Wakanda is the most technologically advanced nation in the Marvel Universe. Yet its citizens suffer constant oppression at the hands of foreign invaders such as Namor, the Atlantean king. T’Challa, the Black Panther, splits his time between ruling Wakanda and being an Avenger. In his stead, a cadre of brilliant and strong women take the reigns and lead the nation under their feet.
In a recent Black Panther comic series run written by Ta-Nehisi Paul Coates, he places a spotlight on T’Challa’s tenuous rule over Wakanda and the women who strive to protect themselves and their home — not only from outsiders but also from a king they no longer trust to serve Wakanda.
Queen Shuri, Queen Mother Ramonda, The Dora Milaje and the rebel group The Midnight Angels all seek to restore Wakanda to its former glory and ensure its national stability.
The daughter of Ramonda and T’Chaka, Queen Shuri is the heiress to the throne of Wakanda. While T’Challa battles his way across the Marvel Universe, Shuri sits on the throne. Alongside the powers of the Black Panther, Shuri is imbued with enhancements from her time in the Djalia, the transcendent plane representing the collective memory of Wakanda.
During the uprising in Wakanda, fueled by the distrust of its people, Shuri was able to broker peace between the renegade Midnight Angels and T’Challa, restoring a semblance of the former Dora Milaje faith in the king. Shuri serves as both beloved queen to her people and valued counsel to her brother, T’Challa.
Birthmother of Queen Shuri, Queen Mother Ramonda is the stoic, moral center of the Wakandan royal family. Through her, both Shuri and T’Challa find comfort, council, and matriarchal guidance. Ramonda’s wisdom has carried Shuri and T’Challa through hardships like the uprising of the People after a terrorist attack on Wakanda.
Her history is not completely filled with motherly advice and counsel. Ramonda has been an adversary to Black Panther, working alongside Achebe, in an attempt to overthrow the nation. The incomparable Angela Bassett portrays Queen Ramonda in the upcoming Black Panther film.
The Dora Milaje, also known as the “Adored Ones,” are the all-female personal guard and wives in waiting for T’Challa. (Yes, Nakia and Okoye, played by Lupita Nyong’o and Danai Gurira respectively, are both members of this group.) Recruited from every tribe in Wakanda in a show of national unity, these anointed defenders protect the nation and its royal family.
New recruits, trained by Mistress Zola in the Upunga, are tempered into the strongest soldiers in service of all of Wakanda. The Black Panther is a fierce protector, leader, and superhero. With all that power, both Shuri and T’Challa employ the services of the Dora Milaje to help defend them. Their trust in the anointed ones gives validity to the group’s strength and battle aptitude.
While they are loyal to the nation and its king, recent turmoil within Wakanda in Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet has fractured many of the Adored One’s spirits, leading to a rebellion and the formation of the Midnight Angels.
The Midnight Angels are a team of hand-picked Dora Milaje, used as an elite strike force at Black Panther’s command. Only the best of the already stellar Dora Milaje warriors are chosen.
In Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet, the Midnight Angels are a rebel duo of Dora Milaje. Ayo and Aneka found themselves at odds with the idea of following a king they no longer believed in. Using their Dora Milaje training and a pair of prototype armored suits, these two lovers went into business for themselves as the Midnight Angels.
Their goal is to liberate and protect the oppressed and abused women of the nation. Ayowill make her big screen debut in the upcoming Black Panther film, played by Florence Kasumba.
Storm is the Weather Witch of Upstate New York and the once and future Queen of Wakanda. After marrying T’Challa, Ororo Monroe cemented her place in the pantheon of powerful queens, wielding the combined might of Wakanda, the Dora Milaje, Black Panther and the X-Men.
Ororo’s marriage to T’Challa was short-lived, annulled by Black Panther himself. For a time, Storm ruled the most advanced nation in the Marvel Universe. Couple that with the ability to command mother nature, and you have a pretty powerful lady on your hands.
Zenzi leads the People, the rebel group seeking to topple the Wakandan monarchy. She seeks to take back the country that she feels the royal family has failed. Her ability to control people’s emotions allows her to stir fear and hatred within the nation.
These powers transform the populous into a fervent army against the Wakandan crown. Zenzi wants to help her people, enslaving their minds and emotions to do so. It would be great to see her on the big screen in the future. Her empathic abilities make her a worthy adversary for T’Challa.
The various writers of the Black Panther series have taken great pains to display the women of the Wakanda as the backbone of society. There is still rampant female oppression within the nation, but characters like the Dora Milaje, Shuri, and Ramonda shine a light on the injustices within Wakanda. Most importantly, these women are in a position to do something about them. Without them, their society would crumble to hate, fervent nationalism, and old-fashioned crappy people.