Throughout Shuri’s entire solo comic series, her mother and the rest of Wakanda pressured her to take the mantle of Black Panther after T’Challa vanished in a space mission. The first issue explored Shuri dealing with the fallout of T’Challa’s disappearance and though she’s since mind-melded with Groot in space and teamed up with Tony Stark in order to curtail a black hole, Shuri refused to take her brother’s place.
Part of the reason, she insisted in the first issue, is because she’s more concerned with finding him than replacing him.
[Ed. note: This post contains spoilers for Shuri #5]
But the events of Shuri #5, in which Shuri and Tony manage to vacate Timbuktu and save the city from both a black hole and supervillain Moses Magnum, put Shuri in the international spotlight. Reporters question why she hasn’t stepped up as Wakada’s Black Panther.
Initially, Shuri refuses, telling the spirits of her ancestors who hang out around her head that she won’t be told by them, her mother, or the council of Wakanda women (which she needs) to become the new Black Panther. T’Challa’s secret Pan-African council, the Egungun, also urge her to take on the title. She is resistant at first, but finally realizes that maybe she is the one who is wrong. She doesn’t need to do this just for Wakanda, but for the whole continent of Africa.
So Shuri decides that it’s time — but she’s going to do things her way. She creates a new Black Panther costume, incorporating the wings she designed in the first issue. Shuri’s Black Panther is ready to spread her wings and take on alien invaders.
Becoming the Black Panther is a big deal for Shuri. This version of the Wakandan princess struggles more with living in her brother’s shadow than her MCU counterpart, which is part of the reason she has been so reluctant to totally fill his shoes. Taking up the mantle shows that she is growing past that insecurity. Putting her own spin on the costume indicates that she’s not just a replacement for her brother; she will be her own hero.