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The History Of Black Panther's Okoye Explained

Okoye first appeared in 1998's Black Panther Volume 3, #1. She was created by Christopher Priest and Mark Teixeira. She was one of two Dora Milaje, or "adored ones," who acted as King T'Challa's bodyguards. While fluent in many languages, they chose to only speak in Hausa. The Dora Milaje were selected from among disparate tribes in Wakanda as a way of uniting them under one banner. Okoye, and her sister Dora Milaje Nakia, were thus technically brides-in-training for the Black Panther. However, T'Challa viewed the office as strictly ceremonial, especially since he had known both of them since they were young children. 

While Nakia went down a dark path, Okoye always remained loyal to her king. She fiercely defended him, made it her mission to stop Nakia when she went rogue, and eventually took on a prominent role when T'Challa became chairman of the Avengers. 

In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Okoye was one of the most prominent characters in Black Panther and also played a key role in Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. She was still part of what was called the Dora Milaje, but their look and function were radically different in the MCU than in the comics. Let's explore Okoye's history in the comics and how things were different in the movies.  

Okoye's early years

While Wakanda was often portrayed as a utopia, the truth is that its peace was tenuous. The Black Panther is sometimes known as the "King of all the Wakandas," and that is a reference to the many different tribes that made up its populace. There was also a simmering tension between the modernized city-dwellers and the tribesmen who chose to live in more traditional ways. 

The city-dwellers lived in the most high-tech and sophisticated cities in the world thanks to the genius of T'Challa and the bounty that Wakanda's vibranium gave him. The tribesmen vastly outnumbered the city-dwellers but lacked the same access to resources. One of T'Challa's key early enemies was M'Baku, aka the Man-Ape, whose tribe worshiped the forbidden white gorillas. At one point, he acted as a regent for T'Challa, until he tried to kill him when he returned to Wakanda.

T'Challa's solution to prevent potential civil war from breaking out was to revive the custom of the Dora Milaje. One young girl was chosen from the tribesmen and one from the city, and they were both potential future wives for T'Challa. Okoye was chosen from the city to be T'Challa's "beloved," and while she loved him deeply from the time she was very young, she knew that her role was only ceremonial. She and Nakia, chosen from the tribesmen, grew up as sisters, even if Okoye had to remind Nakia that she wasn't going to marry T'Challa. 

Coming to America

King T'Challa came to America because a child was found murdered, with no leads. The child had received help from the Tomorrow Fund, a non-profit backed by Wakanda. T'Challa found that the organization was rife with corruption, and he eventually had his hands full with an attempted coup in Wakanda and the machinations of Mephisto.

T'Challa brought Okoye and Nakia, then 17 years old, with him as his bodyguards. Nakia was his personal assistant, while Okoye was his chauffeur. Both were nearly six feet tall and looked like models, although as writer Christopher Priest noted, they "were kind of a nun/wife-in-training deal." Officially, the Dora Milaje were not allowed to speak to anyone but the king, and they spoke only in the dialect Hausa. Of course, Okoye could speak many other languages, as both received a world-class education and training in martial arts and aviation. Okoye in particular could fly or drive any of T'Challa's most technologically complex vehicles. When T'Challa started bending the local criminals to his will, he left the dirty work to Okoye and Nakia. He ordered them not to kill anyone, as this wasn't how things were done in America. 

Okoye's look here is radically different than her MCU look. Looking Americanized, she wore fashionable outfits. When it came time for combat or official chauffeur duties, she had the gear for that as well. How the Dora Milaje looked and acted was more important than what they said.

The betrayal of Nakia

When Mephisto was scheming against the Black Panther, he put him in an illusion that made him think he was kissing his ex-fiancée, Monica Lynne. Instead, he was actually kissing Nakia. Nakia was delighted by this turn of events, as T'Challa kissing her was a signal that she was to be his intended. Her fantasy of being with him was that much closer to coming true. 

Okoye tried to snap her out of her delusion, telling her that the kiss only came about because of an illusion, but Nakia wasn't going to hear it. Nakia tried to kill Monica Lynne, and when she lied about it to T'Challa, he banished her back to her home village. His old enemy, Achebe, tortured her and left her for dead.

She was found by T'Challa's enemy Killmonger, who genetically modified her and turned her into the killer Malice. After her first attempt at killing T'Challa's allies failed, she obtained the jufeiro herb that gave her control over men. She set out to kill every woman who meant something to T'Challa, and that included Okoye. Nakia attacked an apparently injured Okoye in the hospital, but Okoye was faking her wounds and burst out of her bandages to unleash an assault. T'Challa faked being loyal to Nakia in order to trap her. Okoye was furious at the way her sister betrayed her king and their own unique bond.

Training Queen Divine Justice

When T'Challa banished Nakia, a new Dora Milaje had to be chosen. This was Chante' Giovanni Brown, who was a teen activist living in Chicago who gave herself the nickname Queen Divine Justice. What she didn't know was that she was a direct descendant of the White Gorilla-worshipping J'bari tribe, which had been outlawed when M'Baku tried to kill T'Challa. Her real name was Ce'Athauna Asira Davin. When Wakandan extremists killed her parents, who had fled to America, T'Challa protected her. 

She didn't know all of this when she was tapped to be the new Beloved, and it was up to Okoye to train her and get her out of jams. The icy and efficient Okoye matched with the emotional and explosive QDJ made for a funny buddy-cop scenario, but Okoye came to care for her and saved her life more than once. QDJ's fate was a tragic one, because when she learned the truth of her background, she defied T'Challa and was forced out of her post. Once again, only Okoye was completely loyal to T'Challa. 

Testing Casper Kole

When T'Challa suffered a brain aneurysm battling Iron Fist, his judgment became more impaired. He eventually retreated from Wakanda, taking only Okoye with him as his aide. He also seemingly discarded his uniform carelessly, and an undercover cop named Kasper Cole found it.

Cole was being pressured to turn dirty by one of his higher-ups, and his squad was nearly killed as retaliation for him not playing ball. When he found the uniform, he took it and pretended to be the Black Panther as he clumsily attacked various mobs. Okoye silently attacked him, enraged that he'd sully the sacred uniform of the king. T'Challa had been tracking him all along, though, but didn't seem interested in helping him. What's worse is that Cole found himself irresistibly drawn to Okoye, despite his pregnant girlfriend at home. 

Cole eventually got better at what he was doing and demanded the Rite of Ascension so that he'd have all of the Panther's powers. T'Challa put him through a gauntlet that featured Okoye as his final opponent. He kissed her, not knowing that in so doing, he was ruining her as a Dora Milaje.

Killmonger took advantage and gave Cole a synthetic heart-shaped herb and offers of assistance if he'd help him against T'Challa. In the end, Cole turned him down and stayed true to his girlfriend, only to find that the entire ordeal (including Okoye) was a test. Cole passed and was dubbed the new White Tiger.

Wakanda Forever

After T'Challa recovered, he decided to greatly expand the membership of the Dora Milaje, encompassing every tribe in Wakanda. He turned it from an order of brides-to-be into a fully operational warrior tribe of its own. When the Dora Milaje learned that T'Challa was still dealing with Namor, who had almost destroyed Wakanda, they renounced their loyalty to him and gave it to T'Challa's sister Shuri. Later, the Dora Milaje broke away to form their own independent nation allied with Wakanda, and Okoye was a part of that.

Malice was still out there, hunting for revenge. She stole a weapon called Mimic-22 and went to America, causing chaos in order to get T'Challa's attention. Okoye, Ayo, and Akena traveled to face her down. They were aided by Spider-Man, who helped Okoye defeat Malice's slave Hydro-Man by freezing him. While waiting for Malice to show up, he encouraged them to go on a sight-seeing tour of New York.

Malice attacked T'Challa's ex-wife Storm, who was hanging out with fellow X-Men Rogue and Nightcrawler. Okoye and her crew intervened once again, but Malice lost control of her sentient weapon. Malice, consumed by side effects from using the jufeiro root, was dying. T'Challa appeared and apologized to her for not trying to help her. Malice agreed to help the Dora Milaje defeat Mimic-22, and she died in the process as Okoye led a ritual to destroy the creature.

Okoye helped bury her in Wakanda in her village, finally at peace and honored.

Agents of Wakanda

T'Challa and Okoye reconciled when the Black Panther retained his throne as a ceremonial office and a new, democratic system was established in Wakanda. T'Challa became leader of the Avengers and established a new covert information-gathering and quick-strike team to supplement the main team. Dubbing them the Agents of Wakanda, he named Okoye to be its first director.

The flexible, rotating lineup of established heroes like the Wasp and Mockingbird and oddballs like Fat Cobra and Dr. Nemesis took on the Sentry, a sentient plant-creature on the moon called Entea, a renegade batch of sentient Life Model Decoys called the Livewires, and a Fin Fang Foom who was trying to reform. They even had to endure Deadpool for one mission. 

Okoye initially questioned T'Challa's wisdom in some of his choices for the team and also felt like he didn't trust her because he insisted on going on missions. When he told her the Agents were expendable, which is why he used them instead of agents from Wakanda, she rebelled against this notion to defend Dr. Nemesis in the field. When she confronted him again on this point, he told her that no Agent was expendable, and he was hoping that saying this would cause her to rebel against him. They came to an understanding after this, especially when Okoye helped the Agents defeat Fin Fang Foom without the Black Panther's help. 

Okoye and the Agents later aided T'Challa against the Cotati invasion in the Empyre story event. 

Okoye in the MCU

Okoye in the Marvel Cinematic Universe bore no resemblance to her roots in the comics, other than the fact that both were Dora Milaje. In the films, Okoye (played by Danai Gurira) is still the leader of the Dora Milaje. However, she was romantically linked to W'Kabi, T'Challa's best friend. The vision of the Dora Milaje in the film is more like that of comics writer Reginald Hudlin than the creator of the order, Christopher Priest, in that instead of just two Dora Milaje, it was a vastly expanded group of warrior women. Her garb in the movie, in turn, influenced the comics, as this became her standard uniform, along with her shaved head.

Instead of being a young adult like in the comics, Okoye in the films is fully grown. Her armor and weapons (her high-tech spear) were also rather different. Okoye immediately became one of the most prominent characters in Black Panther, teasing T'Challa while showing him loyalty. When Killmonger defeated T'Challa at Warrior Falls and became the new king of Wakanda, she reluctantly served him. When T'Challa was revived, she turned on Killmonger and W'Kabi, telling the latter she was willing to kill him for Wakanda's sake.

Okoye was a key figure in Avengers: Infinity War, as she helped lead the defense of Wakanda and took down Proxima Midnight with the Black Widow. She survived Thanos' "snap" and became the liaison to the Avengers after that as she helped keep Wakanda safe until T'Challa returned.