2018 is going to be a busy (translate = profitable) year for Marvel Studios. Television notwithstanding, “Black Panther” is the first of eight scheduled films that should introduce us to new heroes, villains and visual effects that will certainly leave audiences in awe. Granted, not all eight fall within the Marvel Comics Extended Universe, but they are all Marvel character vehicles nonetheless.

“Black Panther” picks up where “Captain America: Civil War” left off: T’Chala (Chadwick Boseman) is returning to his home of Wakanda, Africa to assume the throne of his people after the death of his father. A beautiful land shrouded in mystery and isolation, its people live in this juxtaposition of tribal heritage and technological advancement. T’Chala struggles with his desires to help the greater good, while his inner circle begs him to refrain from exposing their utopian society. When his crown is challenged by Erik “Killmonger” Stevens (Michael B. Jordan), their whole existence is threatened and T’Chala must rise to meet the demands of a king.

Ryan Coogler (“Creed”) delivers a demographic-crossing blockbuster with the ease of a veteran filmmaker. Hot on the heels of “Wonder Woman” and its feminist ceiling dismantling, we are seeing a revolution in the industry as he’s poised to become the first non-white man to shepherd a film across the global billion-dollar mark (that’s right, I’m calling it now). He displays deep thematic allegories through the fantasy of an action film; colonization, racial dominance, humanity, tribal allegiance, and of course, good versus evil. The beauty and magic is that his version of evil is a concoction of the most empathy-invoking villain we’ve seen in the MCEU yet. More on that later.

Chadwick Boseman is outstanding, and adds significant depth to the character that was established in “Civil War.” He breezes through the film with a confident, fierce look, and his dialogue unravels his motives more and more, creating what may be the face of the Avengers franchise once the Infinity War is over.

Michael B. Jordan plays the antagonist, Killmonger, with an absolute heartbreaking edge. At first it seems that he is simply an urban kid from Oakland with a grudge, but as the character develops, his motives are pure and understandable, with a deep-seeded hurt that you can feel every time he speaks his mind. I liked him more and more as the film went on, and I only wish he had more screen time. I’ve said it before; a man-versus-man conflict is only as good as the villain. It’s what makes or breaks the film, and “Black Panther” hit it right on the mark. Jordan is tremendous. Surrounding the two stars is an impressive collection of actors (Forest Whitaker, Lupita Nyong’o, Daniel Kaluuya, Danai Gurira and Letitia Wright) who bring strong performances all around. Andy Serkis and Martin Freeman play the token white men (never said that before), and Serkis is entertaining as usual, but it’s strange to see him in the flesh and not as Gollum, an ape, or a “Star Wars” creature.

Since it is the last entry before the highly anticipated “Infinity War,” I was disappointed in the post-credit scene. I think this is an area where Marvel has lost its edge significantly. It was predictable if you’ve seen the other films, and just might be an Easter egg for what’s coming in the next film, but it was a bit too brief. I have a theory, but won’t bore you here.

Okay, Captain America is going to die. There, you have it.

The visual effects are stunning as usual, and Coogler gives us a fresh avenue for future films, and I’m generally very impressed. My two main complaints, however nitpicky, are that the love interest, Nakia (Nyong’o), never really develops much chemistry with our hero. They fizzle when on screen together, and that may be the point but I truly wanted more in that relationship. Also, the film spends a lot of time setting up the tone and feels a bit slow at times. Minor complaints for an incredibly strong film that has such high expectations. I can’t wait to see T’Chala again in May.