Black Panther is finally here, and it is reinventing what the term "superhero movie" means in so many innovative and refreshing ways. So much more than just a story about someone putting on a spandex leotard and punching bad guys, Black Panther welcomes viewers into a complex world rich in space-age tech, gorgeous culture, and powerful ancient tradition. But the Wakandan mythology explained in the new movie might spell out disaster for Black Panther in the future — one major event could mean T'Challa's powers may be in danger following Black Panther. Let's get into a key weakness to Black Panther's power that the new standalone movie just revealed.
SPOILER ALERT: I'm going to be discussing details from Black Panther in depth, so don't continue reading if you haven't seen it yet and want to remain unspoiled. Black Panther wastes no time in explaining the mythology of Wakanda and the source of the Black Panther's powers. The movie's opening scene lays out Wakanda's history through gorgeous animation. When a meteorite made of Vibranium crashed into Africa, five tribes near the crash fought over the alien metal, but finally agreed to unite and form the country of Wakanda after a warrior ate a flower infected by the Vibranium and gained heightened abilities. That warrior was the first Black Panther, and the first leader of Wakanda. Ever since, the throne and the powers of the Black Panther have been passed down in Wakanda through a tradition mirroring the actions of that first leader: the Black Panther eats a Vibranium-infected plant known as the heart-shaped herb to gain his powers.
The potentially alarming part about this process, though, is that Wakandan elders also have a way to strip away the powers of Black Panthers. In order to claim the throne, a potential king must first publicly invite any other Wakandan who wishes to challenge him to combat, with the winner becoming the ruler. This trial by combat plays an important role in Black Panther, as T'Challa must face off against both M'Baku of the Jabari tribe and his black ops-trained cousin Killmonger in order to retain the Wakandan throne following his father's death. Since T'Challa has an unfair advantage in the fights due to his Black Panther abilities, he must drink a liquid that strips him of the heart-shaped herb's effects. We really don't get any details about this mysterious, power-stripping liquid, only that Zuri proclaims it takes away Black Panther's powers.
I gotta say... that liquid seems like a much bigger deal than Black Panther made it seem. After T'Challa is stripped of his powers for both of his fights for the throne, the only way he is able to have them restored is by eating another heart-shaped herb and being buried so that he may enter the ancestral plane and reconnect with the past Black Panthers.
And that is why it's so alarming when Killmonger eats a heart-shaped herb, and then burns all of the heart-shaped herbs that Wakanda has left. Thankfully, Nakia is able to steal one of the herbs away before the fire and uses it to restore T'Challa's powers, but all the rest of them are gone now. That means if T'Challa is stripped of his Black Panther powers again, there is no way to restore them. And with that mysterious power-stripping liquid presumably still available in Wakanda somewhere, he's only one sip away from being powerless for good.
It's unclear whether future Marvel movies will play with this possibility of Black Panther losing his powers or not, but it is definitely an issue that fans could expect T'Challa to face in the future. Hopefully there is some hidden grove of heart-shaped herbs that the people of Wakanda weren't aware of. Who knew that gardening would be such a crucial part of Black Panther's powers!?