It's safe to assume that Chadwick Boseman's tenure as T'Challa/Black Panther isn't coming to a close anytime soon, considering the massive success surrounding his recently-released solo film. But once he does give up the mantle, Black Panther may have already telegraphed who could take it on.
Spoilers for Black Panther below!
Long before footage of Black Panther became public, fans began to speculate about the role of Shuri (Letitia Wright), T'Challa's little sister and gadget maker. In the pages of Marvel Comics, Shuri is similarly under T'Challa's wing, and puts on the Black Panther suit to protect Wakanda after her brother is put into a coma.
Interestingly, a similar situation takes place within Black Panther, but it doesn't result in Shuri taking on the suit. And yet, the film boasts plenty of hints that could lead to that happening eventually.
The first moment comes early on in the film, as Zuri (Forest Whitaker) asks if anyone would like to challenge T'Challa for the Black Panther mantle. Shuri briefly raises her hand, to the surprise of many, only for her to turn the situation into a joke, begging for the ceremony to be over soon.
Throughout the film, these hints somewhat follow, namely in the fact that Shuri gets more experience that would help her become the Black Panther. While she doesn't get to wear the suit, she builds a plethora of prototypes for T'Challa, and certainly would be able to make something new for herself if needed. And in the film's third act, Shuri gets experience in battle, something that would lend itself well to her taking on the mantle.
And in an interesting way, the events of Black Panther set up a situation where Shuri could take on the role, somewhat similarly to how it happens in the comics. When T'Challa's coma leads to Shuri putting on the suit, she does so without the blessing of the Panther God, something that radically defied the tradition of the time.
The MCU's version of the Panther God is tied directly to the Heart-Shaped Herb, a resource that has been used to bestow powers to those taking on the Black Panther mantle. As the film showed, Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) ordered basically the entire crop of the Heart-Shaped Herb to be burnt, with the last living portion going to bringing T'Challa back to life. This would mean that, if Shuri were to take on the mantle from T'Challa, she would most likely be doing so without the powers of the herb, leading to some sort of creative way for her to fully become the hero.
So, could we see Shuri soon become the next Black Panther? ComicBook.com asked Wright that very question during Black Panther's recent press tour.
"That's the kindest thing an interviewer has ever asked me," Wright told ComicBook.com. "I hope, whenever the time is right, if it's meant to happen, I would happily do it. But you can't have a Shuri movie without T'Challa and you can't have a Shuri movie without Ramonda and Nakia and the rest of the Dora Milaje and Okoye. So, I guess, the question is: when can we have Black Panther 2?"
"If that's meant to happen then why not?" Wright continued. "But my thing is: where we meet her now in the Marvel Universe, she's young, she's preparing, she's just into technology, she's creating, she's just really fun and really focused on that. So, if that's meant to happen, then cool, but at the moments, hey, man, Chadwick [Boseman] is killing as Black Panther! I'm happy to help out with the gadgets for now. If that's meant to be, it'll be, but he's amazing as Black Panther."
Black Panther is now in theaters. It will be followed by Avengers: Infinity War on May 4th, Ant-Man and the Wasp on July 6th, Captain Marvel on March 8, 2019, the fourth Avengers movie on May 3, 2019, the sequel to Spider-Man: Homecoming on July 5, 2019, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 in 2020.