Black Panther: Wakanda Forever is nearly upon us, and soon the spotlight will be on its villain: Namor, the Sub-Mariner, played by Tenoch Huerta (Sin Nombre, The Forever Purge).
While Namor is one of Marvel’s oldest characters, this is the first time he’s appeared in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’s trailer doesn’t offer many details about the underwater ruler. We know he goes by another name in the film: K’ul’ku’kan, “the feathered serpent god,” and unlike his comics counterpart, he isn’t from Atlantis, but from Talokan, a fictional undersea paradise inspired by Meso-American culture.
More specifics are, for now, technically spoilers. So to tide you over until Black Panther arrives in theaters on Nov. 11, here’s everything we know about comics Namor, which, despite the film’s differences, still informs this new version of the character.
What are Namor’s powers?
Namor, also known as the Sub-Mariner, is the King of Atlantis and the ruler of the oceans. Namor was born with his powers, thanks to his unique parents. In his origin story — as crafted in the distant year of 1939 — his father was an explorer sent by Woodrow Wilson to the Antarctic to investigate the disappearance of Sir Ernest Shackleton (who was sent on a quest for vibranium by Winston Churchill), and his mother was an Atlantean princess named Fen.
As you might expect from a sea-faring hero, Namor can speak to and control the denizens of the oceans, breathe underwater, and swim with ease. He can also heal himself when he’s in water and even telekinetically control water in some iterations. Namor is also pretty capable on land, using his super strength and speed to make him a great fighter. He can also fly, for some reason. It’s why he has little wings on his ankles.
If you’re thinking that this all sounds a whole lot like Aquaman, you aren’t entirely wrong. You may be surprised, however, to learn that Namor actually predates Aquaman by about three years.
Is Namor a villain?
Definitely no, and also… yes? Above everything else, Namor is complicated, and as you might expect from a character created in 1939, long before most of the heroes that now dominate the MCU, Namor has had the chance to be a lot of different things, including both hero and villain.
For the purposes of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, it certainly seems like he’s being positioned as the villain of the movie, as later trailers convey him as an open threat with a bone to pick with the surface world, particularly Wakanda. In one of his most villainous moments from the comics, Namor threatened vengeance on the surface world for destroying part of Atlantis with a nuclear test. Interestingly enough for the future of the MCU, this attempt was thwarted by the Fantastic Four, and then Namor teamed up with Magneto to fight the X-Men for a while.
Namor and Wakandan hero T’Challa do have a particularly fierce enmity in Marvel Comics. That’s because Namor was the first to conquer the historically (and famously) unconquered nation of Wakanda by using the powers of the Phoenix Force to summon a tsunami that razed its lands to the ground. In fact, that line from Black Panther where T’Challa tells Ulysses Klaue, “Every breath you take is mercy from me”? That’s straight from a Marvel comic. Except the first time, T’Challa was saying it to Namor.
So is Namor a mutant?
He is! In fact, he’s sometimes called Marvel’s first mutant, thanks to the fact that he gets his powers from his genetic mix of human and Atlantean DNA. As we’ve already touched on, Namor’s comic history is long and complicated, and his mutant status frequently plays large roles both in the plots of X-Men stories and the wider Marvel universe.
With the recent reveal of Ms. Marvel’s status as a mutant as well, this certainly seems to set up some interesting potential plots for the MCU’s future. But, since all we have for now is a few small glimpses at Namor’s role in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, we’ll just have to wait to see what larger role he might play.