This article contains spoilers.
Last weekend, American audiences witnessed the fall of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s most virtuous hero, as Captain America (Chris Evans) dropped his shield after a seemingly irreparable rift opened between the national icon and his home nation. The same story that saw Cap’s descent from grace replaced the Star-Spangled Man with Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), a new kind of hero who, while no less virtuous than Captain America, is altogether more prepared to handle the trials of a globalized MCU.
In a time of complete disarray in the Marvel Universe, people are going to need someone to look to in times of crisis. Unfortunately, but perhaps inevitably, Captain America just doesn’t seem up to the challenge anymore.
Steve Rogers has lost the idealism that drove him. Instead, he’s forced to confront the world as it is, a complex place with none of the black-and-white perspective of the world he once knew. Things are no longer simple, and the scrawny kid from Brooklyn who doesn’t like bullies is no longer willing to work in this labyrinthine political maelstrom.
Black Panther is a National Hero For an International World
In his capacity as Black Panther, T’Challa is not a hero like Captain America, he’s a government agent representing the desires and scruples of an entire nation. The moment that Captain America refuses to sacrifice his ability to choose his own path, he cannot possibly represent any ideal greater than himself. He can’t represent America if he doesn’t listen to (and abide by) the people’s will.
In spite of his own personal connection to the proceedings (i.e. wanting to avenge his father’s death), T’Challa never fully yields to his own emotions. He may pursue an inadvertently mistaken agenda for a portion of the film, but he repeatedly displays an ability to adjust his mission given new information. What’s more, Black Panther never allows the person under the costume to dictate the course of events. When he’s afforded the opportunity to see his father’s murderer die, he doesn’t take it, instead preventing Zemo’s suicide and bringing the villain in alive so the world can make him answer for his crimes.
And where is Cap during all this? Beating the piss out of a former friend over some (admittedly horrible) personal drama that’s not really even applicable to the situation at hand. Steve Rogers is acting like a very fallible human, while T’Challa is busting his ass to try and adhere to a higher ideal, levying his nation’s power (i.e. himself) into making the entire world a more just place.
Expect Big Things From the Man in Black
While the small country has largely — to this point — been defined by their primary export, there’s more to Wakanda than its minerals. The African nation is routinely referred to as Marvel’s most advanced nation (socially, scientifically, culturally, et al.), an honor its earned under the leadership of not only Black Panther but a rich history of great minds and warriors.
The Black Panther solo film doesn’t come out until 2018, but it’s not a huge stretch to suggest we’ll see Chadwick Boseman don his black vibranium suit at least once or twice between now and then. After all, Civil War clearly demonstrated that hes the one hero in the MCU capable of working productively inside the system.
Black Panther represents the MCU’s new need for heroism on a global scale and for cooperation on an international level. It’s an imperative that none of the existing heroes in the MCU are able to fulfill. Tony Stark is too shell-shocked and flippant, Captain America has quit his post, and Thor’s not from here. No, among the emerging group of heroes bucking for spots on the A-list, only Black Panther has displayed a leadership ability that’s unrivaled in the MCU.
Or, maybe that’s just our hope that well get to see Chadwick Boseman kicking ass more frequently. [Seriously, the guy kicks ass)(https://www.inverse.com/article/15254-why-black-panther-is-the-best-part-of-captain-america-civil-war) and he operates on a completely different level from most of the MCU’s other denizens.
Cap Agrees With Me, Folks
As the credits role, Marvel — in their usual style — drops in a post-credits sequence a few short minutes in. In the brief scene, the Winter Soldier is finally going to get a little peace as he’s being put into an induced coma by Wakandan scientists. It’s the final reward for a man who’s an unwilling weapon in a war he never wanted to fight. It’s also a clear indicator of Steve Rogers’ respect for the newly emerged hero that he’s willing to put his best friend — and his only link to the past — in the hands of a foreign head of state.
It’s also a tacit implication that if there’s anyone who can replace the purest man in the Marvel Universe, it’s Black Panther.