Black Panther: Wakanda Forever appears to position Namor the Sub-Mariner as the god Kukulkán, but he could actually be a mutant instead. There’s a sense that the MCU’s Phase 4 has principally been about a single concept: expansion. Phase 4 has expanded the franchise in often unexpected and unpredictable directions, adding everything from mutants to supernatural monsters, and from multiversal variants to pantheons of MCU gods.
The trailers for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever seem to suggest Namor, ruler of the underwater kingdom of Talocan, is another god. He’s been associated with Kukulkán, the feathered serpent god of many Mesoamerican cultures, which explains the stunning headdress the character has been shown wearing. The idea is a surprising one, given the comic book version of Namor isn’t related to the gods at all; rather, he’s a human-Atlantean hybrid, and a mutant to boot. But, surprisingly, this may well still be the case.
Kukulkán is an established character in the Marvel Comics universe, and he has subtle ties to Prince Namor’s cousin, Namora; Kukulkán was first mentioned in Marvel Mystery Comics #82, the issue that introduced Namora. There, Namora discovered an ancient temple devoted to the worship of Kukulkán that was being raided. She intervened, discovering some of the criminals involved were tricking natives into believing they spoke for Kukulkán himself. The real Kukulkán wouldn’t appear until 1966 when he possessed the treasure hunter called El Tigre and fought against the X-Men. He’s only appeared a handful of times, as Marvel tends to focus on the Norse and Greek pantheons, meaning the name is really quite a deep cut into Marvel lore.
Curiously, though, actor Tenoch Huerta, who plays the MCU’s Namor has stated that Namor is a mutant, not a god. According to Empire, during one interview he noted one detail that is carrying over from the comics; that Namor is indeed a mutant. This confirmation, which appears to be direct rather than editorialization, runs completely counter to the trailers themselves. Gods and mutants are different things, so there shouldn’t really be a way for Namor to be both.
There is one easy way of resolving this issue, however; it’s possible that Namor is not a god, but rather he is a mutant who has been mistaken as a god. Shots from the Black Panther: Wakanda Forever trailers have shown flashbacks throughout Namor’s life, including to his birth, and it seems he bore the distinctive mark of his mutation, his winged feet, even when he was born. These feet are feathered, and so may have been mistaken as an indication he is the incarnation of Kukulkán, the feathered serpent god of Talocan. There is certainly precedent for this idea in the comics themselves, where mutants have often been mistaken for deities, and have even claimed godhood on occasion.
Unfortunately for Wakanda, there’s a sense in which it doesn’t matter whether Namor is a mutant or a god; the Talokanil believe him to be a deity. He’s clearly going to lead the Talokanil to war against the Wakandans, and to the Talokanil would therefore consider it a holy war. As M’Baku notes in the trailers, if the Wakandans succeed in defeating Namor, and particularly if they manage to kill him, they would face an eternal religious war.
The confusion over Namor would potentially explain why mutants haven’t been seen in the MCU until now; because they’ve been subject to a great deal of confusion. This idea is actually lifted from modern X-Men comics, which have rewritten the origin of mutants. Mutants had traditionally been portrayed as the next step in human evolution, but the comics have instead revealed they existed alongside humans all along as a sizable minority, and that the history of anti-magic violence and persecution was in reality partly directed against mutants.
To be fair, this does actually make a lot of sense; there are striking parallels between some mutant powers and supernatural legends (ranging from lycanthropy to telekinesis, from healing to matter transmutation). DNA is a recent discovery, and it is reasonable to assume that, historically, mutant powers would have been assumed to be supernatural in origin, especially in the MCU, where werewolves, gods, witches, and monsters really do exist. Namor sets a precedent in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, an important one that may help Marvel continue to explore mutants in Phases 5 and 6.