The search for vibranium animates the plot of “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.” But if you have a hard time remembering what’s so special about the fictional metal and where else it’s shown up in the MCU, we’ve got you covered.
What Is Vibranium?
In Wakanda, vibranium is essential to pretty much everything, including the Black Panther tradition. All their technology taps into the unique powers of vibranium, including the weapons and armor used by the Black Panther, the Dora Milaje, and the Midnight Angels. Plus, the Heart-Shaped Herb that the Black Panther consumes to gain powers comes from vibranium-rich soil.
In addition to being durable and invulnerable, vibranium absorbs vibratory and kinetic energy into itself, which strengthens its molecular bonds and makes it nearly impossible to destroy. You can technically destroy it, but the amount of energy that’s needed to do so hasn’t been determined yet. In the comics, in addition to Wakandan vibranium, there’s Antarctic vibranium, which is more commonly referred to as Anti-Metal because of its ability to turn any metal into liquid. Scientists have also developed an artificial type of vibranium called reverbium, which, instead of absorbing vibrations, blows everything away. Both reverbium and Anti-Metal have yet to appear in the MCU.
Does Vibranium Exist Outside of Wakanda?
Though vibranium is relatively new and rare to the rest of the world, it’s been around in Wakanda for a while, and there are 10,000 tons of it on the country’s sacred mound. Here’s how the history of vibranium in Wakanda goes: a long time ago, a meteorite made of vibranium crashed into Wakanda, and the discoverers went to war over it. The warrior Bashenga ingested a Heart-Shaped Herb affected by vibranium and developed powerful abilities. He became the first Black Panther, bringing different tribes together to create the nation of Wakanda. Over time, the Wakandans experimented with vibranium and used it to develop their technologically advanced nation, integrating it into everything from weapons to medicines.
Vibranium isn’t totally exclusive to “Black Panther,” though. The rare substance has been mentioned in other parts of the Marvel universe. For example, Captain America’s shield consists of a vibranium-iron alloy developed by Dr. Myron MacLain. The Avengers have reinforced their tower with vibranium-laced concrete and created Vision out of Ultron’s synthetic vibranium body in “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” In “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” Nick Fury’s Toolbox and the interrogation room on “The Bus” are also made of vibranium. Shuri mocks these simplistic uses of the metal when she learns about them, and it’s not clear how the outside world got its hands on these small amounts. But now that they know the Wakandans have used them to create all sorts of technology, the rest of the world wants more. Understandably, Wakanda is afraid that they’d just be giving despicable governments unlimited weapons of power.
Why Is Vibranium So Important in “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”?
In “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” the Wakandans are shocked to learn there are others with access to vibranium. The U.S. government uses a vibranium-detection machine made by Riri Williams to find some hidden under the ocean. It leads them right to the hidden kingdom of Talokan and their leader Namor (Tenoch Huerta). It turns out that centuries ago, the Talokan people ingested vibranium and became sea people who need water to breathe (Namor is a mutant, so he can survive on land without special technology as long as he’s wet). They used vibranium to make their own technologically advanced kingdom, and, like the Wakandans, they want to stop the rest of the world from getting their hands on it. The Wakandans guess that there were perhaps multiple vibranium-carrying meteorites and that at least one ended up in the ocean. The vibranium is, molecularly, very similar to Wakandan vibranium, which allows Shuri to manipulate it for her own purposes.
By the end of “Wakanda Forever,” our heroes have succeeded in keeping the vibranium supply out of the world’s hands, but how long that will last is anyone’s guess.