She secured the last Heart-Shaped Herb and then petitioned M’Baku for aid in defeating Killmonger.
Danai Gurira’s Okoye radiated strength, but that strength was also tested on a number of occasions. As the leader of the Dora Milaje and the greatest general in Wakanda she can even shame T’Challa. In fact, she does so in the opening scene by chiding him on his lack of battlefield awareness when he rescues Nakia. He freezes up and she has to save him. Okoye also participated in one of the best fight scenes throughout the movie. She wields her staff weapon with deadly effectiveness and easily dispatches those threatening her and her king. However, Okoye also finds herself conflicted when Killmonger rightfully wins the throne. Her commitment to her nation is tested against her allegiance to T’Challa. In fact, she goes back and forth between the two before finally choosing T’Challa as Wakanda descended into its own Civil War.
Winston Duke’s M’Baku might have had more charisma than Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther. From the moment he stepped on stage M’Baku demanded attention. His presence was almost overwhelming when he chided T’Challa and his family on the lavishes of their vibranium-fueled life-style. He was proud and defiant. However, he wasn’t too proud and he was willing to submit to T’Challa. It would give him new respect for T’Challa. Later in the movie, he would save T’Challa and he too would be faced with a choice to stand against Killmonger or allow things to play out. Much like Okoye, he would initially stay out of it before mobilizing the JaBari to take on W’Kabi in the short-lived Wakandan civil war.
Michael B. Jordan’s performance as Killmonger was stunning. He oozed charisma and even inspired newly minted allies with his focus and determination. Killmonger was full of confidence, but it was well-earned. He outwitted wary museum security and then double-crossed Ulysses Klaue when the time was right. He punished T’Challa and provided a new vision for Wakanda. But we also got to see the softer side of his character, what motivated him and his hate toward Wakanda. We saw the young boy who lost his father and would never get to see him again. Killmonger was able to bring all of these emotions to the fore in his quest for conquest.
Letitia Wright’s Shuri was exceptional. As the sister to T’Challa she heads Wakanda’s research and development of vibranium. She runs the vibranium mine. But she’s also fun-loving and has a sense of adventure. She also deeply cares for her family and has a bit of family rivalry with T’Challa especially when it comes to designing Black Panther suits. She’s also not afraid to get into the action. She designs her own Black Panther energy gauntlets that have a variety of uses from firing energy blasts to also emitting intense sound waves. Her ingenuity, charisma, and charm made her the stand out character in Black Panther.