With so many new, young characters getting their MCU introductions, it was about time we got a new, old-school Marvel powerhouse in the mix. Namor the Sub-Mariner has been around for as long as Marvel Comics exist. For those who know his comics history, the phrase Imperius Rex came as a pleasant surprise in the film. So, why did Namor say Imperius Rex, and what does it mean?
Namor says Imperius Rex in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever after Shuri screams her people’s battle march, ‘Wakanda forever!’ Imperius Rex is a catchphrase that roughly translates to ‘Emperor King’ or ‘Empire King,’ which Namor uses to assert his dominant status.
The phrase also ties back to Namor’s name origins in the comics, but it’s a bit more complicated to connect the dots in the MCU due to the shift of Talokan’s place of origin. Let’s dive into this epic character, his more epic catchphrase, and the most epic portrayal in the MCU that we already love to hate.
How did Namor get his name?
Before we get into the Imperius Rex phrase, I think it’s important to dissect the origins of Namor’s name in the comics and in the MCU, as they dramatically differ. Once we have that clear, it’ll also make the use of the phrase clearer and explain why the connection between Namor, his origins, and name, and the phrase are a bit more difficult to comprehend in the MCU.
In the comics, Namor is the King of Atlantis, which has a Greco-Roman background. The writer who introduced Namor in Marvel Comics #1, Bill Everett, suggested that he got the name simply by spelling Roman backward. It was also explained that, in Atlantean, Namor means Avenging Son, whereas Imperius Rex is a phrase in Latin.
In the MCU, however, the writers changed Namor’s history quite a bit. He isn’t the King of Atlantis but rather of Talokan, an underwater empire with Mesoamerican origins. The name didn’t come from Roman spelled backward, too.
Instead, Namor took the name after Spanish conquistadors – precisely, a priest – called him El Nino Sin Amor. That means ‘A Boy Without Love,’ so K’uk’ulkan became Namor from the last five letters of that phrase.
He still used the phrase, Imperius Rex, despite the Talokan speaking an ancient Mayan language instead of Latin. One could draw conclusions on where Namor could’ve gotten the Latin phrase, but we’ll get to that in a minute.
What does Imperius Rex mean?
Imperius Rex is a phrase in Latin that sort of became an iconic catchphrase from the Sub-Mariner throughout Marvel comics. It roughly translates to ‘Empire King’ or ‘Emperor King,’ depending on the context.
Namor uses that phrase quite often, and the reason might not be as glamorous or have some super deep meaning behind it. The truth is, it sounds cool and imposing, so Namor uses it in moments where he wants to establish his dominance.
For instance, he did it in Avengers #9 in 2018 when the entire Avengers team – including Thor, Iron Man, Captain Marvel, Ghost Rider, She-Hulk, and Captain America – went underwater to speak to a not-so-friendly Namor. The Sub-Mariner took them all on and used the phrase in a highly-defining moment.
The closest we ever got to understanding what exactly the phrase means to Namor was in Thor #1 in 2018. The God of Thunder explicitly asked the Sub-Mariner what in the world does Imperius Rex mean, to which Namor replied: “It means I’m going to feed your sorry Asgardian hide to the biggest sharks I can find!”
Itwas, of course, a way of Namor saying, ‘I’m a badass,’ which would feel even more badass had he not been smacked by Thor off-panel moments later. Nevertheless, there’s an interesting thing to ponder here.
In the comics, Marvel has closer connections to the Greco-Roman culture, so it’s reasonable he uses a catchphrase in Latin. However, he uses it in the MCU as well, where the Talokan have little to no connections to the Latin language or the culture. So, where’s the connection?
Well, you could argue that he probably learned it after his rendezvous with Spanish conquistadors, who clearly had Latin-speaking priests onboard. It’s a far-fetched theory, given the encounter we see in the film, but that’s about as good of an explanation as any.
Why did Namor say Imperius Rex in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever?
Let’s let go of the fact that the Talokan and Latin phrases make little sense for a minute to ponder a different question – why did Namor say Imperius Rex in Black Panther? What does it mean to him?
Well, if there’s one thing in common with the phrase in the comics and the MCU, it’s that it just sounds cool and imposing. It’s not a coincidence that Namor uses it right in the tensest battle moment of the entire movie.
As the Sub-Mariner and Black Panther battle one-on-one, Shuri screams the famous Wakandan battle chant, ‘Wakanda forever!’ At that moment, Namor responds with ‘Imperius Rex,’ giving a nice homage to the comic book character.
Plus, the meaning behind the catchphrase for Namor is probably a ‘flex’ of his absolute dominance – he sees himself as a godlike powerhouse, ready to take on anybody and emerge as victorious.
Heck, as N’Jobu says in the movie, his people don’t call him a King or an Emperor; they call him K’uk’ulkan, which is a feathered serpentine god for them.
I have to say that the writers did a good job with Namor, and I loved Tenoch Huerta’s performance, so I’ll eagerly wait for Namor’s next appearance in the MCU.