Erik Killmonger isn’t a popular villain in the realm of Marvel Comics, but in the MCU, he’s on Thanos’ level. He’s got understandable motivations, deadly fighting skills, and most of all, he’s very much human. It’s unfortunate that a rare MCU villain like him couldn’t stick around longer, but he made his mark. Fans love him, I love him, so it would be nice to see him again in some kind of function. Yeah, I know he’s dead, but let’s remember what kind of world we’re dealing with here. When it comes to comics, characters don’t often stay dead. They can die and stay dead for a while, but crazy things always happen to allow them to return. Speaking of which, why did Killmonger have to die in the first place?
Yes, he was a bad guy. Yes, he tried to conquer the world. He committed terrible crimes and he paid the price for it. However, there was a still a flicker of a chance for redemption. One can argue that his villainous path wasn’t even his fault. T’Challa’s father did kill his father, after all, not to mention he was left an orphan. It’s hard to completely blame him for desiring revenge against T’Challa, but he still caused a lot of pain and suffering. The most interesting thing about him is that in a way, he actually won. His actions indirectly influenced T’Challa to reveal Wakanda’s resources to the world with the purpose of helping others. Yes, Killmonger wanted something a bit more on the radical side, but if it weren’t for him, T’Challa would’ve continued to keep Wakanda’s resources to themselves.
It was posthumous victory that shouldn’t of been posthumous. Intentional or not, Killmonger’s actions led to some major changes in the MCU. Just take a minute and imagine if he survived to see them. What would his reaction be? I’ll admit, I was disappointed when he died at the end of Black Panther, because I strongly believe his development could’ve been expanded. I honestly wouldn’t even consider him to be evil, but a man in pain. He had a family he never knew and the one member who actually cared for him was taken from him. Killmonger is a sympathetic villain and those kind of villains tend to act out of anger and hatred.
What was most interesting about his motivations was that we agreed with him to a degree. He called out the Wakandans for possessing advanced technology that could very much help the world, and yet they refused to share it. The problem with his argument is that he cared mostly about their vibranium weapons so he could “liberate” dark-skinned people like him. A part of his plan also included genocide, which is was his ultimate goal. The part where he finally confesses to T’Challa that the world took everything from him proves that point. He never really cared so much about freeing other black people; his true desire was to unleash his rage and fury upon the world to make everyone feel as bad as he did.
This kind of villain is certainly intriguing, because he doesn’t want world domination for the sake of it. The most noble thing about his plan was to avenge his father. His father was T’Challa’s uncle, which makes them cousins. He’s not just T’Challa’s cousin, but Shuri’s as well. Killmonger was family, but still a bitter enemy to T’Challa’s family, making him a personal foe. This aspect made me think of The Lion King and the enmity between Mufasa and Scar. Their relationship as brothers was similar to that of T’Challa’s father and Killmonger’s, especially with how it ended. One brother killed the other and that led to some serious consequences for their children. The difference between Lion King and Black Panther is that the latter had more personal stakes.
Killmonger wanted revenge, not the throne, which separates him greatly from Scar. His hatred was so great that he was willing to kill his family. Blood didn’t matter to him, but it did to T’Challa. After he was stabbed by T’Challa, he was carried by him so he could witness the sun setting, something his father promised to show him. T’Challa then offered to heal him, but Killmonger chose death over bondage, much like some of his ancestors. This decision could’ve been because of his pride, but it matters little, because he is dead now. It was a sad death and the MCU lost a great villain.
However, I have a different version of how that should’ve ended. Killmonger killed himself by pulling the knife out of his chest, but what if T’Challa stopped him? I was really hoping he would make an effort to save his life so that Killmonger would be imprisoned. Heck, the next time we could’ve seen him was the Battle of Wakanda in Infinity War. The sight of Killmonger fighting alongside Black Panther and The Avengers would’ve been very cool to see. By saving Killmonger, a chance for redemption could’ve been given. Did he really deserve it? With all the blood on his hands, it would’ve seem like a waste, but Killmonger was in desperate need of a family. T’Challa could’ve stopped him from pulling the knife out and when Killmonger asked him why, his response could’ve been, “Because you are one of us.”
Killmonger is basically the black sheep of the family. That’s probably sugarcoating it, but even he views himself as an outcast. T’Challa and his family didn’t exactly welcome him with open arms, but then again, he wasn’t looking for a reunion. His own family rejected him, which only reenforced his rage, so a little love from them would’ve made all the difference. I can’t imagine Shuri or anyone else being thrilled about keeping Killmonger alive, but T’Challa always had good judgement. He chose to do the right thing, even if everyone around him told him otherwise. Sparring his cousin to give him a chance to redeem himself doesn’t sound like a bad idea. It also would’ve been a great set up for a sequel, considering how much damage Killmonger did to T’Challa’s family.
Who exactly would’ve supported the decision to spare Killmonger? Would Okoye, his most trusted follower, stand by him? Would Shuri, his own sister, follow him? A true test of T’Challa’s strength would be for him to stand alone, because if he believes anyone can redeem themselves, then he has to stick by those beliefs. It’s a story arc we might never get to see, but there’s always the upcoming What If…? series, so maybe there is a chance. I’ll I know is that fans loved Killmonger, and his return would be most welcoming.