With the release of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’s trailer, the internet was set ablaze in anticipation of the critically-acclaimed Black Panther (2018) sequel. By the looks of the sneak peak, the audience will be launched into a post-T’Challa Wakanda dealing with global threats following the opening of Wakanda to the world at the end of Black Panther. Amidst the loss of T’Challa (played by the late Chadwick Boseman), we will see new characters rise to the occasion.
Namor was first introduced in Marvel Comics #1 (October 1939) as a water-dwelling mutant with the power of flight and superhuman strength. According to Marvel, the name Namor literally means “avenging son” in his mother’s native Atlantean. We will have to wait and see if Tenoch Huerta’s (Spectre, The Forever Purge) Namor becomes one of the Avengers, as he has in the comics. However, it seems that this film will revisit some themes established in Black Panther.
For one, revenge will be a huge part of the sequel. In the first movie, the audience saw Erik “Killmonger” Stevens, a.k.a. N’Jadaka (played by Michael B. Jordan), as an “avenging son” himself, leading a campaign of retribution for the murder of his father at the hands of T’Chaka, T’Challa’s father. Among the clips in the Wakanda Forever trailer, we see a young Namor watching a city engulfed in flames. Perhaps —and we can hope— this will develop into a discourse regarding the terrors of post-colonialism on an indigenous society.
Despite a positive reception, there are those who have met Namor’s introduction to the Marvel Universe with accusations of “race-bending.” In fact, entertainment outlets have gone to the extent of stating that Namor’s origins would be changed from “Greek roots to one of Mayan culture.” As seen in the trailer, Namor will be wearing a traditional penacho, or feathered headdress, and the audience saw plenty of glimpses of Mesoamerican pyramids. Without a doubt, there will be no lack of Indigenous elements.
Nonetheless, these are not indicative of changing the character’s origins. Historically, there has been an attempt to link Mesoamerican civilization and Atlantis. From the 19th-century fringe scientist Ignatius Donnelly to the 2018 episode of Ancient Civilizations titled “From Atlantis to Aztlan,” the mystique of Atlantis has been likened to the aura of the lost civilizations of pre-Columbian America. With this in mind, there would be no need for Marvel to “race-bend” Namor, as he can be both Atlantean and Mesoamerican.
With this major depiction of a Mesoamerican figure, as well as a reference to the Aztec patron god of war, Huītzilōpōchtli, in Thor: Love & Thunder, it is clear that Marvel sees the need to represent more of its fan base on the silver screen. And regardless of where one stands in the “race-bending” discourse, one thing for sure is that Tenoch Huerta’s Namor will result in a revitalized pride in Mesoamerican Indigenous aesthetic and representation akin to what occurred during the Chicano movement of the late sixties and early seventies.
The question that remains is: Will we see a genuine understanding and appreciation of Mesoamerican culture and figures in Wakanda Forever? We will see come November 11, 2022, when the film is set to be released in the United States.
But until then, will Disney, which owns Marvel, start entertaining the introduction of the rest of the Tēteoh in future Marvel installments? I sure hope so.
César Delgado lives in the Port Arthur-Beaumont area in Texas where he recently earned his English and modern languages degree from Lamar University’s Reaud Honors College. Having presented at the Popular Culture Association of the South conference as an undergraduate, his areas of interest continue to be Latino entertainment, pop culture, and professional wrestling.