Warning: This post contains spoilers for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.

Ever since the Disney-Fox merger, Marvel fans have eagerly been awaiting the official arrival of the X-Men in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. We got a glimpse of Professor X in a parallel universe in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, and WandaVision hinted that the Scarlet Witch was born a mutant, too. But Black Panther: Wakanda Forever introduces its first character who self-identifies as a mutant in the MCU’s central universe: Namor.

The antagonist in the Black Panther sequel rules over a secret sea kingdom called Talocan. During a conversation with Shuri, the princess of Wakanda, Namor reveals his origin story. His mother was a member of a tribe trying to flee their colonist oppressors. Each man, woman, and child drank a special herb that gave them the powers to breathe underwater so they could establish a new home in the deep. Namor’s mother was pregnant when she drank the herb, and Namor became the first baby born underwater. He did not look like the other babies who followed him. He had pointed ears and wings on his heels. He was, he tells Shuri, a “mutant.”

Namor’s people greeted him as a god. But the name “mutant” carries a heavy weight in Marvel lore.

What is the difference between a mutant and a superhero?

Whereas superheroes like Spider-Man and Iron Man gain their superpowers through accident or ingenuity, and gods like Thor hail from another realm, mutants are humans born with special powers. The best-known mutants are the X-Men but plenty of mutants never join the X-Men’s ranks, like Squirrel Girl and Deadpool.

What are Namor’s mutant powers?

Namor was born with immense strength and the ability to fly. His skin also was able to absorb oxygen through water, strengthening his powers. He has an incredibly long lifespan and has lived for centuries by the time he meets Shuri.

Why is Namor identifying as a mutant significant?

Until Disney merged with Fox, the studio could not declare their onscreen superheroes mutants: Fox owned the rights to the X-Men and mutant characters. This might sound like a corporate legal squabble, but who owned the rights to what types of characters had a huge impact on Marvel Studios’ storytelling. Marvel could not introduce the X-Men, some of the most popular characters in the Marvel comics, to their movies until the Disney-Fox studio deal was complete in 2019.

In a particularly complicated twist, both Disney and Fox owned the rights to Wanda Maximoff and her brother Quicksilver: The twins are both mutants and Avengers in the comics. In Avengers: Age of Ultron the siblings say they gained their powers after the evil organization HYDRA experimented on them using an infinity stone.

WandaVision, which was released after the corporate merger, has since hinted in a flash-back scene that the twins were mutants all along. We see Wanda as a child using telepathy before she was ever captured by HYDRA. The implication is that the infinity stone only enhanced powers she had since birth.

Will Namor join the X-Men?

It’s certainly possible! Throughout his comics run, Namor has spent a lot of time either teaming up with or fighting Black Panther. A true anti-hero, Namor doesn’t just help and betray the Wakandans. He also is in constant ally-ship or conflict with the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, and, yes, the X-Men.

Generally, Namor is not a huge fan of surface-dwellers, so he’s frequently persuaded to join forces with those mutants who hold grudges, rightfully or not, about the non-powered people who would seek to oppress them.

Namor also has a long history with Fantastic Four foe Doctor Doom, the leader of another fictional country, Latveria.

Perhaps most significantly, Namor plays a major role in a comics storyline that involves incursions, or parallel universes crashing into one another. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness introduced the idea of incursions. Give that the Marvel Cinematic Universe seems to be hurdling towards a conflict over clashing realities, Namor will likely have some larger role to play in the MCU narrative beyond antagonizing Wakanda.

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