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Black Panther
by yo go re

*barking intensifies*

Armed with hardened Jabari wood armor and a battle staff, M'Baku is the formidable leader of the Jabari tribe, a group of Wakandans who have shunned the use of vibranium and removed themselves from mainstream Wakandan life. In the wake of T'Chaka's death, M'Baku is faced with the choice of challenging T'Challa for the throne, or joining forces with his would-be adversary to defend Wakanda from malevolent outside forces.

I know, like, 51% of our readership just spontaneously blacked out at the mention of M'Baku's hardened wood (homeboy's got him some fangirls, y'all, and they are about it), so we'll give you all a moment to wake up, compose yourselves, and go get a glass of water to rehydrate. Because you're going to want to be awake for this one.

M'Baku is the Build-A-Figure for Series 2 of the Black Panther toys. Buy all six figures - there are no figures without a piece in this series - and you'll have the parts you need to assemble the full thing. The limbs attach to the body securely, but not "try to take these off again and they'll break" tightly, like they would have back in the ToyBiz days. If you really wanted to take him apart for some reason, you'd probably(?) be able.

M'Baku was played by Winston Duke - who, for some reason, got treated in the press like he was some kind of giant, rather than a regular-sized human male. I mean, he's only 6'5" and 250 pounds: sounds perfectly normal to me. The likeness is very good, thanks to both the sculpt and the "Photo Real" paint, so between him and Nakia, we're well on our way to some custom Us toys.

The Jabari Tribe was based somewhat on the Dogon people, who lived in seclusion much like the fictional Wakandans do. Since they eschew the technological advantages of vibranium, costume design Ruth E. Carter designed M'Baku's armor to look like heavy wood, paired with a grass skirt and lots of leather wraps, since the Jabari live in the mountains. The white (well, gray on this toy) fur on his boots, forearms, and draped over his shoulders is a similar concession, both to the cold and the comics.

A lot of characters have been reimagined to fit into the MCU, but possibly none as much as M'Baku. In the comics, he's known as Man-Ape, a name that was never going to be put on film (because the last thing the racists who were pre-hating the movie needed was any kind of encouragement or validation). M'Baku belongs to the White Gorilla Cult, just as T'Challa belongs to the Black Panther Cult, and even dresses in a similar manner: upon reviving the White Gorilla Cult, M'Baku hunted one of the sacred white gorillas, killed it, and started wearing its hide as a rough costume; again, that would never work in the movie, so it's limited to fur trim on his armor and the mask he wears when he shows up to the challenge for the throne.

Fully assembled, the figure stands just under 6⅞" tall, tall enough to look over the heads of most of the other characters. All the standard Marvel Legends joints are here, though the two skirts the toy wears keep the hips from moving well. Also, the pad of armor on his left shoulder is so big it keeps bumping against his furry shawl (not enough to block the arm, though).

The shawl (which has a hood, though he's never seen wearing it in the film) is a separate piece that plugs into his back, though the breastplate would have to be removable if you wanted a "casual" M'Baku. And of course, he's armed with his battle club, which is about 5" long and has a heavy ball sculpted at the end.

M'Baku was a ton cooler in Black Panther than he's ever been in the comics, so it's excellent that we've got an action figure of him now (even if half the series he came with was duds). Personally, we'd have made him one of the standard figures, and let his 616 counterpart be the BAF.

Black Panther | Erik Killmonger | Ulysses Klaue | Black Panther | T'Chaka | Dora Milaje

-- 07/27/19

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