In Part 5, we dive into one of the most curious revelations about the Heart Shaped Herb... it's toxic?]
In issues #24-25 of Priest's Black Panther run, Erik Killmonger won the right to have access and ingest the sacred Heart Shaped Herb...
and it straight up killed him. Instantly killed him right on the spot.
That. Makes. No. Sense.
This death contradicts so much of what we learned about the Black Panther mythos and the Rite of Ascension. And this death further complicates the mythos after Hudlin's various retcons as well.
So first, let's do a play-by-play of exactly what happened on panel to try and see if we can make some sort of sense and possibly fanfic some scenarios where Killmonger's apparent death doesn't make everything so screwy.
- T'challa and Killmonger engaged in a Tribal Challenge, ending with Killmonger victorious and T'challa just about dead. Ross saves T'challa by forfeiting the challenge and Killmonger becomes the chieftain, the Black Panther.
- T'challa retains the title of King of Wakanda.
- Later in Tchalla's office, Hunter mentions that they (T'challa and him) should kill Killmonger. Killmonger enters the room and Hunter and Killmonger bicker back and forth. Hunter mentions that Killmonger is not the chieftain until he finished the Rite of Ascension.
- T'challa waives the Rite of Ascension and mentions that Hunter is setting Killmonger up. Hunter mentions that Killmonger will be dead by dawn.
- Killmonger demands to partake in the Rite of Ascension anyway.
- Killmonger begins the Rite of Ascension. It is modified by the Tribal Council due to his enhancements. He defeats the warriors easily anyway.
- The next step of the Rite of Ascension is about to start (journey to the HSH). Hunter tells Zuri that it is pointless as the King waived all the Rites and to just give Killmonger the HSH.
- Killmonger eats the herb and instantly drops dead.
- Ross narrates that T'challa was "caught by surprise" by Killmongers death. T'challa orders the surgeons to be summoned despite Hunter stating it's over and Erik is dead. T'challa has him placed on life support anyway.
- T'challa is now chieftain by default which is humiliating.
- T'challa tells Kasper to stop the Rite of Ascension. He mentions, out loud to Kasper, that the situation has changed. He talks about him loosing his title of chieftain and how his challenger (Erik) ate the HSH and how it nearly killed him and put him in a catatonic state. And that Killmonger has woken up and is the rightful chieftain.
- Kasper inner monologues how he needs the "bag of dirt."
- Killmonger appears in New York. He and Kasper fight. During a break in the Tribal Challenge, Killmonger basically spells out for him that Kasper isn't going to win this fight. They begin to talk about the HSH. Killmonger states that the herb is toxic to anyone outside the Line of Bashenga. Killmonger says he analyzed it and created a synthetic version that should be non-toxic.
Those are the 100%, on-panel facts.
There are three important aspects I find interesting about that chain of events:
1. Hunter's Behavior
- Throughout the entire process, Hunter was being shady as hell. He wants Killmonger dead, threatens Killmonger to his face, says Killmonger will be dead by dawn if he takes the Rite of Ascension, T'challa tells Killmonger he is being set up, Hunter watches said Rite and just tells Zuri to get it over with and give Killmonger the HSH, and then watches Killmonger drop dead just like Hunter said he would.
Once Killmonger dropped, Hunter got what he wanted (T'challa was chieftain once again) and didn't want to obey T'challa when he was told to summon the surgeon. Hell, Hunter's Hatut Zeraze were there to even put a coat over his dead body.
2. T'challa's Reaction to Killmonger's Death
- Killmonger drops dead and T'challa refuses to accept it and summons for the surgeon and puts him on life support. This was not "calm, cool, poker face" T'challa. He demands for Hunter to obey him and then starts CPR immediately.
T'challa getting the title back this way is a slap in the face and humiliating. It is not the way to gain the peoples trust or the tribal councils trust. Killmonger dying before T'challa can regain his honor is a complete failure for T'challa.
So, if it is humiliating for T'challa to get the title back this way... why would T'challa not only let Killmonger ingest the HSH but also fast track the process? How could T'challa of all people not know the HSH is toxic outside his lineage? You are telling me none of the other tribal elders who consider the herb sacred knew it was toxic?
3. Kasper Cole's Rite of Ascension
- So let's take everything up to Kasper's Rite of Ascension at face value. So we know the HSH put Killmonger in a coma. We know T'challa knows this as he there when it happen and later tells Kasper straight to his face that it will likely kill him and it did kill Killmonger.
So why is T'challa letting Kasper do this? Why is he dangling this poisonous carrot in front of his face? Kasper was 100% clear on his motivations to demanding the Rite of Ascension. T'challa either wants to kill Kasper, plans on him losing, or is being a really big dickhead. He didn't know Killmonger was going to wake up right when the Ascension Rite was about to start so the whole, "T'challa was 6 steps ahead and knew Killmonger would give him the synthetic version" argument doesn't fly. As T'challa said, "things changed" after the Rite started.
I realize he was trying to teach Kasper some sort of lesson and see what kind of person he was and where his loyalties were but, my lord, that just really doesn't stand up to any kind of scrutiny when you factor in Kasper's motivation for the whole thing.
In Part 6, we continuing discussing the curious case of Killmonger and look at some of the on panel contraindications of the HSH being poisonous outside the line of Bashenga.