ADVANCE AT YOUR OWN RISK, FOR HERE THERE BE SPOILERS.
The latest instalment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Black Panther, isn’t just smashing box office records – it seems the film may have teased Bucky Barnes’ (Sebastian Stan) future in the franchise.
And if it’s right, Captain America’s old army buddy won’t be the one to pick up the shield.
At the end of Captain America: Civil War, Steve (Chris Evans) took a one-armed Bucky to Wakanda, so they could take refuge after Barnes was framed for an attack on the U.N. and Team Cap ended up on the run from the government. The post-credits scene of the film saw Bucky voluntarily return to cryo-stasis until the time came that he could be cured of his brainwashing.
Despite the Avengers: Infinity War prelude comic revealing that Steve and Bucky didn’t arrive in Wakanda until a few weeks after the events of Civil War, the one-armed assassin does make a brief appearance in Black Panther’s post-credits scene, after having been referenced in the larger story.
It’s in this post-credits scene that a small amount of dialogue hints to Bucky’s future in the Marvel Universe.
Earlier in the film, when T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), and Okoye (Danai Gurira) back an injured Everett Ross (Martin Freeman) back to Wakanda, Shuri (Letitia Wright) says “You’ve brought me another broken white boy for us to fix.”
In obvious reference to Bucky.
However, in the post-credits scene, Bucky isn’t in a Wakandan lab, still in cryo-stasis. Oh no, he’s shown walking around a remote Wakandan village, still left limb-less, but sporting a more casual look than we’re familiar with. Based on the Civil War scene mid-credits, and the Infinity War prelude, we know that Shuri has been working to cure Bucky of his Hydra brainwashing. And though he’s obviously made progress, there’s probably still a long way to go until he reaches the point of recovery he’s at in Infinity War.
— Checketts (@jorchecks) February 19, 2018
Though it isn’t the talk of recovery that’s an interesting revelation on the character moving forward.
During the scene, Bucky is referred to as “White Wolf.” To the regular MCU fan, this may not seem overly significant, however die-hard comic fans will recognise White Wolf as being another character from the comicbooks. So, this nickname may not just be a simple Marvel Easter egg – it may point to Bucky’s future.
First appearing in 1999, White Wolf is the mantle adopted by a character called Hunter, a white child who survived a plane crash in Wakanda, and was then granted citizenship by King T’Chaka. Taken under the King’s wing, it was thought that he would be the one to take the Wakandan throne – until the birth of T’Challa.
Hunter grew to be appointed leader of the Hatut Zeraze (Wakanda’s secret police) and here took on the persona of the “White Wolf.” However, when T’Challa ascended to the throne, and disbanded the Hatut Zeraze, the members of the team left Wakanda in order to become mercenaries.
It was thought, in the early days of Black Panther’s production, that White Wolf would appear in the film – though now it has been released, we know this isn’t the case, and moreover, it seems that Hunter will not be introduced in the MCU at all. Should the studio have wanted to introduce the character, they would have had to do so in Black Panther, but instead they adapted Erik Killmonger’s (Michael B. Jordan) story from the comics, in order for his arc to more closely resemble that of Hunter.
Working it this way leaves Marvel Studios with the option to attach the persona to an already-established character. Perhaps an ex-Hydra assassin looking for a new identity?
Should Bucky take on the moniker of White Wolf, this will obvious mean that he will not become Captain America, which many fans had assumed would be the case since Sebastian Stan’s return in The Winter Soldier. In fact, a moment in The Winter Soldier that saw Bucky hold the shield, and the knowledge that Stan has been contracted for more films that current Cap, Chris Evans, seemed to be obvious foreshadowing of him being poised to takeover the role when Evans inevitably departs.
However, the introduction of Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) threw this ‘fact’ out the window, as in the same year he appeared in The Winter Soldier, Marvel Comics announced that Sam Wilson, a.k.a. The Falcon, would take up the mantle of Captain America. Ever since, this has sparked debate over who is more likely to take Steve Rogers’ place after Avengers 4.
We already know that Steve has moved away from the Captain America title in Infinity War, perhaps in favour of the more fitting Nomad mantle, as he is sporting a very different look, along with the removal of any and all patriotic symbols from his costume, and the abandonment of his shield at the end of Civil War. So, it would make sense for Bucky to follow his friend’s lead and abandon his former identity in favour of something new, and considering Wakanda is where he has been “reborn” as a new man, White Wolf would be the perfect choice.
Becoming the White Wolf would cement Bucky’s ties to Wakanda as the MCU moves forward, and with Black Panther set to play a big role in his own standalone franchise, we may see Bucky move from being a supporting character in the Captain America franchise to an ally of T’Challa in further Black Panther movies.
What do you think – is Bucky set to become the White Wolf? Or will he ascend to the role of Captain America?
Marvel’s Black Panther is in cinemas now.