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NOTE: This article is about the incarnation of Erik Killmonger from the Marvel Cinematic film series. The mainstream version can be found here: Erik Killmonger.

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Villain Overview
I lived my entire life waiting for this moment. I trained, I lied, I killed just to get here. I killed in America, Afghanistan, Iraq... I took life from my own brother and sisters right here on this continent! And all this death just so I could kill you!
~ Erik Killmonger to T'Challa,about his reasons of serial killing and refused to talk.
Why, so you can lock me up? Nah. Just bury me in the ocean with my ancestors who jumped from the ships, 'cause they knew death was better than bondage.
~ Killmonger's final words before he commits suicide after he refuses to be healed by T'Challa.

Erik "Killmonger" Stevens (born as N’Jadaka) is the main antagonist of the 2018 Marvel film Black Panther.

He is an African-American black-ops operative turned opportunistic revolutionary who is the son of N’Jobu and cousin of T'Challa, he planned to overthrow the Wakandan kingdom so he could distribute vibranium weaponry worldwide to avenge the death and goals of his father.

He was portrayed by Michael B. Jordan in his first villainous role.

Personality

Your heart is so full of hatred! You are not fit to be a king!!
~ Okoye commending over Killmonger's nature.

A power-hungry individual obsessed with overthrowing the titular hero Black Panther; he is considered utterly sociopathic as he shows no care even for the lives of his allies. This is shown when he betrays Ulysses Klaue at a destroyed junkyard, killing him and using his body and resources to get into Wakanda, and even killing his own girlfriend when Klaue holds her hostage in an attempt to escape. However, this sociopathic nature is only due to the royal family abandoning him ever since his father's death at the hands of his uncle T'Chaka, an act that left Stevens to fend for himself in the streets before becoming a ruthless military assassin.

He seems to take great pride in his capabilities as an assassin and his high body count, as evidenced by the scars he gives himself to mark how many people he has murdered. He also displays a great sense of sadism, as shown when he brutally kills Zuri for the sake of the throne and to avenge his father's death. At the end of the film, he is shown to be suicidal, preferring to die free than to live in chains.

In spite of his bloodthirsty nature and his violent methods, Killmonger truly believes himself to be doing the right thing. He sees the world as a brutal and violent place that has been hopelessly corrupted by colonialism and imperialism and believes that the only solution is to destroy global society in its entirety and rebuild a new world order under his rule. He seeks to empower poor, disenfranchised, and oppressed groups throughout the world (particularly racial and ethnic minorities, especially those of Sub-Saharan African descent) and enable them to take revenge on powerful nations like the U.S., Britain, and China. However, Killmonger is also a hypocrite whose hatred, bigotry and egotism blind him to the fact that he has ultimately no different than the imperial powers he despises. Ironically, his belief that Wakanda should rule over 'lesser' nations for their own good is the same logic that the colonialists of the 18th-19th century used to justify their subjugation of the same minority groups that he now claims to be defending. This becomes especially obvious when he arrogantly claims that "the sun will never set on the Wakandan Empire," referencing a famous saying about the British Empire during the height of its power.

Killmonger's paranoia and narcissism also caused him to do away with Wakanda's tradition of allowing challengers to the throne, out of fear that he would lose the throne he fought so hard to take. This also led him to destroy all of the heart-shaped herbs used by the royal family to imbue rulers with the power of the Black Panther, claiming that there would no longer be any need for them since Wakanda would have no more kings after him. Strangely, he did not seem concerned about the fact that he would eventually need to leave a successor to lead the empire he built and preserve his legacy after his death. Everett Ross speculated that he was (perhaps subconsciously) following his training as a CIA operative, trying to destabilize Wakanda's rules of succession and system of government despite the fact that this contradicted his stated intentions. This suggests that his plan of creating a lasting and stable Wakandan Empire would have been doomed to failure even if he'd won, and that his success would have likely brought nothing but more chaos and bloodshed to the world; even when T'Challa angrily pointed this out during the final battle, Killmonger angrily claims that the world deserves such a fate in revenge for his poor upbringing.

Though Killmonger failed in many of his goals, he did succeed in one of them. He got to see the beautiful sunset that his father told him about. Additionally, his actions led T'Challa to change his mind about keeping Wakanda isolated. As a result, Wakandan resources and technology would finally be used to help the rest of the world, as Erik's father intended, albeit in a much less extreme and violent way.

Biography

Beginnings

N’Jadaka started off as the son of Prince N'Jobu, being raised in Oakland, California in America. N'Jobu promised to N’Jadaka that he would visit their homeland Wakanda, claiming that the sunsets there were the most beautiful in the world. Needless to say, N’Jadaka was unaware that his father was conspiring a global revolution and is illegally selling vibranium to Ulysses Klaue.

Eventually, T'Chaka (the king of Wakanda) learned about N'Jobu's intentions and forced himself to kill N'Jobu to save his closest friend Zuri. At the same time, N’Jadaka was playing basketball until he found his father's body, which left him in tears, just as T'Chaka and Zuri returned back to Wakanda. Feeling betrayed by his family, N’Jadaka angrily vowed to avenge his father's death and continue on with his plot.

Seeking Revenge

Taking on the name Erik Stevens, he grew up to be a U.S. Navy SEAL officer and black ops mercenary, and his incredibly high body count earned him the nickname "Killmonger."

Several days following the death of T'Chaka at the hands of Helmut Zemo, Killmonger is first seen visiting a museum of national weapons of offense and defense, observing several African artifacts. He joins in a conversation with a museum curator, whom he confuses and disturbs by telling her that one of the artifacts is made out of vibranium, and that he will take it off her hands.

The curator threatens to call security, but Killmonger casually remarks how the guards are watching him every second, yet she is not watching what she is drinking, and the curator falls down, having been poisoned. In the confusion, Klaue and his minions, disguised as paramedics, arrive and kill all the guards in the room, while Killmonger's girlfriend Linda hacks the cameras to prevent any more security from arriving. Killmonger, Klaue and Linbani then escape the museum with the vibranium in an ambulance driven by Linda, Klaw planning to sell it to a buyer in an underground casino in Busan, South Korea. However, Klaue is later captured and brought into a high-security prison by the Wakandans and Agent Ross.

Despite the setback, Killmonger managed to formulate a plan to rescue Klaue from custody, which forced T'Challa to the scene, eventually learning about his true relationship with Killmonger after noticing the Wakandan royal ring that Killmonger was wearing on a necklace chain. Killmonger manages to free Klaue, only to betray and kill him, Linda and Linbani for a purpose to get into Wakanda. He offers Klaue’s body as an offering in order to sneak inside for the throne, with the help from T'Challa's treacherous best friend W'Kabi, who is disappointed over T'Challa's failed attempt to bring Klaue to justice (since Klaue was responsible for the death of W'Kabi's parents). With the opportunity finally in his hand, Killmonger challenged T'Challa to a duel for the throne of Wakanda and won (as T'Challa was forced to strip his powers to make the duel fair). A triumphant Killmonger then proceeded to kill Zuri by impaling him with his own iron spear staff before throwing a defeated T'Challa within the waterfalls of Wakanda to his seeming demise.

Final Battle

Having become the king of Wakanda, Killmonger also gained the power of the Black Panther during a ritual. Immediately after the transformation, Killmonger ordered the herb garden to be burned so that he would be the last to hold the power of the Black Panther. From Shuri's laboratory, Killmonger also received the Black Panther-like Golden Jaguar armor.

With all of Wakanda finally under his fist, Killmonger proceeded to prepare shipments of Wakandan weapons to be distributed to operatives around the world to finish up what his father started. Fortunately, T'Challa was rescued by the Jabari Tribe (led by M'Baku, who was indebted towards T'Challa for sparing his life), and healed with a powerful herb smuggled by Nakia in which she secretly obtained it before Killmonger furiously instructs the servants to burn it. As such, T'Challa and the Jabari Tribe conspired to overthrow Killmonger and stop the shipments.

As the Dora Milaje and Jabari Tribe engaged in a battle against W'Kabi and his army, Killmonger dons his new battle suit to engage into another battle against T'Challa inside Wakanda's vibranium mine. However, T'Challa defeats Killmonger by disrupting his battle suit using a sonic mining technology and fatally stabbing him just as W'Kabi and his remaining men are forced to surrender. Despite being mortally injured, Killmonger gains a genuine respect for T'Challa and calls the final blow one "hell of a move." He laments that his father had always promised to show him how amazing the Wakandan country was, and T'Challa decides to honor his opponent's request.

Being transported to the breathtaking view of the capital during sunset, Killmonger comments on its beauty. T'Challa, feeling remorse for what Killmonger had become, says that they might still be able to heal him, but Killmonger chooses to die rather than getting cured and imprisoned in disgrace for his crimes, asking T'Challa to bury him at sea with his ancestors who jumped from ships, believing that "death was better than bondage." Killmonger looks at the sun one last time as he finishes himself off by pulling the spear out of his chest, sharing his final moments with his once-hated cousin before willingly succumbing to his injuries. T'Challa presumably honors his request to bury him at sea.

Legacy

Before the final battle, T'Challa realized that Killmonger became a ruthless, cruel, power-hungry monster because of his own father's actions. Being the good man that he is, T'Challa decides to reveal some of Wakanda's truths and secrets to help people. Although this wasn't part of his plan, Erik Killmonger's attack on Wakanda gave T'Challa the choice to help world and people that are outside of Wakanda's borders.

Killmonger would have been imprisoned as a punishment for his crimes, but T'Challa also offered to heal him and help him. The king of Wakanda felt bad for Killmonger and wanted him to live so he could see a better way to fix problems rather than using hate, war, and violence. But he wanted to die rather than be a prisoner because if he let the Wakandans heal him, they never would have let him out of prison until he redeemed himself for what he has done.

Relationships

Family

  • Golden Tribe
    • Bashenga † - Ancestor
    • Azzuri † - Grandfather
    • N'Jobu † - Father
    • T'Chaka † - Uncle
    • Ramonda -  Aunt-by-marriage
    • T'Challa/Black Panther - Cousin, Attempted Victim and Killer
    • Shuri - Cousin and Attempted Victim

Allies

Enemies

  • Ulysses Klaue † - Situational Ally turned Victim
  • Dora Milaje
    • Okoye - Situational Ally turned Enemy and Attempted Victim
    • Ayo
    • Xoliswa
  • Nakia - Attempted Victim
  • Zuri † - Friend turned Victim
  • Everett Ross - Attempted Victim
  • Linda † - Lover turned Victim
  • Linbani † - Associate turned Victim

Reception

Michael B. Jordan's portrayal of Killmonger has been praised by audiences and critics alike. The main reason for the praise is how believable and even realistic Killmonger is in the movie, even more so when comparing him to other MCU villains.

Chris Stuckmann has stated that "Beyond the fact that Jordan gives a charismatic performance that's one of my favorite Marvel villains thus far and the best since Loki, the reason his villain is so good is because, just like all great movie villains, their appearance in the film is what causes the heroes to look within themselves and realize their weaknesses".

Another reason for Killmonger's reception is how similar he is to his comic counterpart. Villains like Hela may have the same name and appearance, but other than that, they are almost two completely different characters. Killmonger shares a similar motivation as well as personality in the film when comparing it to his comic counterpart.

Michael B. Jordan also received award nominations for his performance, a Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actor and an MTV Movie & TV Award for Best Villain.

Trivia

  • Killmonger's scarification markings on his chest and torso resemble that of the Mursi and Surma tribes.
  • Michael B. Jordan had always wanted to play as a villain for a while, so he was likely very eager to play Killmonger when the role was given to him.

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           Black Panther Villains

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Black Panther: Erik Killmonger | Ulysses Klaue | W'Kabi | Linbani | Linda | Winter Soldier | N'Jobu