Black Panther Dora Milaje
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Credit: Marvel Studios

There is no Black Panther or Wakanda without the Dora Milaje

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Feb 27, 2020

The hope in this new decade is that when you hear the name Dora Milaje, your first thought is, "What a group of dope women who could kindly step on my neck." Well, maybe not that, exactly, but hopefully anything other than "Oh, the chicks who protect the Black Panther." They do lend a helping hand to the king of Wakanda, but they also can stand on their own. Wakanda needs them just as much, if not more than their king. They aren't one-dimensional characters, they're a collective of the baddest bitches on earth, and they're most certainly not anyone's sidechick.

At one time, a member of the Dora Milaje did find themselves in a sidechick kind of scenario. I say that loosely, however, since it's a pretty creepy situation that happens way before Nakia was the amazing, of-legal-age spy we were introduced to in the Black Panther movie. I specify the age part because Nakia was not only an adult when she became a member of the Dora Milaje initially; she was a teenager. All the Dora Milaje were when they were first introduced by creator Christopher Priest in his Black Panther run. It wouldn't be that big of a deal, but Nakia has a Thin Line Between Love and Hate kind of storyline with T'Challa, and her obsession with him takes her from Dora Milaje to becoming the villain Malice. She exhibits what would possibly beside sidechick-like behavior when she tries to kill T'Challa's main, Monica Lynne.

Credit: Marvel Comics/Black Panther Vol (1998) #32

It's a mess of events but thankfully, Nakia has since been able to prosper — not only in the MCU, but in the comics as well. In the newest run written by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Nakia is in space taking down enemies left and right, giving guidance to T'Challa, and disguising herself as a blue alien with blonde dreads. This ex-Dora has come a long way and deserves the respect of an independent character. As Bast said to M'Baku in Black Panther #13, "...while Nakia's not the peer of a king, she's closer than you."

Credit: Marvel Comics/Black Panther (2018) #7

The rest of the Dora Milaje didn't have to wait as long as Nakia to grow beyond their meager beginnings. While they have been trained to serve their king, in New Avenger #12 (written by Jonathan Hickman), they let it be known that, king or not, they aren't going to stand for any level of betrayal. They not only call T'Challa out on lying to his sister, Shuri, about why he is in Necropolis, but they end up being right too because it turned out T'Challa was there to meet with Namor, a sworn enemy of Wakanda. Even though T'Challa was working with him against Thanos's invading armies, he lied about it, and that's not OK. This is the moment the Dora Milaje assert themselves as being capable of operating beyond T'Challa, ultimately telling him to kick vibranium. The warriors of the past might have gone along with T'Challa and his lies, but it's at this moment they are granted agency outside of him. They absolutely should be able to do what they feel is right, especially since they can kill a man 100 different ways without breaking a sweat.

Since that moment, the Dora have been soaring. Two of them specifically, Ayo and Aneka, are in a romantic relationship with one another and doing their own thing in the limited series World of Wakanda, written by Roxane Gay. Ayo seeks revenge against a sexual predator chieftain, taking it upon herself to handle a situation her king did not. It's another moment that demonstrates the ability of the Dora Milaje to do what's needed when no one else will. They also don't hesitate to set someone straight, be it a king or some rude white lady on a plane. In Evan Narcisse's Rise of the Black Panther #3, a Dora informs a woman in no uncertain terms that she is not a flight attendant, she is a warrior, and she will not be fetching any refreshments for her. They are known as the adored ones, but they aren't anyone's mindless servants.

Credit: Marvel Comics/Rise of the Black Panther #3

Since it's been established that the Dora Milaje are, in fact, no one's sidechicks, sidekicks, or disposable secondary characters, could these amazing women get a show or movie on their own? It's past time, and it would add to the positive trending directions they're going in. They've come so far, but there is so much more they could be if given the opportunity.

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