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Wakanda Forever Doesn't Just Change Namor's Origin (It Changes The Nature Of His Powers)

Contains spoilers for "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever"

Talokan leader Namor (Tenoch Huerta) is quite different from his comic book counterpart, yet still exactly the same as the smug, romantic and occasionally war-mongering comics version. The antihero antagonist of "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" only pays attention to the surface world after Riri Williams' (Dominique Thorne) school project invention is used to locate vibranium outside the borders of Wakanda, at which point the Sub-Mariner decides to recruit-slash-threaten his surface-dwelling fellow vibranium-havers to bring Riri to him. 

Over the course of the movie, we see many familiar sides of Namor. The just ruler, the furious warrior, and the avid disliker of the surface world are all present in his demeanor, which is par for the course for the character. However, "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" also changes significant things about Namor's origin. Instead of being a human-Atlantean mutant, he's the centuries-old firstborn mutant son of the water-breathing Talokan people. He's officially known as K'uk'ulkan, but likes to use the Namor moniker he took from the phrase "Niño sin amor" ("child without love") to reflect his hate of the surface world.

Namor's Mesoamerican MCU makeover is a cool update to his origin story, but by turning him into the ancient deity-king of Talokan, "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" also changes the nature of his powers in a significant way. 

The MCU Namor is a mutant, but what kind of mutant?

The MCU Namor's mutant powers are roughly similar to his comic book ones: Cute little ankle wings, superhuman physical abilities, amphibious oxygen intake, an underwater power boost, a lengthy lifespan, and heavily implied hydrokinesis — though the comic book Namor McKenzie was actually born in the 1910s instead of the 16th century. However, the MCU's K'uk'ulkan Namor is yet to demonstrate some of Mr. McKenzie's more peculiar abilities, such as radiation absorbing — though it's entirely possible that further aspects of his massive power set will be revealed during future appearances. 

However, the nature of the MCU Namor's powers is very different from those of his comics counterpart. While the comics Namor is a human-Atlantean hybrid mutant, the MCU version is ... something else entirely. While his mutant status is still there, this Namor is a centuries-old man whose mutation is apparently caused by the Talokan equivalent of the Heart-Shaped Herb, which turned his people aquatic. Namor's mother (María Mercedes Coroy) simply happened to be pregnant with him when she took the herb, and as a result, Namor mutated and received a huge power boost.

While "Wakanda Forever" still states in no uncertain terms that Namor is a mutant, the implication that the mutation was caused by her mom reluctantly ingesting a vibranium-infused plant during pregnancy seems like a pretty far cry from the X-gene trait that creates mutants in the Marvel comics. It remains to be seen whether Namor carries the MCU version of the X-gene in addition to the whole pregnancy situation, but for now, it appears that the MCU is still playing its mutant cards as close to the chest as ever. 

Namor is now the oldest MCU mutant, but not the first one to appear

Another effect of the changes the MCU makes to Namor's backstory is that his chronological history as a mutant turns upside down in a peculiar way. In the comics, Namor the Sub-Mariner is explicitly a mutant — not the oldest one in-universe, but technically the first one to appear in the in the Marvel comics due to his 1939 publication debut. However, the changes the MCU makes to his backstory, along with his first appearance in it, mean that this particular order of things has been reversed.

The MCU has been throwing hints at the hopefully not too distant emergence of the X-Men, which will no doubt put the mutantkind front and center. The wait has been long enough that even "She-Hulk: Attorney at Law" has a scene where Jennifer Walters (Tatiana Maslany) demands to know when the X-Men arrive. 

In "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever," Namor takes a massive step toward this goal when he openly tells Shuri (Letitia Wright) that he's a mutant. However, in the chronology of the MCU, he's actually not the first mutant to make an appearance. We've already seen people like Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) and Pietro Maximoff (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), who are mutants in the comics but results of infinity stone experimentation in the MCU ... but the first proper mutant MCU hero is none other than Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani), aka Ms. Marvel. Kamala debuted in his namesake Disney+ show in June 2022, beating Namor by mere months.