Avengers: Infinity War hits theaters tonight. It’s the 19th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the first in a two-Avengers film set (the next will be released in 2019) that will tie up a lot of strings that have existed since the first MCU film 10 years ago (Iron Man).
The two films, like the Infinity Gauntlet comics that inspired them, are expected to kill off some of the universe’s most beloved characters.
But let’s just keep it a full buck: for Black folks, Infinity War is Black Panther II, dropping at a time when you can still watch the original in theaters. Christmas came early, ma!
Infinity War is expected to have a mammoth opening weekend that could potentially – in a long shot – beat Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ $247 million haul as the biggest opening weekend of all time. By virtue of being an Avengers film, the movie was always a sure bet to kill it at the box office (the original Avengers from 2012 holds the number-four opening record). But I’ll bet anything that Infinity War will benefit greatly from the success of Black Panther.
The first time we saw Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa and Wakanda on-screen was during 2016’s Captain America: Civil War (Bucky was that first broken white boy that Shuri needed to patch up). But it wasn’t before the unabashed display of Black excellence that was the standalone Black Panther film that we were all looking to leave Donald Trump’s ‘Murica to migrate to Wakanda.
The Movement Known as ‘Black Panther’
I’m not one for hyperbole, so I mean it when I say that Black Panther was more than a movie – it was a movement; one that was largely helmed by Black women who were thrilled to see themselves on screen physically kicking ass and using their noggins to help keep the main character alive (T’Challa’s ass would’ve been dead within the first 30 minutes without help).
Social media drove the push to get the film past record hurdles, including the $1 billion worldwide mark. Whole theaters were rented out for young Black kids. Y’all showed up to theaters deep with dashikis on deck and shea butter flowing like water, turning your average AMC lobby into a fashion shoot and making it hard for the minimum-wage high schooler to vacuum the main rug so he can get off work on time.
And it’s not like we were supporting trash for the sake of Blackness – Black Panther is the single best-reviewed comic book film ever. For Black folks, it wasn’t “did you see the film?” It was “how many times did you see it?”
The Real Stars
Trust and believe that Marvel’s marketing folks have taken note of this: notice anything about this recent Infinity War trailer? The movie will depict a massive battle against the mad Titan Thanos (Josh Brolin) in Wakanda, so you can bet your wallet that they hit us with a whole lot of T’Challa, Okoye (Danai Guirira), Shuri (Letitia Wright), Wakanda and an abundance of Blackness in the trailer on purpose.
I’m a lifelong comic book nerd, so I’ve been reading T’Challa’s stories since the 1980s; an African king superhero resonated with me before I was even old enough to understand his significance in a comic book universe that’s conventionally whiter than Kanye West’s brand new fanbase.
Thus, I find it deeply satisfying that a whole new audience might be inclined to pick up a Black Panther book, especially since they’re written by respected (and dope) contemporary authors like Roxane Gay and Ta-Nehisi Coates.
There’s no surer bet than a proper Black Panther sequel, so I hope that Marvel hews closely to the source material, eventually turning Shuri into the Black Panther and maybe even bringing in the X-Men’s Storm as T’Challa’s wife, helping us to forget about Halle Berry and her version of Storm with the wavering-ass African accent.
One thing’s for sure – if they keep building these quality Black superhero films, we will come. Just remember that all the shit I wrote about going to Black Panther still applies tonight.
Dustin J. Seibert is a native Detroiter living in Chicago. Miraculously, people have paid him to be aggressively light-skinned via a computer keyboard for nearly two decades. He loves his own mama slightly more than he loves music and exercises every day only so his French fry intake doesn’t catch up to him. Find him at his own site, wafflecolored.com.