Black Panther: Who Is Shuri?

Shuri Explained - Cover
(Photo: Marvel Entertainment)

With fans across the world shouting “Wakanda forever!” it’s clear that the Black Panther film is a hit. The Marvel Studios introduction of King T’Challa exceeded all expectations, both at the box office and Rotten Tomatoes, at the start of this year and introduced a bevy of popular new characters beyond its eponymous hero. While Okoye, M’Baku, Nakia, and others have all developed devoted fan followings, the surprise breakout star of the movie has to T’Challa’s baby sister, Shuri, played by Letitia Wright.

In addition to big-screen success, Shuri has been met with a big year in comics as well. She recently returned to the pages of Black Panther and has just received her own series, Shuri, from acclaimed fantasy novelist Nnedi Okorafor and artist Leonardo Romero. It doesn’t matter if you’re a fan of the Marvel movies, the comics, or both, the name "Shuri" is likely on the tip of your tongue in 2018.

That said, Shuri has been largely absent from the pages of Marvel Comics for several years, which makes the question “who is Shuri?” a valid one. That’s why we’ve assembled a brief guide to introduce any and all fans to this rising star in the Marvel pantheon, so you can better anticipate where she might go next.

Origin

Shuri is a relatively new character within the mythos of Marvel Comics. She made her debut in 2005 in Black Panther #2, the fourth volume of the title. She was co-created by writer Reginald Hudlin and classic comics artist John Romita Jr. as part of a revamp to the Black Panther franchise. Hudlin came from outside of comics and was best known for his work as a director and writer in film and television, like movies such as House Party and The Great White Hype. This new volume of Black Panther made many changes to the character’s origin and the nature of his story, some of which were quickly removed following Hudlin’s departure from Marvel Comics. However, Shuri has remained a part of Black Panther’s stories ever since this hotly debated run on the series.

Shuri was introduced as a princess of Wakanda, Black Panther’s half sister, sharing the same father but different mothers. Shuri is the daughter of Ramonda, King T’Chaka’s third wife who remains a loving adoptive mother to Black Panther at Marvel Comics through today. As a child, it is shown that she was jealous of the Black Panther mantle, knowing that she was every bit as capable as her older brother, but unlikely to take the throne due to her birth order and gender.

Shuri Explained - Female Black Panther
(Photo: Marvel Entertainment)

Early Days

Shuri was introduced in Hudlin and Romita Jr.’s first story on Black Panther which focused on a large collection of villains, secretly assembled by the American military, attacking Wakanda to destabilize the powerful nation-state. During their assault Shuri confronts the Radioactive Man and is forced to kill him. This first serious encounter with violence brings her into the action of the Black Panther’s story, but also left her suffering from symptoms similar to post-traumatic stress disorder.

With her older brother joining the Fantastic Four and spending more time beyond the borders of Wakanda, Shuri became a more regular leader in protecting the country. She strategizes an attack on invasion forces led by Erik Killmonger and is a key figure in the defeat of Skrull forces during the Secret Invasion event. When T’Challa is attacked by Namor and other members of a secret cabal, Shuri is forced to take on his mantle while he is left in a coma. For the first time in her life, she becomes the Black Panther and gains the full powers of the sacred, heart-shaped herb after repelling yet another invasion led by the Spider-Man villain Morlun. Shuri remained in a prominent leadership role continuing to battle villains like Doctor Doom and Namor.

Recent Days

The escalating war between Wakanda and Atlantis would eventually reveal the secret alliance between T’Challa and Namor, leading to Shuri’s decision to banish her brother due to the immense casualties incurred between the two nations. In the buildup to the Secret Wars event, the evil team known as the Cabal invaded Wakanda and managed to successfully crack the country’s borders. Shuri refused to leave the nation she led as the Black Panther and sacrificed her life in a battle with Proxima Midnight so that her brother T’Challa could escape and play a major role in saving the multiverse during Secret Wars.

In the current Black Panther series, writer Ta-Nehisi Coates reveals that while Shuri still died in that battle, her body was left in an in-between state as her soul transcended to a spiritual plane. Black Panther and his mutant ally Manifold invented new technology that allowed them to return Shuri’s soul to Earth. In addition to retaining her incredible mind and the powers imbued by the heart-shaped herb, Shuri also returned with new mystical knowledge passed on by her ancestors. She is now able to transform her body into stone and fly as a flock of black birds, making her an even more powerful protector of Wakanda for the future.

Shuri Explained - Black Panther Movie
(Photo: Marvel Entertainment)

Adaptations

Shuri has been adapted beyond the pages of comics multiple times since her creation in 2002. Below you can find a complete listing of her animated and live-action stories in chronological order along with the various performers to portray the role.

Black Panther (TV series) voiced by Kerry Washington: In addition to working on the Black Panther comic, Reginald Hudlin also developed a six-issue animated series for BET. Hudlin wrote Shuri into a central role in the brief series, ensuring his character was shared with a wider audience and kept in the spotlight.

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Avengers Assemble voiced by Kimberly Brooks and Daisy Lightfoot: Shuri appeared in this still-ongoing animated adaptation of the Marvel universe during its fourth seasons, titled Avengers Assemble: Secret Wars, barely preceding her live-action debut. The upcoming fifth season of the show features the subtitle “Black Panther’s Quest,” all but ensuring a more prominent role for Shuri moving forward.

Black Panther played by Letitia Wright: Shuri has appeared in two Marvel Studios films to date, starting with her debut in Black Panther in February of 2018 and quickly followed by a supporting role in Avengers: Infinity War. The films were a breakout role for both actress Letitia Wright and her character, endearing Shuri to a much wider audience. While it’s unclear whether Shuri survived Thano’s snap at the end of Infinity War, it’s unlikely that we have seen the last of Wright in this role.