Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) sharpens his senses for battle against Thanos in the trailer for “Avengers: Infinity War.” (Disney/Marvel)

Note: Major “Avengers: Infinity War” spoilers. Haven’t seen it? Don’t read this.

The king is dead. Long live Shuri?

One of the most shocking moments of “Avengers: Infinity War” was when Thanos snapped his fingers and half of the Marvel Cinematic Universe began to fade away. At that point, it was a guessing game as to who would remain and who would cease to exist.

Perhaps the most jaw-dropping death of the multiple Marvel heroes was the newest cultural phenomenon, Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman).

There are probably very few who believe we’ve seen the last of T’Challa: There’s just too much money to be made in Wakanda. But the Black Panther turning into dust in this film opens the door for something we discussed previously here at Comic Riffs: the idea of Shuri (Letitia Wright) becoming the next Black Panther.

It all depends on how Wakanda responds to their king’s disappearance in Part 2 of “Infinity War,” which arrives in theaters next May. Can they still rule without a Black Panther reigning supreme?

“Captain America: Civil War” and “Black Panther” both confirmed that the passing of the throne was immediate when T’Challa’s father, T’Chaka, was killed in a terrorist attack (in “Civil War”). T’Challa was handed the throne in “Black Panther” after surviving his lone challenge through combat with M’Baku.

Maybe “Infinity War” won’t have the time to dive into Princess Shuri’s potential new status and will instead use her, along with the other super-genius left, Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), as a key player without the cat costume.

Or maybe Shuri gets the throne in a unanimous, emergency vote.


Letitia Wright stars as Shuri in “Black Panther.” (Marvel Studios)

T’Challa’s disappearance/death is an opportunity to dive into one of the most recent additions to the Black Panther’s lore.  Shuri, who was created by Reginald Hudlin and John Romita Jr., first appeared in a Marvel comic book in 2005. She’s most known in those circles for eventually becoming a female Black Panther when T’Challa — stop me if this sounds familiar — was presumed dead.

It’s worth noting whether such a big change will be made under the direction of the Russo brothers (who are handling the “Infinity War” films) or Ryan Coogler, the director and co-writer of the extremely successful “Black Panther,” who has certainly earned the right to decide what bold moves happen next with the character.

If Shuri does get the new panther duds, there could possibly be two Black Panthers in the next Avengers sequel (if T’Challa returns from the grave, as many assume he will). And that would make things interesting for future stand-alone “Black Panther” sequels.

Whatever happens, Shuri will play a major role regardless as one of the few heroes left after Thanos’s snap decision. The “Wakanda forever” chant will live on — we’ll just have to wait and see who’s leading the charge.

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