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Black Panther Fans Can't Get Enough Of M'Baku's New Role As A Wise Counselor In Wakanda Forever

M'Baku (Winston Duke), the leader of Wakanda's Jabari tribe who chose to live separately from the rest of the nation, is definitely one of the fans' favorite characters. M'Baku, also known as Man-Ape in the comics, was introduced as a villain in Marvel Comics in 1969 in "Avengers" #62, in which the Black Panther is away from Wakanda long enough for M'Baku to steal the throne and imbue himself with the powers of the white gorilla. In the MCU, however, he's shown none of the powers of the Man-Ape and has actually become a reluctant ally to the story's heroes.

In an interview with The Upcoming, Duke explained that one of the things he loves about the character of M'Baku is how he's so community-oriented, to the point of only speaking in the first person plural. "He says 'we' all the time," the actor explained. "'We will not have it. We will not help you.' It's all about 'we.' And there are a lot of Black men who exist and are present, a lot of Black men who think about their community and their families and what they mean. And you don't always see that in the content that you're ingesting. And little kids are going to see Black men and Black women in a light that they're potentially even more familiar with at home and in their community than what they're seeing on screen." For all that M'Baku is seen as an enemy of the Black Panther, he's also clearly a strong leader who does what's best for his homeland, unlike his character from the comics.

In "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever," M'Baku becomes even more sympathetic than he was in the first "Black Panther," and fans are loving the new role he has.

M'Baku, the wise man

In a thread in the r/marvelstudios subreddit, fans were excited about M'Baku's role in the "Black Panther" sequel, which makes him much less of a villain and more of a wise village leader. "All the emotions and beautiful tributes aside, I could not get over how funny M'baku was," wrote u/Bootycheeksbooty. "My theater was howling when he called Okoye a bald headed demon." A comment from a now-deleted account responded, "He has also gotten way... Wiser since the first movie." In "Wakanda Forever," M'Baku spends much of his time on-screen counseling Shuri in her conflict with Namor and the Talokanil. "Yeah I love that he actually provided counsel on top of providing shelter for T'Challa's family again," wrote u/LoneStarFrog. In fact, it wouldn't be too far-fetched an argument to say that M'Baku was one of the primary heroes of both movies, first giving aid to T'Challa after his fight with Killmonger in the first film and then from his advice to Shuri in the second film.

In a tweet a few days after the movie was released, Winston Duke explained M'Baku's role in "Wakanda Forever" and again referenced everyone's favorite improvised line in the movie. "The intention for Mbaku in this film is to serve as the vent for a pressure cooker & that's what influenced this improvisational gem, amongst others ... 'you baldheaded demon!'" True, M'Baku did serve as the comic relief at times, but he also became a sage advisor to the new Black Panther.

So why is M'Baku such a far cry from his own counterpart in the comics? Why is M'Baku not the Man-Ape?

The Man-Ape is outdated

In a 2017 interview with EW, Marvel executive producer Nate Moore explained the very obvious reason why M'Baku isn't the Man-Ape in the MCU. "Having a Black character dress up as an ape, I think there's a lot of racial implications that don't sit well, if done wrong," Moore explained. "But the idea that they worship the gorilla gods is interesting because it's a movie about the Black Panther who, himself, is a sort of deity in his own right." Thus, the Jabari tribe became associated with the white gorilla in the films, but M'Baku never took on the unfortunate moniker.

But beyond the simple nickname change, M'Baku also appears to be one of the heroes in the "Black Panther" movies rather than a villain like he is in the comics. In a 2019 interview with Screen Rant, Winston Duke said that he wanted M'Baku to be the villain of the second "Black Panther" movie because of how effective he is as a hero. "[M'Baku] is a hero, but he has so much going on," Duke said. "I think what makes a really great villain is that they have the power of seeing things their own way, and they can define their own circumstances." Duke went on to give examples such as Loki, who Duke said has a very unique perspective and switches back and forth between being on the side of good or evil. So maybe this is a sign that there's more moral ambiguity to come in M'Baku's ongoing story in the MCU.