Black Panther, for the most part, exists as a very standalone entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe; while it picks up directly from the end of Captain America: Civil War and ends with a seismic impact on the wider MCU, it's focused almost entirely on the land of Wakanda. However, one key piece of world-building introduces a confusing contradiction.
The MCU has become notorious for each movie introducing some contradiction with facts presented in a previous film - perhaps most high-profile Spider-Man: Homecoming saying it was set eight years after The Avengers, despite most common fan timelines putting it at only four - to the point that head producer Kevin Feige has even spoken out and said Marvel Studios plans to release an official timeline. In the meantime, the hope has been these flubs would be averted.
Now, Black Panther doesn't break the continuity by any stretch, but there is still a focal scene from Captain America: Civil War that the film calls out yet doesn't actually allow to fit - and in the process reveals what Marvel's really up to.
This Page: Bucky Doesn't Fit Into Black Panther
When Is Black Panther In The Marvel Timeline?
The MCU Phase 3 timeline doesn't match up at all with the release order, something that is most clearly seen with the movies surrounding Captain America: Civil War; the 2016 team-up has already been followed directly by both 2017's Spider-Man: Homecoming, with Ant-Man & The Wasp also reportedly taking place in its aftermath, and Black Panther slots right in there; it's explicitly stated in the film T'Challa is returning home directly following his father's death to take the throne, presumably less than a week after Zemo's capture. The in-universe length of the film itself is unclear, but we know there's no major time jump between his coronation and Killmonger's assault, leading us to theorize it's about a week or two.
This means that Black Panther is actually set two years prior to its release - around the same time as the early stages of Homecoming and a year or two before his return in Avengers: Infinity War. It's a clearly stated, yet unobvious detail that speaks to the film's standalone nature and Marvel's layered integration of films. However, the macro thinking has led to many problems before and introduces another here.
Bucky Doesn't Fit Into Black Panther
Wakanda was introduced in Captain America: Civil War's mid-credits scene, with T'Challa putting Bucky Barnes on ice while he found a cure for his Hydra brainwashing. This thread is resolved in Black Panther's post-credits scenes where Bucky is shown on the road to recovery with Shuri. Because the Winter Soldier not in the movie, we don't know when either sequence takes place, but the inference is that Civil War's is shortly after the film's events and Black Panther's between the finale and Infinity War.
The problem is, even with this wide time period, that doesn't quite line up. In Black Panther, we see T'Challa's first return to Wakanda following Civil War, after which he becomes King the next day before swiftly heading to South Korea. When returning from the mission against Klaue, he brings with him an injured Everett Ross, to which Shuri remarks "Oh great, another broken white boy for me to fix." This implies that Bucky is already in Wakanda and she's working on getting him better, yet there's been no time within the plot for the putting under scene to take place.
For cracking MCU timeline problems, we usually ignore TV shows and in-universe comics because they come from a different branch of Marvel Entertainment and can easily present conflicting information, although it's worth adding that this doesn't fit with the Avengers: Infinity War Prelude comic either. That has Cap and Bucky heading to Wakanda for help "weeks later". It's purposefully vague, but the intonation would be this takes place after Black Panther, directly contradicting Shuri's in-movie line.
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