Black Panther and Namor: A Tale of Two Kings
Prince Namor of Atlantis and Wakanda's King T'Challa have led their countries through good times and bad, even when it meant war with one another.
Alike in temperament, Wakanda and Atlantis are technologically advanced countries defined by their secretiveness and fierce independence. Those similarities have led to several clashes, and the tension between the two nations has pretty much always been explored through their leaders: Namor the Sub-Mariner and T’Challa, AKA Black Panther. As the leaders of Atlantis and Wakanda, Namor and Black Panther have come to blows on numerous occasions, and in one case, the fight proved disastrous for both their nations. Here’s a history of the conflict between Wakanda and Atlantis.
Early Close Calls Between Wakanda and Atlantis
In their first major interaction, Black Panther encountered Namor while investigating some missing Wakandans. After the two fought, Namor revealed he was looking for traitors to Atlantis who’d escaped to the surface, and the two quickly figured out their goals were aligned. Their team-up proved successful, but the encounter resulted in Black Panther recognizing the threat Namor might pose in the future. He opened a file on Namor, just in case he should ever have to take him down.
Tensions between Wakanda and Atlantis started in earnest while Namor was a member of the Defenders. After an adventure in Tunnelworld, Namor, Doctor Stephen Strange and Bruce Banner, AKA Hulk, went to Atlantis to rest. However, while they were there, Black Panther pursued some Atlanteans who had stolen Wakandan technology after they misinterpreted Namor’s orders to protect their country. This resulted in a fight between Namor and Black Panther over who would punish them.
The situation continued to escalate, and when Hulk jumped away from Atlantis, the Wakandans launched a retaliatory strike because they mistook the Green Goliath for a missile. T’Challa alerted Namor as to what was happening, and the Sub-Mariner deflected Wakanda’s attack, destroying the uninhabited Kiber Island, a protectorate of Wakanda, in the process.
Although disaster was averted in that case, Wakanda and Atlantis nearly came to blows later when T’Challa blockaded Deviant Lemuria, another undersea nation that was, at the time, allied with Atlantis. T’Challa did so to preserve Wakandan sovereignty, as Lemuria wanted to murder a Deviant child born on Wakandan soil. A skirmish did break out between the two, with Wakanda preemptively firing on the Atlantean fleet when Ulysses Klaue manipulated the Deviants into attacking. However, by the end of the arc, the nations patched things up and came to a mutually agreeable solution about the Deviant child.
War Comes to Wakanda and Atlantis
Although those early battles ended quickly, AVENGERS VS. X-MEN (2012) changed the relationship between Wakanda and Atlantis forever. During that crossover event, the X-Men found themselves at odds with the Avengers regarding what to do with the Phoenix Force, which had returned to Earth. While the Avengers believed the Phoenix Force to be incredibly dangerous, the X-Men – led by Scott Summers, AKA Cyclops – wanted to use the cosmic being to improve the world.
At the time, Namor was working with the X-Men, and he ended up getting a piece of the Phoenix Force’s power when it was divided between five mutants. As relations worsened between the X-Men and Avengers, the Sub-Mariner took the fight to Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, who were hiding in Wakanda. The leader of Atlantis unleashed a massive tidal wave on the country that killed countless people. Soon after, Namor lost his part of the Phoenix Force, and T'Challa made it clear he would never forgive the transgression. Wakanda and Atlantis were officially at war.
After AVENGERS VS. X-MEN, Namor and T’Challa found themselves working together as part of the Illuminati in that group’s quest to keep Earth from being destroyed by Incursions from other universes. Eventually, Namor asked T’Challa to broker a peace between Wakanda and Atlantis. At the time, Shuri, T’Challa’s sister, was ruling the country. T’Challa rebuffed Namor, telling him to go through official channels instead. When the subject came up at a meeting of Wakanda’s leaders, T’Challa did indeed advocate for peace. However, Shuri decided to pursue vengeance instead, resulting in a sneak attack that decimated Atlantis.
Around the time of the attack, Thanos and the Black Order began searching the Earth for Infinity Stones, which brought them to Atlantis. In his anger at seeing his fellow Atlanteans slaughtered, Namor brokered a peace with Thanos, then lied to the Mad Titan and told him he could find an Infinity Stone in Wakanda. Thanos attacked the African nation, dealing a ton of damage in the process. When Namor eventually revealed his role in the event to T’Challa, the Black Panther swore to kill his old ally.
Namor soon began working with the Cabal to destroy other worlds to preserve his own Earth from the Incursions, and that organization ended up totally destroying Wakanda. T’Challa, for his part, nearly killed Namor in response, but the Sub-Mariner survived and ended up in the Ultimate Universe.
Those Incursions set the stage for SECRET WARS (2015), and during that event, T’Challa and Namor ended up working together again, eventually forgiving each other for what had happened. When Earth-616 was reborn following SECRET WARS (2015), Wakanda was restored to how it had been before the Cabal’s attack. Atlantis, for its part, was once again whole, though the Squadron Supreme – a group of heroes from worlds Namor had destroyed while working with the Cabal – killed the Sub-Mariner and destroyed his country again in revenge.
Like their nations, Namor and Black Panther share several key traits. The two Avengers are both stubborn, have a strong desire to protect their homelands, and hold grudges. Naturally, when their countries go to war, the results prove catastrophic for everyone involved.
To keep up with the latest state of affairs in Wakanda, don't miss the ongoing BLACK PANTHER (2021) series by John Ridley and various artists. To follow Namor's continuing adventures, check out AVENGERS by Jason Aaron and Javier Garrón.
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