If you are one of the millions of people who saw Black Panther: Wakanda Forever opening weekend, then you probably noticed that certain members of the Dora Milaje appeared in upgraded blue-plumed amphibious gear. In the Black Panther sequel, Shuri built “Midnight Angel” armor for “the new army,” and events in the film allowed Okoye (Danai Gurira) and Aneka (Michaela Coel) to don the high-tech gear first. The unique design, translated onto the screen by Academy Award-winning costume designer Ruth E. Carter, was pulled directly from the comics and was designed by award-winning comic book artist Brian Stelfreeze.
However, the Midnight Angels were around long before Black Panther debuted in the MCU. The first time the Midnight Angels appeared in Marvel comics, they were hanging out with Deadpool.
Who are the Dora Milaje?
The Dora Milaje are bald, tattooed, spear-wielding warrior women who serve as the personal security force of the Black Panther. They also head the Wakandan military and protect the royal family. Created by writer Christopher Priest and artist Mark Texeira in Black Panther Vol. 3 #1 in 1998, these women have been a fixture in Black Panther comics since. But the Midnight Angels didn’t appear in the comics until over a decade later.
Credit: Marvel (Screenshot)
Introduced in Johnathan Maberry’s “Doomwar” arc in 2010, the Midnight Angels were a special wetworks team within the Dora that T’Challa created to infiltrate and sabotage Victor Von Doom’s defenses after the Latverian leader attacked Wakanda and made off with all of the country’s vibranium reserves.
This early version of the Midnight Angels combined technology with spiritual weapons and easily adapted to almost any situation they faced. They even fought off vibranium-armed Doombots using weapons laced with shadow particles. Their first mission also saw them teaming up with Deadpool (as his mutant powers of regeneration and resurrection would come in handy when infiltrating Dr. Doom’s defenses). Unsurprisingly, Deadpool was instantly smitten with the Angels and did whatever they asked him to do.
The Midnight Angels’ evolution
In 2016, Ta-Nehisi Coates and Stelfreeze revived the Midnight Angels in Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet. T’Challa returns to Wakanda as king in this storyline to rule a disillusioned and fractured nation. Princess Shuri is comatose after a battle with Thanos’ army, and their mother Queen Ramonda has been leading in her stead.
Aneka, former leader of the Dora Milaje, has been arrested by Queen Ramonda for killing a chieftain who was attacking women and girls in his village and allowing his men to do the same. Fellow Dora Ayo defends Aneka’s actions and pleads to the queen for her release. However, Queen Ramonda maintains that Aneka must face death to atone for her actions. Having lost faith in the monarchy to have Wakandans’ best interests at heart, Aneka steals prototype Midnight Angels armor gear and breaks Ayo, who is both her spear sister and her lover, out of prison.
Together, the pair led part of a rebellion that forever changed Wakanda’s history. Not only did Ayo and Aneka restore order in many parts of the country using their Midnight Angels gear, but they convinced other Dora to join their ranks. A revived Shuri eventually persuaded the Midnight Angels to raise their weapons alongside T’Challa to protect Wakanda again. However, the Midnight Angels and their mantra, “No one man” played a vital role in creating the first-ever constitutional monarchy of Wakanda.
The Angels are reborn in Wakanda Forever
I might be a little biased (since I wrote a book about the Dora Milaje), but I feel that the Midnight Angels could’ve used a bit more screen time in Wakanda Forever. For instance, their armor is teased in Shuri’s lab throughout most of the film, but we don’t get to see it in action until the fourth act, towards the end of the Wakandan/Talokan fight at sea.
Credit: Marvel (Screenshot)
In addition, Ayo and Aneka’s comic book storyline would have been an interesting side arc to pursue in Wakanda Forever, primarily since it was based on Wakanda’s vulnerability after the fall of one of its leaders. If the Angels were introduced earlier, we could have also seen them helping the people of Wakanda and fighting Namor more effectively when he attacked.
In the movie it was Okoye, rather than Ayo (Florence Kasumba), who flew alongside Aneka to aid in the fight against the Talokani. However, it would have been nice to see more of Ayo and Aneka’s relationship (as they are one of the few canon queer couples featured in the MCU). In the film, their relationship is only briefly acknowledged between the characters in a post-battle scene.
Of course, like Riri Williams’ Ironheart gear, the Midnight Angels were not the main focus of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, and therefore their brief screen time might have been by design. And since a Wakanda-related Disney+ series is already in the works starring Danai Gurira as Okoye, the Midnight Angels may have a more substantial role there.
The icing on the Disney+ cake would be if Deadpool made a guest appearance.