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Warning: SPOILERS for Black Panther are ahead!
Even though Avengers: Infinity War is currently taking the world by storm, let's not forget that it hasn't even been a full three months since another Marvel movie came out that performed impressively both critically and commercially. One of Black Panther's most praised elements was Michael B. Jordan's Erik Stevens, a.k.a. Killmonger, who has been heralded as one of the MCU's best villains. Unlike his cousin T'Challa, Erik, born N'Jadaka, was raised in Oakland, California by his father N'Jobu, who was killed by his brother, T'Chaka, when he betrayed the Wakandan kingdom. But some of you may have been wondering while watching Black Panther where Killmonger's mother was. Thanks to the movie's commentary track, we've learned that she was in prison during the prologue and later died. Director Ryan Coogler explained:
The idea was when you see those guys talking over the paperwork in the beginning of the film, they're talking about a way to break her out of jail. The idea was they never got her out, and she passed away in prison, so Killmonger didn't come up with a mom either.
In case you need a Black Panther refresher, Prince N'Jobu, one of King T'Chaka's War Dogs, was sent to the United States as an undercover agent. While there, he fell in love with an American woman, and together they had N'Jadaka, a.k.a. Erik. As time passed, N'Jobu became convinced that Wakanda's isolationist policies were harming the country, so he began planning a revolution and hired Ulysses Klaue to steal some vibranium. This resulted in T'Chaka coming to America to confront N'Jobu over his treachery, and the encounter ended with N'Jobu's death. Erik wasn't in the apartment when his father was killed, but now that we've learned that his mother was also still in prison at the time, that means he became an orphan, making his backstory even more tragic.
Losing both his mother and father, as well as never inheriting his royal Wakandan birthright, led to Erik growing up filled with rage, desperate for revenge and determined to carry out his father's vision. As an adult, he became the skilled black-ops soldier known as Killmonger, and his plans finally came to fruition in Black Panther's present day story, where he defeated T'Challa in combat and temporarily seized the Wakandan throne. T'Challa eventually stopped Killmonger, but rather than be healed and spend the rest of his days in prison, Killmonger decided to die a free man. While his goals were nefarious, what made Killmonger such a compelling villain is that his motivations were understandable, and this added fact about his mother makes him slightly more sympathetic.
Black Panther will be available for digital download starting May 8, and the Blu-ray/DVD copies will hit shelves on May 15. But if you're dying to see T'Challa and some of his allies now on the big screen, you can buy a ticket for Avengers: Infinity War, which is about to cross the $1 billion mark worldwide.