WARNING: The following article contains minor spoilers for Marvel's Black Panther, in theaters Friday nationwide.
This is going to be a hard pill to swallow for some, but after seeing Black Panther, it's clear that T’Challa’s suit is more advanced than anything Tony Stark has worn so far in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Of course, we wouldn’t make such a bold statement without some serious reasoning. There is two important facts that stick out: Shuri shows unparalleled brilliance in this film (and its prelude comic), and Vibranium gives her an obvious advantage. In the comics, T’Challa is one of the greatest scientific minds in the world, but in the MCU it’s his younger sister Shuri who is the brainiac inventor.
Tony Stark, aka Iron Man, may be the godfather of the MCU, but that doesn’t automatically mean he has the best tech. It’s almost a guarantee that when Rocket Raccoon meets Tony in live-action, he will make fun of his intellect and primitive tech like he does in the comics. Regardless, Tony doesn’t even have the most bleeding-edge innovations on Earth. There is no arguing that he and his father are geniuses, and that their arc reactor technology was a game-changer, but after seeing the tech in Wakanda, it’s apparent Shuri is the future. So, it follows that a superior intellect working with a superior material would create a superior suit.
While Tony has created 47 different armors in the eight MCU movies in which he's appeared, the Black Panther suit has only received one update so far. However, the difference between one iteration and the next is so drastic, we can’t imagine what Shuri will come up with for Version 3.0. The first one we saw, in Chadwick Boseman's debut as T'Challa in Captain America: Civil War, had many of the suit’s significant features from the comics, such as extendible Vibranium claws that can cut through any metal, Vibranium pads on his boot soles and hands that allow him to climb walls, land from great heights, and tread silently, and a Vibranium microweave throughout that makes the suit bullet- and blade-proof. So, his suit was already pretty substantial. But when T’Challa visits Shuri’s lab in Black Panther, she introduces the 2.0 versions.
First she shows him the shoes, which start as just a pair of soles but then the rest "grow" out of them. Shuri mentions of how they're fully automated, like "the shoes from that movie Dad liked," a reference to the Nikes from Back to the Future III. She then turns his attention to two costumes that appear identical, other than the color of their necklaces, and informs him the entire suit is now stored in the chain of teeth. Shuri follows up that reveal by informing him that this new suit can absorb any impact or energy blast, redistribute the energy throughout the suit, and then discharge it when T’Challa strikes a person or object. That's basically the winning blow in a battle of the MCU suits.
Tony Stark can fill his suit with all the ordnance and arc reactors he wants, but Black Panther’s is automatically the best defense and offense because of the properties of Vibranium. As Peter Parker says in Civil War when he first witnesses Captain America using his Vibranium shield, “That thing does not obey the law of physics at all.” Further than that mic-drop feature, Shuri also outfits T’Challa with EMP grenades, which we see him use near the start of the film against human traffickers. So, Black Panther can shut down any of the Iron Man armors, but Tony has no countermeasure against Vibranium.
It’s worth noting that Black Panther has built a number of suits in the comics for different circumstances and opponents. Those include a space suit from writer Christopher Priest’s run in the late 1990s, and, far more recently, the Wakanda Hulkbuster introduced in 2016 in Totally Awesome Hulk #9.
We're hoping Shuri builds herself something special in Avengers: Infinity War.
Directed by Ryan Coogler from a script he wrote with Joe Robert Cole, Black Panther stars Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa, Michael B. Jordan as Erik Killmonger, Lupita Nyong’o as Nakia, Daniel Kaluuya as W’Kabi, Letitia Wright as Shuri, Danai Gurira as Okoye, Angela Bassett as Ramonda, Martin Freeman as Everett K. Ross, Andy Serkis as Ulysses Klaue, Winston Duke as M’Baku and Forest Whitaker as Zuri. The film opens Friday nationwide.