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Facts Only Huge Fans Know About Black Panthers' Nakia

Nakia, as portrayed by Lupita Nyong'o, is a favorite in the "Black Panther" films. But this Wakandan's character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is strikingly different than her history in the comics. 

Introduced in 1998's "Black Panther" Volume 3 #1, she was originally shown as part of the Dora Milaje, alongside Okoye. At the time, this meant that she was a ceremonial bride-in-waiting for T'Challa, a way of uniting various tribes in Wakanda. But the role was purely ceremonial, and the young woman was not expected to fulfill the expectations of being his wife. Instead, the strikingly tall women with supermodel looks act as King T'Challa's bodyguards. Or as Everett K. Ross described them, "Deadly Amazonian high school karate chicks." 

Nakia's misplaced love for T'Challa would eventually become warped into something terrible, and she would even become the villain Malice. She would try to kill a number of T'Challa's loved ones, especially women, on a number of occasions. But her own powers wound up acting against her — and in the end, all would be forgiven. 

In the MCU, Nakia is T'Challa's main love interest. She's also a member of the War Dogs, Wakanda's international spy network. Unlike in the comics, where Nakia's fall is connected to mistakes made by T'Challa, Nakia in the MCU is T'Challa's moral conscience. Below are more facts about this character, so tragic in the comics but so heroic in the movies. 

Nakia's been in love with the Black Panther since she was a teenager

Nakia Shauku was born in the Wakandan Q'Noma Valley, the daughter of a fisherman. She was selected at a young age to be one of the Dora Milaje, or "Adored Ones." As a nation, Wakanda was fractured between the rural tribesmen and technologically sophisticated city dwellers. When T'Challa took the throne and made Wakanda the most technologically-advanced nation on Earth, that divide became even greater. His solution was to have concomitants, or wives-in-training, from both tribesmen and city dwellers. 

While T'Challa greatly expanded the Dora Milaje in later years, Nakia and Okoye were the first two. Okoye was the city-dweller to Nakia's fishing village girl. They grew up in the royal palace, and upon meeting her as a young teenager, T'Challa said her role was strictly ceremonial and that nothing would be expected of her otherwise. Indeed, T'Challa's former fiancee Monica Lynne remembered them running around the palace together as the best of friends. They were trained as killers to protect their king, but they had other roles as well. Okoye was his chauffeur, while Nakia was his personal assistant or secretary. While she never voiced her feelings aloud, Nakia not only fell in love with T'Challa as a child, she was also certain that one day they would be married, because he was in love with her as well. It was this feeling that would eventually doom her. 

Killmonger gave her the name Malice

The original Malice was a trusted member of Killmonger's Death Regiment that he used to try to overthrow the Black Panther. He used his skill in genetic engineering to modify certain members of his army. For the woman known as Malice, he gave her superhuman strength and agility. She fought the Black Panther several times before being captured. 

Years later, when Nakia tried to kill T'Challa's ex-fiancee Monica Lynne in a fit of frenzied jealousy, T'Challa told her to return to her village in shame. 

After her stolen sky-cycle runs out of fuel and crashes in a small village, a priest finds her, but it's the psychotic enemy of the Panther, Achebe. Achebe tortures and leaves her for dead, hanging upside down. Killmonger comes across her body and takes her to the sacred Altar of Resurrection. Using his knowledge of genetic modification, he revives and gives her the same powers as the Malice he previously created. In addition to strength, speed, and durability, she now possesses deadly reflexes and accuracy. Killmonger decides to call her "Malice" in honor of his earlier creation. Whatever sanity she has left is gone when she goes through the process; becoming Malice permanently unhinges her, to the point where she demands T'Challa love her and no one else. 

She encountered her natural rival only once

Prior to the later expansion of the order of the Dora Milaje, the mandate was that there would always be two of them — one to represent city dwellers, and the other to represent the tribes. 

When Nakia disappears in one memorable storyline, events immediately go into motion to select her replacement. Surprisingly, a teenager in Chicago named Chanté Giovanni Brown is approached for the role. A local activist, she starts calling herself "Queen Divine Justice" and is very much a typical American teenager in other respects. 

When it's revealed that she's actually Wakandan, she's delighted to rediscover her roots and learn how to fight. However, she's horrified when she learns that the Dora Milaje must remain celibate and only talk to T'Challa. That's especially true when she starts a romance with N'Kano, the Wakandan with sound-related powers code-named Vibraxas. 

Running loose in Wakanda, Malice tracks down and kills Nikki Adams, T'Challa's college girlfriend. She's moments away from killing Monica Lynne when Queen Divine Justice shows up. She bursts in, guns blazing, and uses the vibranium soles of her boots to create a sound field to deflect Nakia's deadly knife attacks. 

Ironically, Queen Divine Justice will eventually find herself exiled after she discovers she's a member of the Jabari tribe of the Panther's enemy, M'Baku the Man-Ape. Though the circumstances are different, she too becomes a stranger from her own country, just like Nakia. 

She made men her slaves with the Jufeiro root

Malice was a deadly threat after Killmonger got through modifying her via magic and science. But she took it to the next level in her vendetta against every woman T'Challa had ever loved (romantic and otherwise) when she acquired a supply of spores from the Jufeiro root

The equivalent of an instant love potion, having the root implanted makes all men instantly and obsessively fall in love with her. In a process that acts on pheromones, the root bonds the victim to the opposite sex unless (and until) an anti-toxin is applied. The victims can still think and reason on their own, but their main goal in life becomes serving Malice, begging for her love and attention. 

Malice shapes her spores in a letter "M" that looks like most of a heart, a clever touch that points out just how warped she is. Nakia is an expert tactician with no scruples whatsoever, so her targets are especially fiendish. She targets the husband of T'Challa's cousin M'Koni, and he's eventually killed and stuffed inside a hot water heater. She knows that T'Challa was going to have targets like Monica Lynne well-guarded, so she chooses a police officer and even a priest as her prey in order to catch them off-guard. She also infects T'Challa himself, a move he expects ahead of time (he had antivenom built into his costume); he goes along anyway, trying to capture her. 

The devil made him do it

Supernatural events are not uncommon in Wakanda, as the Black Panther's life and soul are literally linked to the Panther God. This nobility made him irresistible to Mephisto, the demonic entity who has tortured so many of Marvel's heroes. 

In order to get T'Challa's soul, Mephisto began enacting his plan by enlisting an ally: Achebe. Once a simple farmer, he trades his soul to Mephisto in order to get revenge on the soldiers who stole his wife, destroyed his farm, and left him for dead. He then goes to the US and piles up degrees before returning to Africa in order to unseat the Black Panther. 

Working through Achebe, Mephisto creates chaos around the Panther. While Mephisto can't read minds, he does have time-shifting powers that create powerful illusions. For the victim, it's as though they are reliving a horrible event that Mephisto, an immortal being, happens to have witnessed. While sitting in the back of his limo with Nakia, Mephisto takes T'Challa through a number of illusions, trying to tempt him. In the final illusion, T'Challa is with his great love, Monica Lynne, and they are kissing passionately. 

Except it's not Monica. Trapped in the illusion, T'Challa does the unthinkable: he kisses a very willing Nakia. T'Challa crosses the line by making a romantic overture, even if it is unintentional. For Nakia, it's the confirmation she desired: King T'Challa loves her and only her. It is this moment that finally snaps her tenuous grip on reality. 

Okoye took her betrayal hard

Okoye, the Dora Milaje selected to represent the city-dwellers, grew up with Nakia from preadolescence to young adulthood. She shared a number of secrets with Nakia, and they had one thing in common: a deep love for T'Challa. Over the years, tis would make things quite difficult for all involved.

While T'Challa only thinks of them as children, there's a deep flaw in the way the Dora Milaje is designed. As potential brides-to-be, they are ordered to speak only to T'Challa and no one else, and to only speak to him in Hausa. Moreover, they aren't allowed to ever date anyone else. While this arrangement is designed to keep a delicate peace in Wakanda, the collateral damage is the lives of two young women. 

The difference between Okoye and Nakia is that while Okoye loves T'Challa every bit as deeply as her "sister," she fully understands that the relationship will never advance to marriage. She is content simply to be around him as his chauffeur and bodyguard. Nakia, on the other hand, believes from a young age that she will marry T'Challa. Not only that, she believes that he loves her, and only her. 

Okoye would try to talk sense into her more than once, but when Nakia betrayed T'Challa, Okoye advocated for her death. Not out of revenge, but in order to preserve the peace. She disguised herself in a hospital bed, got the drop on Nakia and nearly killed her, until the Panther showed up and pretended to injure her as part of a plan. 

She once saved Everett K. Ross

Everett K. Ross was a diplomatic functionary assigned to be T'Challa's handler when he came to the US to investigate the murder of a young girl. The girl was part of his Wakanda-sponsored Tomorrow Fund. By the time his assignment had concluded, however, he found himself forever in debt to Nakia.

A smart-aleck who knows how to negotiate and cut through red tape, the attitude of Ross was often interpreted as a lack of respect. At first, he dismisses T'Challa as a kind afterthought as an Avenger and the head of a small country. This was a mistake. 

Ross gets this assignment because his boss and girlfriend, Nikki Adams, dated T'Challa in college and isn't ready to deal with her feelings. However, T'Challa detects Nikki's scent on Ross and trusts him implicitly. Of course, this means putting Ross in what seems to be a lot of danger, like being set on fire and thrown off a building. Ross is introduced to Nakia at this time, right before things go haywire and she betrays T'Challa, disgracing herself.

Years later, Ross is promoted and loses touch with T'Challa. However, when a courier with sensitive Wakandan technology is murdered, Ross is abducted by Hunter the White Wolf, T'Challa's adopted brother. Hunter thinks Ross has the technology and dunks him in a shark tank. Surprisingly, Malice saves him and enslaves several of Hunter's Hatut Zeraze operatives. In a strange way, this shows her loyalty to T'Challa. She does it because she knows T'Challa wants the technology safe.

The Jufeiro slowly killed her

When someone uses the Jufeiro root for years, it takes a toll. This was a surprise to Nakia, but all that time making men her willing slaves with the toxin had begun ripping apart the fabric of her mind, and the devotion of her love-slaves meant nothing to her. Around this time, only the love and attention of T'Challa could make her happy. 

With her body wasting away and time running out, she steals a secret Dora Milaje weapon from an underwater A.I.M. facility called Mimic-27. Using a specially turned vibranium talking drum, she controls this sentient weapon in order to wreak as much havoc as possible. This is her plan to get the Black Panther's attention, and she once again believes he will finally love her. 

The Dora Milaje, whose order has expanded and broken away from the Panther's crown, track her down instead, led by Okoye. Spider-Man tries to help but is thwarted when the Mimic-27 easily imitates his powers. He later helps them deal with Hydro-Man, who has become one of Malice's slaves. Malice escapes with the Mimic-27 and goes after Storm in her favorite African bodega in Brooklyn. Rogue and Nightcrawler are with her, and the Mimic-27 duplicates their abilities with ease. Okoye and the other Dora Milaje arrive and the drum is destroyed, but that makes it worse: the Mimic-27 is set free with a poisoned mind, only destruction in its thoughts. 

She died a hero

After a dying Malice stole the Mimic-27 to get T'Challa's attention, she lost control of it. Okoye told her about a secret Dora Milaje ceremony that could stop the runaway sentient weapon — but Malice refuses, still bitter about being used by the order and still insisting on seeing T'Challa. 

The Black Panther appears and asks Nakia to help. She refuses to leave his side, so T'Challa gets on his knees and apologizes to her for the life she was forced to live. He admits that Wakanda and its traditions are not perfect. He asks for her forgiveness and begs for her help. Even Okoye welcomes her back, saying "Once a Dora, always a Dora."

Touched, Malice agrees to help. While the Panther, the X-Men, and the Avengers keep the crazed Mimic-27 at bay, the Dora Milaje use the vibranium talking drum to conjure up a magical space. They confront the Mimic-27, but it's up to Nakia to truly defeat it. The Mimic-27 demands to stay free and is willing to kill for its freedom. Nakia realizes that the only way to win is to take back the mental poison she infected it with. Free of Malice's insanity, the Mimic-27 disintegrates. Nakia herself is free of her bitter hatred, but the Mimic-27 is the only thing keeping her alive. 

Nakia dies a hero and is buried in her home village in the Q'Noma Valley in Wakanda. Okoye says that Nakia "made the Dora Milaje whole again."

The MCU Nakia is a humanitarian above all else

Nakia in the Marvel Cinematic Universe couldn't be any more different from her persona in the comics. She's not a member of the Dora Milaje. Instead, she's one of the War Dogs, Wakanda's spy bureau equivalent to something like the CIA. She's also the same age as T'Challa, and they dated in the past. This Nakia is a world traveler who starts to question why Wakanda must keep its technological prowess under wraps instead of assisting other countries with their bounty. 

She is similar to the Nakia in the comics in that she's an expert in combat and subterfuge. However, she's uncomfortable in a typical international espionage role. Instead, her missions tend to have a humanitarian bent. 

This is particularly true in regard to protecting women and children. At the beginning of "Black Panther," T'Challa pulls her out of an undercover operation where she was investigating a human trafficking ring. She's angry at him for blowing her cover, though she understands when he tells her that it's because he's going to be crowned king. She immediately wants to leave on another mission to help other people before she gets involved with finding Klaue and Killmonger. In the end, after T'Challa retakes the throne, he puts Nakia's ideas into action by appointing her social director of the new Wakandan International Outreach Center. Subsequently, she is by his side when he officially opens Wakanda up to the world.