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Shuri's Heart-Shaped Herb In Black Panther: Wakanda Forever Has An Even Stronger Killmonger Connection In The Comics

This article contains spoilers for "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever"

"Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" teases early on how Shuri (Letitia Wright) eventually becomes the next Black Panther. When her brother T'Challa (unseen in the movie, but played by Chadwick Boseman in the MCU) passes away in the beginning of the story, she's working on a lab-created version of the powerful Heart-Shaped Herb as she tries to save her brother. Unfortunately, she can't finish her work in time, and abandons it altogether after T'Challa's death. 

When Nakia (Lupita Nyong'o) rescues Shuri and Riri Williams (Dominique Thorne) from Talokan on Queen Ramonda's (Angela Bassett) orders, Namor (Tenoch Huerta) attacks Wakanda and makes good on his promise to kill Ramonda (Angela Bassett) should she interfere with his plans. Having lost a second family member over the course of the movie, Shuri realizes she needs a power-up to turn the tables on Namor, and resumes her work on the artificial Heart-Shaped Herb. 

After receiving a somewhat ironic assist from a gift Namor gave her, Shuri succeeds. She prepares to take her DIY Heart-Shaped Herb, knowing enough about the Black Panther-making process to expect a life-shaping vision as she enters the spiritual plane. However, instead of getting an astral chat with an immediate family member that she quite clearly expects, she's shocked to find a spirit-plane Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) comfortably splayed on Wakanda's throne, wearing a cozy robe and dealing life lessons about Shuri's similarities with her. 

This return of the "Black Panther" antagonist might be a fun surprise for the viewer, but it certainly isn't one for Shuri, who's quite distraught to see her cousin, and refuses to discuss what she saw with Nakia. Still, even without her mindset's current, deadly similarities with Killmonger, there's another, very good reason Killmonger appears in the scene. This is because the lab-created Heart-Shaped Herb has an even stronger Killmonger connection in the comics. 

In the comics, Killmonger is the inventor of the synthetic Heart-Shaped Herb

The comic book version of Erik Killmonger is not quite as tolerant of the Heart-Shaped Herb as his MCU counterpart. In fact, when he attempts to gain Black Panther powers with it, he has a near-fatal reaction to it. Killmonger recovers from his setback as villains tend to do, but he decides to leave the real Heart-Shaped Herb alone after that ordeal. Instead, he goes for the next best thing, and creates his own.

This Killmonger is a far better scientist than the black ops Navy Seal MCU version, and it's he who manages to make the comics version of the synthetic Heart-Shaped Herb that plays such a prominent role in "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever." This bit of background knowledge adds to the effect of Shuri seeing Killmonger, of all people, in the vision she has when she enters the spiritual plane after taking the synthetic herb. After all, apart from establishing that the vengeance-driven Shuri is currently walking the same path Killmonger did for most of his life, it seems only fair that the comic book creator of the lab-created herb gets is acknowledged in this way.

As it happens, the Killmonger-synthetic Heart-Shaped Herb connection in the source material could also tease the eventual MCU arrival of a certain Black Panther associate. Since Killmonger specifically made his herb in a way that it can potentially be safely consumed by any old person, he can use it as a type of Super-Soldier Serum ... which is exactly what he does when he gives it to a man called Kevin Cole. Cole uses his newfound powers to become White Tiger, a character who's allied himself with the Black Panther on several occasions. Could his MCU version become the next person to ingest Shuri's synthetic Heart-Shaped Herb when it inevitably ends up in wrong hands at some point down the line?

"Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" is now in theaters.