WARNING: This article contains SPOILERS for Black Panther
The Black Panther movie brought Bucky back into Marvel's universe - and once again teases a Captain America role in his future. The record-breaking Black Panther movie stands mainly on its own two feet in terms of the large MCU, setting up the coming Infinity War but without sacrificing its own story to do it. The result is a solo movie so successful, fans may have forgotten to wait through the end credits for not one, but two post-credits scenes. The second of which answering the lingering question of how Bucky Barnes would return to the MCU.
The return of Bucky in the final stinger of Black Panther was really only a 'spoiler' for those not up to date on Marvel's movies. After all, Infinity War's trailer confirmed Bucky would return - making his actual first appearance largely redundant. And after seeing Black Panther, most fans might take his scene as nothing more than surface level. But pay attention to the details, and it seems Marvel can't help teasing Bucky's possible promotion to Captain America.
Especially now that Steve Rogers has left the Captain America shield behind. Is Bucky bound for the hero's role, at long last?
Bucky Returns... Wearing Captain America's Colors
After T'Challa announces his intentions to open Wakanda to the world to the United Nations, the final post-credits scene addressed the question casual fans might have missed entirely. After Steve Rogers escorted Bucky to Wakanda for his own protection... what happened to the former 'Winter Soldier'? Thanks to an Infinity War prequel comic, we know that Shuri cures Bucky of his brainwashing. But Black Panther takes another step forward, showing Bucky recovering in a quiet home far from the hustle and bustle of Wakanda's cities.
He doesn't say much when Shuri returns to welcome him back to the world, and promise that he has much to learn about how its changed since he went under. We can assume that part of that lesson includes Steve Rogers becoming a global fugitive, and disappearing from the heroic landscape completely. And for fans of Marvel Comics who have hoped that the "Captain America" is now open for Bucky to claim... Marvel may be thinking the same thing.
At least judging by Bucky clothes. Steve's best friend went into his coma in a white undershirt. But when he wakes, he's wrapped in red and blue. Colors that are anything but random - and form only the latest hint of what Stars-and-Stripes hero identity may lie in his future.
The speculation around Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) giving up the heroic title and signature shield has been there from the very beginning. Even without much to go on, the conversation was valid, since the same succession took place in the comics... and Rogers (nor Evans) could play the part forever. Where previous superhero franchises had recast and rebooted as they liked, the Marvel 'shared universe' suggested a different logic. If Cap was going to hand the shield to anyone... well, the filmmakers clearly had a frontrunner in mind.
Fans of Bucky Barnes didn't need any actual evidence to justify their stance, but Marvel gave it to them anyway in playful teases. When Bucky wielded Cap's shield shortly before his "death" in The First Avenger, it seemed a loving nod. When he returned as the Winter Soldier and wielded it again in combat, it was a bit more compelling. With Bucky returning to the world of the heroic in Civil War, and using the shield in tandem with Steve... well, suspicions could only build. Now, even Sebastian Stan supports Bucky's Captain America promotion.
Now that we know Black Panther returns the rebooted Bucky, and Steve Rogers is no longer Captain America, the dominoes appear to be falling. Who know? We may look back on this Black Panther post-credits scene as the first step Bucky took on his new path to Captain America. In which case, Coogler's decision to wrap him in the red and blue and stand 'ready to learn' gets even better.
Until then, we'll keep our theories and speculation spinning. Let us know what YOU think of the teases, and whether Marvel really is hinting at Bucky continuing Steve's legacy.