Former Google employee files lawsuit alleging the company fired him over pro-diversity posts

A former Google engineer is suing the company for discrimination, harassment, retaliation, and wrongful termination, according to court documents filed today. Tim Chevalier, a software developer and former site-reliability engineer at Google, claims that Google fired him when he responded with internal posts and memes to racist and sexist encounters within the company and the general response to the now-infamous James Damore memo. News of Chevalier’s lawsuit was reported earlier today by Gizmodo.

Chevalier said in a statement to The Verge, “It is a cruel irony that Google attempted to justify firing me by claiming that my social networking posts showed bias against my harassers.” Chevalier, who is also disabled and transgender, alleges that his internal posts that defended women of color and marginalized people led directly to his termination in November 2017. He had worked at Google for a little under two years.

Notably, Chevalier’s posts had been quoted in Damore’s lawsuit against Google — in which Damore sued the company for discrimination against conservative white men — as evidence Google permitted liberals to speak out at the company unpunished. Chevalier’s lawsuit alleges that his firing is, in fact, a form of punishment. (Damore recently had a separate labor board complaint shot down by the US National Labor Relations Board, which stated in a guidance memo that Google was in the right to fire him.)

bonus trivia: Breitbart also devoted an entire post to Chevalier as an example of Google condoning violence (see again: Nazis, punching of) but the examples were on his personal accounts

— Nitasha Tiku (@nitashatiku) February 21, 2018

In a statement, Google spokesperson Gina Scigliano says Google was enforcing its policy against the promotion of harmful stereotypes. “An important part of our culture is lively debate. But like any workplace, that doesn’t mean anything goes. All employees acknowledge our code of conduct and other workplace policies, under which promoting harmful stereotypes based on race or gender is prohibited” Scigliano says. “This is a very standard expectation that most employers have of their employees. The overwhelming majority of our employees communicate in a way that is consistent with our policies. But when an employee does not, it is something we must take seriously. We always make our decision without any regard to the employee’s political views.”

One of the internal memes Chevalier created was inspired by a black Google employee, who wrote in an internal Google Plus post that she was being asked to present her ID badge more often than her white co-workers. A Google employee allegedly responded to the post by noting that asking for ID was just part of the job, Gizmodoreported. Chevalier then made a privilege-denying dude meme using Google’s internal meme generator with the caption, “I have opinions about forms of oppression that don’t affect me.”

In mid-September, Chevalier was called into a meeting by HR and told that a complaint had been made about another post in which he said he would not work with people who shared Damore’s views, according to Gizmodo. In the same month, Chevalier’s acting manager told him repeatedly he was engaging in too much “social activism,” the suit alleges.

The lawsuit was filed in San Francisco County Superior Court and Chevalier is seeking damages for lost wages, emotional distress, punitive damages, and injunctive relief against those alleged harmful acts. One of Chevalier’s attorneys, David Lowe, stated that Chevalier’s termination was a result of Google failing to rein in its mostly unfiltered internal social networks. “Company social networking forums can be incredibly useful, but employers have an obligation to prevent them from becoming a cesspool of bullying and harassment,” Lowe said in a press release.

Last August, Chevalier and 13 other Google employees were also targeted by alt-right trolls as part of a widespread backlash against Damore’s firing. A 4chan-related Twitter account posted a screenshot of the employees’ Twitter profiles, all of whom were of color, women, or trans men. These profiles then became targets of online harassment, some of which Chevalier details in his complaint.

Update at 7:45PM ET, 2/21: Added statement from Google.

Moog is bringing back a modular synth from 1969 for $35,000

Moog announced last week that it is bringing back one of its iconic synthesizers — the IIIp — for a limited reissue for $35,000. The company says only 40 units will be handcrafted, and each one will feature the original’s documentation, art, and circuit board files. In total, each IIIp will have 37 modules including ten 901-Series audio oscillators, the 984 4-channel Matrix Mixer, and the 905 Spring Reverb.

Originally released in the late 1960s, the Moog Synthesizer IIIp was the company’s first portable system, coming in roadworthy flight cases, and was used by artists like Isao Tomita and George Harrison. They were discontinued in 1973 but are still coveted, not only because of their limitless ability to be reconfigured, but for the inimitable sounds it creates. These types of modular synthesizers have unique sonic character due to many physical components and attributes (like the cabinets, which help resonate the sound itself, or the actual temperature of the synth), resulting in imperfect waveforms, drifting notes, and more.

If you’re scoffing at the price, a Moog engineer broke down why machines like this can cost tens of thousands of dollars in an interview with CDM. “Buying a IIIp new between 1969 and 1973 equates to more than $50,000 USD in today’s money,” the engineer says, “so $35,000 represents a significant decrease in price for these systems… The process to build a single IIIp takes hundreds of hours of labor to complete. Every circuit board is hand populated and every component has to be hand soldered by someone in the Moog Factory. Each circuit board has to be mounted into a module, and then that module has to be tested and calibrated — multiply that by 37+ (depending on how you count modules) and you start to get an idea of the scope of this build.”

Each Moog IIIp will be custom mounted and hand-wired in three solid wood, tolex-wrapped cabinets, exactly per the original design. It will have a 100 percent discrete design, and will be made using the original parts. (Moog worked with parts suppliers to re-issue certain components that had been outmoded or discontinued to ensure there were no modern replacements.)

This isn’t the first time Moog has brought back a popular synth. In 2015, it did a limited run of the System 55, System 35, and the Model 15, synths that originally came out in the 1970s.

Blame air currents for the East Coast’s warm spell, and also climate change

The US East Coast has been unusually hot this week, breaking temperature records from Boston to Washington, DC. But what’s causing this sudden warm spell?

The answer has to do with the air currents in the atmosphere, according to Mark Chenard, a meteorologist at the Weather Prediction Center in College Mark, Maryland. Most of the time, winds in the atmosphere flow from west to east; this is called “zonal flow” and it’s responsible for our everyday weather. But every once in a while, the winds start flowing north to south, creating a pattern called “amplified flow.”

“Cold air from north comes down south, and warm air from the south goes north,” he says. So, warm air from the Gulf of Mexico is floating upward toward those of us in the Northeast. At the same time, a cold front is making the western parts of the country much colder than usual.

Unusual warmth should linger across most of the East at least until early March. pic.twitter.com/AEWQ2HY9Ea

— Eric Holthaus (@EricHolthaus) February 21, 2018

So what’s causing these patterns? Chenard says that, most of the time, it’s just normal variability in weather patterns. It’s hard to pin any one event as being caused by global warming.

Still, as Robinson Meyer at The Atlantic notes, one big sign of climate change is warmer winters. Global temperatures have been rising, and as a result, winters are warmer than they used to be. For the past three years now, Earth has been breaking its own temperature records. And ice in the Arctic is shrinking — last month, the average ice extent was the smallest on record for January.

Record-breaking temperatures on the East Coast are unlikely to last more than a day or two, says Chenard. But the pattern of “warmer than normal” days will probably last into the beginning of March, so there are a few more days to enjoy — unless climate change keeps you up at night.

Exclusive: Telegram is holding a secretive second pre-ICO sale

You have to admire Pavel Durov’s audacity.

Over the past few months, the CEO of Telegram convinced 81 accredited investors, including Silicon Valley giants Sequoia Capital and Benchmark, to give him $850 million in a presale of his company’s cryptocurrency in advance of an initial coin offering, or ICO. Now he’s trying to raise even more money from accredited investors before the coin gets offered to the public in a secretive second presale.

This week, investors got an email explaining that Telegram is doing another private presale, four sources with knowledge of the deal told The Verge.

The exact amount to be raised is still being determined, according to one source, but two other sources said Telegram is estimating it will be around the same size as the first round, which would bring the total raised to over $1.6 billion before the ICO even opens up to the general public. Telegram’s offering was already the largest ICO ever, dwarfing the previous record of $232 million. Telegram declined to comment on the second presale. Sequoia Capital declined to comment and Benchmark did not respond to questions.

The change in Telegram’s plans comes as the company is under scrutiny for its proposed Telegram Open Network or TON, which promises to be an Ethereum-like ecosystem with apps, services, and a store for digital and physical goods. Critics say the proposal is short on technical details, and that Telegram’s high valuation is being driven by hype and speculation rather than the value of the technology.

How much money is Telegram raising total? Estimates have varied. The company seemed to revise its goals upward as interest in the offering surged. One cryptocurrency and blockchain investor, Carlos Mosquera of Solidus Capital, said the numbers presented by Telegram kept changing; he was offered different versions of the offer from different intermediaries. Discounts on the presale coins ranged from 30 to 80 percent of the expected public price, according to multiple investors who were pitched on the first presale. “A month and a half ago we got the pitch and the opportunity for Telegram,” Mosquera said. “We passed because we received two or three different terms and deals by the same ICO. None of the information was clear.”

Mosquera’s firm was not invited to participate in the second presale, but he said he isn’t surprised to hear that Telegram is looking for more private investor cash. “Nowadays the presales are hotter than the crowd sale itself,” he said.

It makes sense for Telegram to raise more private money if there is enough demand, multiple investors told The Verge. The first presale was rumored to be oversubscribed, and early investors are reportedly flipping their shares and making 2x returns on the secondary market.

The SEC has also been increasing its oversight of ICOs, which means Telegram may not make its public ICO available in the US, CNBC reported. That could be part of the reason why Telegram wants to get more money from accredited investors — meaning firms and individuals with annual income of $200,000 or a net worth of $1 million — because there are fewer regulatory requirements through that process than through an offering to the general public.

Telegram’s public ICO was expected to take place in March. It’s unclear if the new second private offering affects the timeline for the public sale or how many coins will be available to the public at launch.

Telegram’s ICO is one of the most anticipated the cryptocurrencies world has seen, and it’s the first to attract more traditional Silicon Valley venture capital firms. But observers are skeptical of its value offering.

Telegram’s ICO will fund a suite of blockchain-based products including file storage, a DNS service, and an ad exchange as part of the TON, according to the 132-page “technical white paper” circulated to investors. Critics say the proposal makes ambitious claims, such as being able to process millions of transactions per second, without explaining how.

Christian Catalini, a professor and founder of MIT’s Cryptoeconomics Lab, is working on a study of about 1,500 ICOs with his team. “We actually document in our research paper that there has been a major transition from more technical white papers to the kind of white papers that look a lot more like sales pitches,” Catalini told The Verge. “There’s been less focus on technical details over time and, for some of these, much more on selling the vision. In the case of the Telegram one there is a lot that is being promised and not a lot of clarity on how that would be delivered.”

Matthew Green, cryptographer and professor at Johns Hopkins University, had a similar reaction to the white paper. “So to their credit, Telegram has shown that it can execute and get software written. That’s actually a big deal when it comes to blockchain projects,” Green said in an email. “That plus millions of dollars means they could pull something off. But I’ll be honest, the white paper reads like someone went out on the internet and harvested the most ambitious ideas from a dozen projects and said ‘let’s do all of those but better!’ It feels unachievable, at least at the scale they’re aiming for now.”

Even if the Telegram team had included more technical details, not everyone is convinced it makes sense conceptually. Telegram is effectively proposing to act as a benevolent dictator — it will control a majority of its currency, at least to start — helping a system that will eventually be decentralized get off the ground.

“Blockchains are useful when there’s no central authority in command, or when there’s risk that the owner of the platform might fold,” Emin Gün Sirer, a professor at Cornell, expert on distributed systems, and co-director of the Initiative for Cryptocurrencies and Contracts, said in an email. “Yet Telegram ICO’s appeal stems from its reach to 200 million users, and its central vision over the future of the platform. If the owner folded, there would be little value to what remains. So their adoption of a blockchain, in fact, a whole family of blockchains, seems spurious.”

Others have speculated that Durov is not really raising money for a new blockchain-centric venture, but simply to keep Telegram afloat. Durov was reportedly self-funding the company with his earnings from selling VK.com, the Russian Facebook clone that he founded. “With growing user base, he would’ve eventually run out of money. Therefore he opted for an ICO as a mechanism to raise funds without getting outside investors into Telegram’s shareholder capital,” Gregory Klumov, CEO of the government blockchain company Stasis, told Bloomberg.

Charles Noyes, a quantitative analyst at the cryptocurrency VC firm Pantera Capital, said his team passed on Telegram’s private presale the first time around. (His firm did not get the offer for the second presale.) To him, the secretive Telegram ICO goes against the spirit of blockchain development.

“It’s very important in blockchain technology and specifically cryptocurrencies that you be very open with what you’re trying to do and have as many people as possible looking at it to see if they can find a flaw,” he said. The Bitcoin white paper was first published to a cryptocurrency mailing list, and its pseudonymous author Satoshi Nakamoto requested feedback. Not inviting outside scrutiny is dangerous, Noyes said. “When you operate the way they do, which is closed, with secrecy, not subjecting yourself to peer review, you basically open yourself up to the possibility that there is a trivial bug in it that destroys the network.”

Whether the platform functions well may not matter for early investors. Even with the lockup period that restricts them from selling their tokens right away, investors who bought their coins at a discount could see a significant return after the ICO opens up to the broader public and starts circulating on the TON. Telegram can also promote its ICO to its users, who numbered 170 million in October 2017 according to one of the presale documents, and its app has become a hub for cryptocurrency chat groups.

“Telegram as a messenger may attract them to Telegram’s new network,” said Alan Woodward, a visiting professor at the University of Surrey, expert in cryptography and information security who has criticized Telegram in the past for using proprietary cryptography instead of commonly accepted, peer-reviewed cryptography. “Something seems to have worked,” he wrote in an email, “in that they have raised a lot of money already.”

Additional reporting by Casey Newton and Lauren Goode

Ford president leaves the company over ‘inappropriate behavior’

Ford Motor Company President Raj Nair is leaving the company “effective immediately” after an internal investigation into allegations of inappropriate behavior. “Certain behavior by Nair was inconsistent with the company’s code of conduct,” the company writes in a statement. No further specifics were given about which parts of the company’s code of conduct were violated.

“We made this decision after a thorough review and careful consideration,” Ford CEO Jim Hackett said in a statement. “Ford is deeply committed to providing and nurturing a safe and respectful culture and we expect our leaders to fully uphold these values.”

Nair had been with the company for 31 years, and in 2017 was named to the position of president of North American operations. He had previously served as the company’s CTO, and also ran Ford’s global product development. Nair was broadly in charge of the company’s most ambitious technology efforts, like its attempt to create on-demand mobility services, and its push toward self-driving cars.

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“I sincerely regret that there have been instances where I have not exhibited leadership behaviors consistent with the principles that the Company and I have always espoused,” Nair said in the company’s statement. “I continue to have the utmost faith in the people of Ford Motor Company and wish them continued success in the future.”

This is the second high-profile response to misconduct that Hackett has had to issue in his short tenure as CEO. Days after a New York Times investigative report revealed in December repeated claims of sexual harassment and abuse at two of the company’s factories in Chicago, Hackett released an open letter to employees that asked for employees to speak up about their own experiences.

The new Blu Vivo X has four cameras and costs $249 for a limited time

Today, budget Android phone maker Blu announced its latest flagship handset, the Blu Vivo X. The device’s standout feature is that it has not two or even three, but four cameras. The Blu Vivo X continues the trend of lower-endphones featuring four cameras, with a dual front-facing one for taking selfies and a more powerful dual rear-facing system for standard mobile photography. Blu explains the logic in the press release: “When it comes to cameras, two is better than one, and four is better than two.”

The phone has a six-inch screen with an 18:9 aspect ratio and a 1440 x 720 resolution. The front of the phone is made of curved Gorilla Glass, with a 20-megapixel camera and a 8-megapixel camera to help create a bokeh, or blurred background, effect. The Blu Vivo X’s rear-facing cameras are 13-megapixel and 5-megapixel.

The phone is powered by MediaTek’s Helio 2.6 GHz octa-core CPU, which is supposed to provide “high end flagship performance,” and a non-removable 4,010mAh battery that’s capable of fast charging in under two hours.

Credit: BLU Products

It has 4GB of RAM and 64GB of expandable internal storage. It runs Android Nougat 7.0 out of the box, which is disappointing but expected for a lower-end phone. It has a fingerprint sensor, facial recognition, and a microSD slot.

While the phone’s specs are pretty standard, it’s the selfie features that stand out. There’s a Panorama Selfie mode that uses the camera’s ability to shoot in 120 degrees, a Group Selfie mode “to make sure you don’t miss anyone,” and an option for a softer front-facing flash.

It’s on sale on Amazon for $299.99, but the device is currently discounted down to $249.99. It comes in a single Midnight Black color.

Tesla accused of knowingly selling defective vehicles in new lawsuit

A former Tesla employee claims the company knowingly sold defective cars, often referred to as “lemons,” and that he was demoted and eventually fired after reporting the practice to his superiors. He made these allegations in a lawsuit filed in late January in New Jersey Superior Court under the Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA).

The former employee, Adam Williams, worked for Tesla as a regional manager in New Jersey dating back to late 2011. While there, he says he watched the company fail “to disclose to consumers high-dollar, pre-delivery damage repairs” before delivering its vehicles, according to the complaint. Instead, he says the company sold these cars as “used,” or labeled as “demo/loaner” vehicles.

“There’s no merit to this lawsuit. Mr. Williams’ description of how Tesla sells used or loaner vehicles is totally false and not how we do things at Tesla,” a representative for the company said in response to the lawsuit. “It’s also at odds with the fact that we rank highest in customer satisfaction of any car brand, with more owners saying they’d buy a Tesla again than any other manufacturer. Mr. Williams was terminated at Tesla for performance reasons, not for any other reason.” The lawyer for the plaintiff could not be reached in time for publish.

Williams says in the court filing that he reported this behavior in late 2016 and early 2017 to his supervisor, as well as Lenny Peake, Tesla’s East Coast Regional Manager, and Jerome Guillen, a company vice president. Shortly after that, he claims, he was demoted to service manager of the Springfield, New Jersey Tesla store. He then says he was demoted again later in the year to a “mobile manager” position and was ultimately fired in September 2017.

In the lawsuit, Williams argues that he was terminated for reporting the alleged lawbreaking practices, and he should therefore be covered by CEPA’s whistleblower protection. CEPA is a so-called “whistleblower act” in New Jersey that was put in place to stop employers from retaliating against employees who report, object to, or refuse to participate in what they view as illegal behavior.

This is not the first time Tesla has dealt with a lawsuit that involved accusations of lemon law issues. The company settled a lawsuit with a Model X owner in 2016 who complained about problems with the doors and software of his vehicle.

Snap responds to the 1.2 million petition signers who hate the redesign

Snap has officially responded to a hugely popular Change.org petition calling for the company to walk back the recent redesign of Snapchat. In a message signed by the Snapchat team and posted as a reply to the petition, the company says it’s heard the feedback loud and clear and that it acknowledges how the “new Snapchat has felt uncomfortable for many.” The petition was signed by more than 1.2 million people, a milestone that perhaps prompted Snap leadership to draft a response.

However, Snap essentially goes on in its reply to say tough luck, echoing comments made by CEO Evan Spiegel last week. The company tries to reassure users that the new Snapchat will adapt to them over time, and it also teased a new feature coming soon for iOS and Android that will make it easier to customize your own personal Snapchat with tabs for the Friends and Discover sections of the app. But ultimately it sounds like Snap is saying that its leadership thought long and hard about the redesign and has no intention of reversing the shift.

The reply is basically a more congenial repetition of what Spiegel said at the Goldman Sachs Internet & Technology Conference on Thursday last week, in which he defended the redesign. “The complaints we’re seeing reinforce the philosophy. Even the frustrations we’re seeing really validate those changes,” Spiegel said. “It’ll take time for people to adjust, but for me, using it for a couple months, I feel way more attached to the service.”

A big focus of the redesign was to make Snapchat more palatable to a wider audience, both geographically and with respect to age. Snap needs to add more users and keep its app competitive with Facebook and Facebook-owned properties like Instagram, or else Snap risks turning into the next Twitter — meaning its product hardly grows and executive leadership mostly grasps around in the dark for a viable new strategy to turn a profit.

Following the redesign, but not explicitly because of it, Snap posted its first ever better-than-expected quarterly earnings. So while it will take time to see if the redesign truly helps Snap overcome some of its bigger structural hurdles, it’s safe to say the redesign is here to stay for the foreseeable future, 1 million Change.org petitioners be damned.

Here’s the full text of Snap’s response:

We hear you, and appreciate that you took the time to let us know how you feel. We completely understand the new Snapchat has felt uncomfortable for many.

By putting everything from your friends in one place, our goal was to make it easier to connect with the people you care about most. The new Friends page will adapt to you and get smarter over time, reflecting who you’re most likely to be Snapping with at that moment. This same personalization is also true of the new Discover, which will adapt to you the more that you use it.

Beginning soon on iOS, and with Android in the coming weeks, we are introducing tabs in Friends and Discover, which will make it easier to find the Stories that you want, when you want them. Once you receive the update, you’ll be able to sort things like Stories, Group Chats, and Subscriptions, allowing you to further customize your own experience on the app.

This new foundation is just the beginning, and we will always listen closely to find new ways to make the service better for everyone. We are grateful for your enthusiasm and creativity. We are very excited for what’s ahead.

Dish reveals it has over 2 million Sling TV subscribers

Dish has announced separate numbers for its Sling TV over-the-top subscription service for the first time, and things seem to be looking good, with the company revealing it had over 2 million subscribers by the end of 2017.

That number — 2.212 million, to be exact — represents a 47 percent growth year over year for the streaming service, which Dish claims is the “#1 live and on-demand internet streaming service” available. That works out to a gain of around 700,000 new users in 2017, which isn’t bad, but also means that it’s growing at a slower rate than newer services like DirecTV Now, which picked up over 1 million users last year.

In the past, Dish has combined its Sling TV numbers with its regular Dish TV satellite customers when reporting subscribers, making it difficult to get an idea of how many Sling TV users were actually out there. But the internet streaming service will still have some work to do before it beats out the satellite side of the company, which Dish reported has just over 11 million subscribers.

Black Panther’s Killmonger is the MCU’s Magneto

Bryan Singer’s 2000 X-Men movie marks the beginning of the modern era of superhero blockbusters. But the film doesn’t open with the titular team. The first scene depicts a young Erik Lehnsherr losing his parents at Auschwitz, showing the pain and firsthand experience with the very worst of humanity that led him to become Magneto, the supervillain who has most shaped the X-Men universe. Other villains come and go, but Magneto helped found the X-Men, and as he alternately works alongside or against them, his presence and his decisions are key to defining who they are and what they fight for.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has had some worthy villains, like Loki (played by Tom Hiddleston) and Vulture (Michael Keaton), but until now, it hasn’t had one that could compete with Magneto’s ability to instill fear and sympathy at the same time. It’s no coincidence that Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther also opens with a defining childhood moment for its villain, young Erik Stevens. When his father tells him the story of Wakanda, it sounds like a fairy tale to a boy growing up in Oakland. Erik has been denied the life of Wakandan safety and luxury that should rightly be his. He’s condemned to live without his father in a world of violence, drugs, and racial oppression. He comes to advocate for Wakanda to become a colonial power the way Magneto often pushes for genocide against non-mutants. Both men have learned from the examples of their oppressors, and seek to replicate them in ways that would put their own people on top.

Image: 20th Century Fox

What makes both villains so compelling is the righteous power of their arguments. Until now, the MCU’s villains have been largely unsympathetic, from Iron Man’s Obadiah Stane (Jeff Bridges), who is driven by petty greed, all the way to Thor: Ragnaroks Hela (Cate Blanchett) who is fueled by violent megalomania. Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) and Magneto (played in different iterations of the films by Ian McKellen and Michael Fassbender) rightly seek to protect their people from injustice. The X-Men franchise has shown over and over that Magneto isn’t wrong about the threat homo sapiens present to homo superior, as mutants face threats of extinction from psychic assault, a weaponized cure, the Sentinels program, and, most bizarrely and successfully, soft drinks. Likewise, Black Panther doesn’t shy away from depicting how people of African descent have been treated for centuries, from slavery to the assassination of civil rights leaders to racial profiling. Both Killmonger and his father N’Jobu (Sterling K. Brown) advocate an extreme and murderous response, but Wakanda’s isolation from the world, and its refusal to engage with oppression and poverty, are equally unforgivable.

In both Black Panther and the X-Men films, the heroes — Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart / James McAvoy) and T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) — have to confront enemies that are dark mirrors of themselves, the people they might have been, had life just been a bit crueler. That point is particularly driven home in the poignant visions both T’Challa and Killmonger experience as part of the ritual to gain the power of the Black Panther. Both men lost their fathers to violence, but T’Challa faces King T’Chaka as a strong man who has been well prepared for this loss and the responsibility that comes with it. His vision carries some sadness, but the dominant emotion is pride. Killmonger confronts N’Jobu as a scared child who is left stunted by trauma. N’Jobu has been avenged, he has an heir to his quest to help create a violent resistance to white oppression, and yet it’s clear that what he feels most is regret.

Image: Marvel Studios

Both Magneto and Killmonger also stand out because they’re presented not just alongside the heroes, but alongside other villains. Magneto only turns to genocide after William Stryker attempts it in X2. He agrees with Sebastian Shaw that conflict between mutants and humans is inevitable, but still foils his plans to start a nuclear war in X-Men: First Class. Magneto can work with the X-Men to stop other villains because his views aren’t so extreme that they leave no common ground. Likewise, Killmonger is contrasted against both Ulysses Klaue and M’Baku. Klaue feels like an acknowledgment of the MCU’s usual villain problem. He’s defined by a mix of snark and greed that would make him feel at home in the Iron Man franchise. He assumes he’s in control, and he treats Killmonger as a hired thug. Their power dynamic is racially tinged, but Killmonger clearly cultivates it by playing to Klaue’s expectations, adopting a gangster persona that he quickly drops when his true goals are in sight. Likewise, M’Baku and Killmonger both challenge T’Challa to a fight to the death for leadership, but one is gracious in defeat, while the other is ruthless in victory. M’Baku is a feint for comic book fans who recognize the name of Black Panther’s enemy, Man-Ape. But in this film, he’s not a villain, just a man who shows that power can be tested and accepted mercifully.

Having villains who can put forth more than straw-man arguments strengthens both franchises’ heroes by forcing them to not only fight evil, but to find a better way to do good. Again, Black Panther actually exceeds X-Men’s example by having Killmonger help change T’Challa’s mind. Xavier starts feeling that humans and mutants should be able to live in peace, and that view never really changes. T’Challa believes his duty is to his country, and he abandons responsibility for the rest of the people of Africa until he’s confronted with the price his family paid to maintain that isolation. Suffering leads Killmonger and Magneto to adopt their oppressors’ paradigms, attempting to flip the power structure to put themselves on top. Whether it’s uniting persecuted mutants or appealing to Wakanda’s more vengeful elements, they only fan the flames of tribal divisions, which the heroes must rise above. “More connects us than separates us,” T’Challa says near the end of Black Panther, repudiating Killmonger’s conclusion even as he takes action to solve the wrongs that motivated his cousin.

Image: Marvel Studios

Magneto is such a compelling, memorable villain that the X-Men producers keep bringing him back, at this point in six films. When the franchise rebooted with First Class, he again gets the first scene, solidifying his place as perhaps the series’ most important character. So have Black Panther writers Ryan Coogler and Joe Robert Cole failed the MCU by killing off its best villain to date? The MCU already has a recurring villain in Loki, yet another villain who opens a hero’s movie. (His origin story is the first thing shown in Thor.) Like Magneto, his kinship with Thor (Chris Hemsworth) makes him capable of working alongside the hero to deal with greater threats. But Thor is actually the one who challenges Loki to grow as a person by overcoming the feelings of jealousy and abandonment that drive his actions. After Thor: Ragnarok, Loki seems to be leaning heavily toward anti-heroism, leaving the MCU in need of a worthy full-bore antagonist to fill his role.

It’s unlikely that Thanos can, no matter how often MCU movies tease his eventual arrival in the Infinity War movies. Magneto and Killmonger are compelling because they have deeply relatable motivations, but it’s going to be much harder to humanize Thanos’ desire to collect a bunch of cosmic McGuffins and rule the galaxy. But maybe Thanos will have some help carrying Avengers:Infinity War. In his last scene with Killmonger, T’Challa offers to heal his cousin’s wound, but Killmonger says he wants to die and be buried at sea. Considering how much Black Panther focuses on death, burial, and the importance of public ritual, it’s conspicuous and noticeable that the audience never sees that wish carried out. A portion of Infinity War will take place in Wakanda, which presents an incredible opportunity to challenge Killmonger’s beliefs by presenting him with the choice of whether to work with Thanos or fight against him: whether to be like Magneto in X2 or in X-Men: Apocalypse. Dramatic character death is rarely final in the world of superhero comics, and hopefully Killmonger’s isn’t final either. Otherwise, the MCU might spend another 13 years looking for its next truly great villain.