Both Black Panther and Namor the Submariner hold a somewhat unique distinction in Marvel comics of being both superheroes and rulers of a sovereign nation at the same time. You would think that this would make the two natural allies, but no—Namor’s bullheaded personality and thirst for revenge put him in conflict with the more level-headed and philosophical King T’Challa. In fact, the two kings are so different from one another that their clashing demeanors twice spilled into outright war between Atlantis and Wakanda.
Black Panther and Namor first met one another not as adult superheroes but earlier in Rise of the Black Panther #2 where the two cooperate on tracking down criminals who fled Atlantis. Both monarchs recognize how similar their respective nations are and part on amicable terms, but what’s crucial here is that the young T’Challa recognizes that Namor could be a potential threat in the future. Black Panther is known for scouting out future threats to Wakanda and creating contingency plans to defeat them, so it’s natural he would be skeptical of the Atlantean prince given his penchant for violence. Unfortunately, his fears would later come true when Atlantis invades Wakanda in the pages of Avengers vs. X-men.
Avengers vs X-Men Led To Wakanda’s Rivalry With Atlantis
Avengers vs. X-Men was a 12-issue crossover event that pit the two superhero teams against one another for control of the mythical Phoenix Force. While the Avengers view the Phoenix as a dangerous entity to be contained, the X-Men believe the Phoenix is necessary to revive their species after mutants were driven to near extinction. Ultimately the Phoenix Force ends up possessing five different X-men, including Namor, and the X-Men are able to overpower Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.
With the Avengers defeated they retreat to T’Challa’s homeland of Wakanda and Namor decides that since the African nation is harboring enemies of mutantkind, it was necessary for Atlantis to invade. This invasion devastates Wakanda and also marks the beginning of T’Challa’s rivalry with Namor. But unlike most superhero rivalries this one carries with it the weight of two highly advanced nations. The two kings aren’t just fighting over their personal differences anymore, their subjects are dying too.
Black Panther vs Namor Was Made Worse Thanks To Shuri
After Avengers vs. X-Men ends Black Panther and Namor are forced to reconcile with each other due to an even bigger conflict looming in the distance—the incursions that threaten the entire Marvel Multiverse. The incursions are a cosmic event where every parallel universe starts to die, and it forces Black Panther to reassemble the Illuminati to find a solution. During this time Namor and T’Challa work together in spite of their past but one party disagrees: T’Challa’s sister, Shuri. Shuri takes advantage of Namor’s divided attention and launches a secret invasion of Atlantis, massacring its people the same way Namor murdered the Wakandans. But while Shuri only intends to show Wakanda’s strength, Namor sees it as another declaration of war, so he retaliates using his strongest weapon available: Thanos.
In the middle of the Incursions conflict, Thanos and his Black Order have decided to attack planet Earth, so Namor takes advantage of the situation and lies to Thanos in order to trick him into invading Wakanda instead of Atlantis. During the invasion Thanos’s forces devastate both Wakanda and Atlantis but this does nothing to subside the bitterness both nations feel towards each other. Black Panther and Namor continue to trade blows with each other over in spite of the looming threat of the incursions, and their conflict finally ends with T’Challa stabbing Namor and tossing him into a parallel universe that is about to be destroyed. Harsh, yes, but not undeserving.
How Atlantis’ Rivalry With Wakanda Compares To The MCU’s Talokan
Having taken its inspiration from the original comics, it’s interesting to see the comparisons between Atlantis and the Namor’s undersea kingdom in the MCU known as Talokan, especially when it comes to their similar tensions with Wakanda. Shuri similarly plays a key role in conflict when she takes on the mantle of the new Black Panther, though the MCU does see her forming an uneasy ceasefire and truce with Namor by the end of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. In contrast, the MCU’s Namor is the one who first sees the danger of Wakanda as a potential threat, somewhat flipping the dynamics seen in the comics.
Regardless, the biggest reason why Wakanda ends up going to war with Atlantis (or Talokan) isn’t because of the differences between Black Panther and Namor’s personalities but the thing they most have in common. They both share great pride in their respective nations and refuse to let anyone endanger or humiliate their country. The same is true for Shuri’s Black Panther in the MCU as well.