The Wakanda vs. Atlantis conflict finally reaches the MCU in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, and along with it the Black Panther vs. Namor rivalry, one of Marvel’s fiercest. The hatred between T’Challa and the Sub-Mariner goes back more than a decade and criss-crosses with some of Marvel Comics’ most crucial crossovers.
Of all the worst moments in the Black Panther’s life, the day that Namor destroys Wakanda has to be up there. Instantly, Namor became one of T’Challa’s greatest foes. Why did Namor attack Wakanda? The answer, as it always is in comic books, is complicated. And as for what happened after? That’s also complicated, in more ways than one.
Though Born Into Royalty, Both T’Challa And Namor Have To Fight For Their Kingship
Thanks to the timeless performance of Chadwick Boseman, the Black Panther’s origin story is now as well-known as any superhero’s. The Wakandan heir T’Challa watched his father cruelly cut down, and then, when the time was right, challenged for the honor of succeeding his father as both Black Panther and King of Wakanda. He’s since survived countless challenges to his throne - and fought most of them back successfully.
The origin of Namor the Sub-Mariner is older, with the character having debuted way back in 1939, and far less well-known, but it is not entirely dissimilar. Namor McKenzie was born as the result of an affair between an early 20th-century human explorer and the daughter of the Atlantean Emperor. While pregnant, Princess Fen was forcibly returned to Atlantis, where she gave birth to Namor - a human/Atlantean hybrid, and a mutant, to boot.
Namor became a hero of World War II, fighting alongside Captain America and the Invaders, and in time, both his mother and grandfather perished. But before he could truly claim the throne that was rightfully his, Namor was sent into exile on the surface world. There, he suffered amnesia and wandered as a derelict for years, until Johnny Storm discovered him and restored his memories.
After a brief stint as a supervillain, Namor returned to Atlantis, fought for his kingdom, and regained it. He’s held onto his regency more-or-less steadily ever since, despite frequent warfare - including with T’Challa’s nation of Wakanda.
Atlantis And Wakanda Come Into Early Conflicts Over Sovereignty, But Namor And T’Challa Mostly Allied Through The Avengers And Fantastic Four
With Wakanda being an inland nation, canonically existing on the western shores of Lake Victoria, it would seem they have little cause for much interaction with the underwater empire of Atlantis. Indeed, the two countries barely paid attention to one another for much of their history, only coming into conflict during some of Atlantis’ general attacks upon the surface-dwellers over the years.
The two kings, Namor and T’Challa, were best described as professional acquaintances for much of their early careers. Both frequently allied themselves with the Fantastic Four, and each were members of the Avengers at various points in time.
One early hotspot in the relationship came when Namor attempted to recruit T’Challa into Norman Osborn’s evil cabal, leading to T’Challa refusing and Doctor Doom assaulting Wakanda in semi-retaliation. But, for the most part, the Black Panther and the Sub-Mariner were allies, until circumstances changed their dynamic forever.
A Phoenix-Powered Namor Floods Wakanda Trying To Track Down The Avengers
The lead-up to the conflict known as Avengers vs. X-Men was a series of bad decisions that somehow had even worse outcomes than they should have. To make a long story short, the Phoenix Force was returning to Earth, and the X-Men wanted to let it inhabit the body of Hope Summers, the first mutant born after the Scarlet Witch’s decimation of the mutant populace. The Avengers, reasoning that the Phoenix Force had only ever brought misery and death to Earth, wanted to stop that from happening.
Tony Stark built an anti-Phoenix armor and punched the Phoenix Force in the face with it. Instead of inhabiting Hope, the Phoenix was split into five pieces and inhabited the quintet of Cyclops, Emma Frost, Colossus, Magik… and Namor the Sub-Mariner.
The Phoenix Five, as they came to be known, attempted to create a paradise on Earth, even as they hunted down Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. T’Challa allowed the Avengers to hide out in the Wakandan capital city of Birnin Zana - and when Namor found out, he was incensed.
Using the power of the Phoenix, Namor made the waters of Lake Victoria rise, and then wash over the Wakandan capital. Birnin Zana was nearly destroyed, thousands were slain, and the devastation was so massive that it spread to nearby communities, too.
The consequences of the incident were immediate and widespread. Due to Namor’s association with the X-Men, T’Challa immediately had his marriage to Storm annulled. The Black Panther also swore an oath to murder Namor for his actions that day - whether or not they’d been influenced at all by the cosmic entity he happened to be bonded with at the time.
T’Challa And Namor Join The Illuminati To Prevent Incursions, But T’Challa Promises To Slay Namor When It’s All Over
Before T’Challa could get too far into his Namor revenge scheme, he learned something terrible - the Marvel Multiverse was dying. The Black Panther found out about Incursions when one happened to occur in the skies over Wakanda, and the information he gleaned from the sole survivor of the incident caused him to assemble the Illuminati once again.
The self-appointed best and brightest of the Marvel Universe decided to work together in secret on the problem of Earths smashing into one another and taking their entire realities with them - all without ever alerting the public. The team included Tony Stark, Reed Richards, Stephen Strange, Blackagar Boltagon, and Steve Rogers.
It also included both T’Challa and Namor. But this should not be interpreted as a cooling of tempers between the two monarchs.
Instead, T’Challa approached Namor before the group’s first meeting and informed him in no uncertain terms: when the problem of the incursions had been solved, T’Challa would personally end Namor’s life. Namor laughed it off.