M'Baku is the leader of the Jabari Tribe, a group of Wakandans who have removed themselves from mainstream society, and a staunch opponent of T'Challa's rule who ends up torn between challenging him for the throne only to help him defend Wakanda from Erik Killmonger. Seeing the threat that Killmonger posed to the world, M'Baku chose to save T'Challa's life and gathered his armies to help defeat Killmonger in their final battle, with M'Baku gaining a seat on the Tribal Council as a result of his choice.
M'Baku would later aid the rest of Wakanda in defending the city from Thanos' army but while succeeding in killing all of Thanos' forces, they failed to stop him from gathering all six Infinity Stones and M'Baku was one of the few survivors of the battle.
Leader of the Jabari
M'Baku grew up in the Jabari Tribe, where he was shunned by Wakanda's use of Vibranium and held distaste for its mainstream lifestyle. Eventually, M'Baku gained leadership over the tribe and set out to rule over the Jabari Land.
- "We have watched and listened from the mountains. We have watched with disgust as your technological advancements have been overseen by a child who scoffs at tradition. I know you want to hand the nation over to this Prince who could not keep his own father safe. We will not have it. I say: we will not have it! I, M'Baku, leader of the Jabari..."
"I accept your challenge, M'Baku."
"Glory to Hanuman!""
- ―M'Baku and T'Challa
During T'Challa's coronation, Zuri asked if any warrior would challenge for the throne. M'Baku stepped forward, declaring himself as challenger. T'Challa accepted M'Baku's challenge, with the duel commencing. M'Baku managed to restrain T'Challa in a bear hug, beginning to crush him under his strength. Hearing the Wakandans' chanting his name prompting him to get back up, T'Challa managed to escape the bear hug and crack M'Baku's ceremonial mask, stunning him. T'Challa then pushed M'Baku to the edge of the Warrior Falls, where he pinned M'Baku, telling him to yield, as he didn't want to kill him. M'Baku continued to struggle under T'Challa's grasp but ceased when T'Challa told him that the Jabari Tribe needed him. M'Baku yielded, and accepted T'Challa as the victor, leaving the Falls and heading back to Jabari Land.
After T'Challa was presumably killed by his cousin, Erik Killmonger, M'Baku has the severely wounded T'Challa, who happened to be found by Jabari Tribe fishermen, to be brought back to the tribe and covered with snow to stabilize his failing vital signs, as a repayment for sparing his life during the tribal combat. They are however, unable to nurse him back to health, due to lacking the advanced technology the rest of the country shares.
When Ramonda, Shuri, Nakia, and Everett Ross came to offer M'Baku a Heart-Shaped Herb, he took them to T'Challa, who had survived his fight with Erik Killmonger, but had to be placed in ice to keep him in a coma, otherwise he would die. They fed the herb to T'Challa, effectively reviving him. Afterward, M'Baku provided shelter to Ramonda, while the remaining went to fight Killmonger. T'Challa requested the Jabari's aid, only for M'Baku to initially refuse.
When the Dora Milaje were about to be defeated by the Border Tribe, M'Baku, seemingly realizing T'Challa was right about keeping Vibranium out of Erik Killmonger's hands, and the Jabari Tribe appeared to provide aid, alongside Ramonda giving the Dora Milaje another chance. Later, W'Kabi tried to use a rhino to run M'Baku over, but Okoye stood in the way, causing the rhino to stop its assault and licked her face while M'Baku ran off to face another opponent. Shortly after this, the Border Tribe surrendered under W'Kabi's orders, not wanting to see his own people kill one another.
M'Baku joined the armies led by King T'Challa as large hordes of Outriders prepared to invade Wakanda. Along with the rest of the Jabari Tribe, M'Baku shouted the traditional battle cry before going into battle with the other Wakandan soldiers and a part of the Avengers. M'Baku valiantly fought against the Outriders, but despite their best efforts and their ability to withstand the assault, the Wakandan armies could not stop Thanos from fulfilling his plan and wiping out half of the life in the entire universe. M'Baku watched as many of the surviving Wakandan warriors faded out of existence with clear horror and shock on his face.
M'Baku is known for his ruthless personality, but holds great respect for T'Challa, which is shown by having him saving his life as a favor for sparing him in a ritual combat. But behind his ruthless demeanor, he also has a twisted sense of humor, as shown by his threatening to feed Everett Ross to his children, only for him to jokingly reveal that his children are vegetarians.
M'Baku is also shown to be quite open-minded. He initially chose to die over yielding in ritual combat, but when T'Challa told him that his people needed him to lead them, he yielded. Later on, when T'Challa requested Jabari Tribe's help to take down Erik Killmonger, he initially refused, but he later decided to help T'Challa when he realized the latter was right about the destruction that would happen if vibranium fell into the wrong hands.
In the two years since the Battle of Mount Bashenga, M'Baku and T'Challa's relationship appeared to have improved. M'Baku and the Jabari needed no convincing to join T'Challa in the battle against Thanos' forces, and M'Baku even addressed T'Challa as "brother", at one point.
- Expert Combatant: As a Wakandan warrior and tribe leader, M'Baku is well versed in melee and unarmed combat, often using his size, weight and strength in his fighting style. He is proficient in the use of blades, shields and blunt weapons, which he used to fight T'Challa and against several Wakandan soldiers. His combat prowess allowed him to nearly overwhelm and defeat the prince of Wakanda in ritual combat before T'Challa got the upper hand.
- Multilingualism: M'Baku is fluent in his native language, Xhosa, as well as English.
- Hardened Jabari Wood Armor: To be added
- Knobkerrie: M'Baku was rarely seen without his knobkerrie, which he could use in two different ways, as the round end could be used to hit hard and stun adversaries while the pointy end enabled him to stab his opponents like he did with T'Challa during their duel.
- In the comics, M'Baku is the second most powerful warrior in Wakanda after T'Challa, and the leader of the White Gorilla Cult under the name of Man-Ape. He is also one of T'Challa 's most dreaded enemies.
Behind the Scenes
- Black Panther producer, Nate Moore, stated “We don’t call him Man-Ape, we do call him M’Baku. Having a black character dress up as an ape, I think there’s a lot of racial implications that don’t sit well, if done wrong. But the idea that they worship the gorilla gods is interesting because it’s a movie about the Black Panther who, himself, is a sort of deity in his own right.”
- Michael James Shaw auditioned for the role of M'Baku. He was later cast as Corvus Glaive in Avengers: Infinity War.
- Yahya Abdul-Mateen II auditioned for the role of M'Baku. He will later go on to play Black Manta in the DC Extended Universe film Aquaman.