What Black Panther means for Infinity War

Black Panther introduces audiences to a new corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe that feels fresh, innovative, and new. It gives us some wonderful new characters as well as a compelling villain. In the excitement of the film itself, though, it's easy to forget that it's also the last stepping stone leading up to the monumental Avengers: Infinity War. While Black Panther is largely self-contained, there are still some plot threads that will likely carry over into Marvel's biggest film yet. We sat down to analyze all the revelations of Black Panther and sort out everything they might mean for Infinity War.

There's a new smartest person in the MCU

The MCU is built on a sturdy foundation of supergeniuses. The first two films in the franchise, Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk, gave us Tony Stark and Bruce Banner, two men of science who are responsible for much of the technology and innovation that makes the superheroics of Marvel possible. Heck, Tony's dad Howard is another great Marvel genius, and one of the men responsible for the creation of Captain America. In the wake of Black Panther, though, there's a new smartest kid on the block (and we mean "kid" in the most literal sense).

Shuri, T'Challa's 16-year-old sister, has now been established as the smartest person in the MCU. That means the innovation and expertise that Banner and Stark bring to the fight against Thanos is going to be nothing compared to what Princess Shuri has to offer (and she won't be afraid to challenge either of those guys if she thinks their calculations are off). If this teenage girl who theoretically hasn't even reached her intellectual prime is already smarter than both of them — and has used that intelligence to create countless breathtaking innovations in Wakanda — Thanos will have his work cut out for him when it comes to taking over Earth. That said, we're also crossing our fingers for her to cross paths with Peter Parker, the MCU's other resident kid genius.

Wakanda's armies are ready to fight

Between its various tribes, the Dora Milajae, and Black Panther himself, Wakanda is a military force to be reckoned with. Its policy of isolation has kept it from war with the outside world, so we've yet to see what a collective Wakanda would look like in battle. The film's climax gave us a peek at this, but even then we were only seeing a couple of tribes and the Dora Milajae. Imagine how massive a full-scale Wakandan army would be. 

When we glimpse what appears to be a siege by the forces of Thanos on Wakanda in the Infinity War teaser, it's reasonable to assume that the only reason that battle happens is because the forces have come to Wakanda. It's a defensive measure. However, in the wake of Black Panther, the nation's policy of isolationism has ended. They'll now be sharing their technology and culture with the world, as well as opening outreach centers. Considering this, it may not simply be Thanos attacking Wakanda that gets them involved in the fight — they may already be in it. 

A new shield

Captain America's original shield was forged from a very limited supply of vibranium. Over the course of his journey through the MCU, it's exposed to everything from bullets to explosions to blasts from alien technology. At the end of Captain America: Civil War, Cap lays it down and gives up the mantle of Captain America, and it seems unlikely that Infinity War will simply see him pick it back up as if nothing happened. No, we're inclined to believe he'll be getting something of an upgrade.

Considering that at the end of Civil War, Cap has taken refuge in Wakanda (which is built on a deposit of vibranium), we've got a sneaking suspicion that he'll be getting himself a brand new shield, indicating a new era of Captain America. Steve putting down the shield definitely felt like the end of that chapter of his story. Were there not a new source of vibranium in the MCU we'd hedge our bets on him picking the old shield back up, but he has what appears to be a high-tech shield in the Infinity War trailer. That said, we'd bet he'll be getting one that more resembles the classic shield moving forward. 

Bucky is back

One of the other significant cliffhangers at the end of Civil War is the fate of Bucky Barnes, the former Winter Soldier and Cap's best friend. While he's begun to remember his past after being brainwashed by Hydra for decades, some of his programming still remains. The film ends with him going into cryogenic slumber to wait it out while a cure is developed. Black Panther's second post-credits scene provides some resolution with the revelation that Bucky is back — for real this time.

Bucky, dubbed "White Wolf" by Shuri (who has presumably woken him from cryogenic sleep due to having exorcised his Hydra programming), emerges from a hut and approaches her. She refers to him as Sergeant Barnes, which he quickly corrects, telling her his name is Bucky. This is a major moment going into Infinity War, as it indicates that Bucky will no longer be the conflicted half-brainwashed super soldier he's been for two films now. What we have now seems to be the real Bucky, albeit with years of elite paramilitary training. With this resolved, he'll now be free to join the fight against Thanos without anyone having to worry about him being a liability.

The Soul Stone is in Wakanda

Going back as far as The Avengers, the overarching plot of the MCU has revolved around the Infinity Stones, precious cosmic gems that grant those who bear them ultimate power. Thanos' mission is to assemble the stones in the Infinity Gauntlet, which will (presumably, if the comics are any indication) give him ultimate control over the universe and reality itself. Thus far, all the stones have been located, save for one: the Soul Stone. With Black Panther marking the last film before Infinity War, many have drawn the conclusion that the Soul Stone may be in Wakanda.

That's yet to be determined, but it's been suggested that the stone may lie in the heart of the massive vibranium deposit under Wakanda, granting the metal its multitude of special abilities. This may or may not be the case, but we still think it's a safe bet to say that the stone is somewhere in Wakanda. It becomes an even more convincing argument when you consider that we've already seen the army of Thanos descending upon Wakanda in the Infinity War trailers. The promise of the last Infinity Stone he needs to complete the Gauntlet may be what draws Thanos' attention to the nation.

Multiple Panthers

The armor of the Black Panther, as dictated by tradition, is worn by the reigning king of Wakanda. It's used in unison with the powers granted by the heart-shaped herb that grows deep within the country's mountains. What may surprise viewers who aren't already familiar with the lore of Wakanda is that there isn't anything inherently mystical about the Black Panther armor itself. In Black Panther it's shown to be, at least in its current form, an innovation tinkered and perpetually upgraded by Shuri. We see a number of Panther suits in the film, and even see two utilized at the same time in the final battle between T'Challa and Killmonger. It stands to reason that we may see more than one Black Panther in Infinity War.

Wakandan tradition strictly dictates that the only person that wears the Panther armor is the king of Wakanda. That said, T'Challa's reign is clearly going to be one that deviates from tradition when necessary, as evidenced by his abandoning of the country's isolationist policy. Given that we've already been introduced to a character who, in the comics, has taken up the mantle of Black Panther before, it doesn't seem too far-fetched to imagine others donning the Panther armor in Infinity War. With the stakes higher than they've ever been, one Black Panther might not be enough. In order to save the world, T'Challa may give someone else (or maybe even multiple people) permission to wear the suit alongside him.

Vibranium weapons

Even before he possesses the Infinity Gauntlet, Thanos is clearly a force to be reckoned with. To be able to take on the Avengers and assemble even a fraction of the Infinity Gauntlet is enough indication that the guy is a wrecking ball. That's not even taking into consideration that shot in the trailer of him knocking Iron Man around like a bowling pin. The Avengers may have a hi-tech android, a god of thunder, and two super soldiers on their side, but they're going to need all the help — and new tech — they can get if they want to take Thanos down. Speaking of new tech and weaponry, we've got a feeling we know who might provide it.

Wakandan weaponry in Black Panther is shown to be second to none, heavily utilizing vibranium and the technology Shuri and her team have built around it. With an entire lab full of toys Shuri has designed (and an alien invasion coming their way), we'd bet that the fight against Thanos and his armies is going to need Wakandan vibranium weaponry to succeed. We've already seen it in the trailer in the form of big guns and Cap's new shield-like weapon. Wakandan tech may end up being the only reason our heroes stand a chance against Thanos.

Shuri will build Bucky's new arm

When Bucky appears in the post-credits scene in Black Panther, he's regained his mind but is still noticeably lacking something almost as important: his metal arm. He loses it in the climactic battle of Civil War and goes into cryogenic sleep as an amputee. We've already seen confirmation that he gets a new one by the time Thanos' forces invade Wakanda, and we've got a pretty good idea of where it comes from.

The post-credits scene in Black Panther seems to establish that it's Shuri who manages to cure Bucky's brainwashing (and it isn't hard to draw that conclusion, given her propensity for science and technology). By the time he wakes she's even given him a nickname. We see no reason she'd stop at fixing his Hydra programming when he's still out a metal arm. It's probably safe to wager that the fancy metal arm (complete with gold inlays!) Bucky sports in the Infinity War trailer is a Shuri original.

A new team leader

One of the cool things about the Avengers in the MCU is that they really do seem to function as a sort of miniature democracy. They're a team. That said, Iron Man and Captain America definitely step up as the leaders of the group. It's not an official position or anything, but those two are very much the guys the team looks to for leadership — and even orders on the battlefield. The team has shifted significantly in the wake of Civil War, and it looks like Infinity War will bring even more changes to the group. One seems all but certain: If T'Challa joins the Avengers, there's going to be a new sheriff in town.

We certainly don't mean to imply that T'Challa will install himself as the team's benevolent dictator or anything. What we're thinking is that T'Challa, being a literal king, isn't going to be taking a subordinate position as an Avenger. He's not the kind to nod and follow orders. It seems far more likely that we'll see him step up and take on the responsibility of leadership. Maybe he'll share it with Tony and Steve (if either of them survive the film, that is), or maybe he'll be the de facto head honcho of the Avengers. Either way, don't expect him to be relegated to coffee runs. 

The rogue Avengers will take refuge in Wakanda

Civil War's final moments depict Captain America arriving at the prison where his fellow rogue Avengers are kept with clear intention of busting them out. Later we learn that he's taken Bucky to Wakanda, where they'll be taking asylum as refugees. It's an ending that does sort of beg the question of what will happen to the rest of Cap's rogue Avengers. They're all registered criminals now, and the government is likely going to be looking for them intently. Amidst the chaos of Infinity War they're going to need somewhere to lie low and eventually use as a team base. After Black Panther, we think we know where that'll be.

It only makes sense for Hawkeye, Ant-Man, Scarlet Witch, and Falcon to head to Wakanda. It's where their comrades are, and it gives them political asylum that will be upheld by T'Challa. Plus, with Thanos' forces gunning, we're sure they'd all be happy to lend a hand in fighting the good fight. We've already seen in the trailer that Falcon is in that battle as well as Black Widow, Hulk, and War Machine (fighting alongside Cap? Tony might not like that!). What we haven't seen is where the rest of the rogue Avengers are — but with Wakanda almost certainly serving as their new base of operations, we're sure they're nearby.