Warning: MAJOR SPOILERS for Black Panther ahead.
The latest installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Black Panther, reveals the future character arc for Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) aka. Winter Soldier, who will don the comic book mantle of White Wolf - NOT Captain America like many Marvel Studios fans thought.
James Buchanan "Bucky" Barnes was introduced as a supporting character in Captain America: The First Avenger. He was Steve Rogers' (Chris Evans) best friend growing up, and became a member of Captain America's Howling Commandos until he seeming died. But, as was revealed in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Bucky was saved by Hydra scientists and turned into a brainwashed killing machine - he was also given a vibranium arm. Steve was able to trigger some of Bucky's memories in The Winter Soldier and, after the events of the second Captain America film, began searching for his old friend.
Captain America: Civil War saw Bucky framed for an attack on the U.N. that killed T'Challa's (Chadwick Boseman) father, T'Chaka (John Kani). Steve's protection of Bucky from Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and T'Challa/Black Panther lead to a rift between the Avengers and their allies - especially when Tony learned the Winter Soldier killed his parents. Civil War concluded with Steve, Bucky and their friends on the run, with some taking refuge in Wakanda. The Captain America: Civil War post-credits scene depicted Bucky going back into cryo-stasis voluntarily until a cure could be found for his brainwashing.
While fans wondered if Bucky would show up in Black Panther since we last saw him and Steve in Wakanda, it seemed unlikely - especially since the Avengers: Infinity War prelude comic revealed Steve and Bucky didn't arrive in Wakanda until a few weeks after Civil War. However, Black Panther does make a brief reference to Bucky in the main film. Then, Bucky appears in the Black Panther post-credits scene and one brief bit of dialogue in this scene offers a major hint toward Bucky's future in the MCU.
How Does Black Panther’s Post-Credits Scene Set Up Bucky’s MCU Future?
The Black Panther mid-credits scene indicates Wakanda will have a much more open philosophy with sharing their vibranium and technology with the rest of the world, effectively setting the stage for the country to have a bigger role in the MCU moving forward. But the Black Panther post-credits scene specifically focuses on Bucky's recovery in Wakanda. Earlier in the film, after T'Challa, Nakia (Lupita Nyong'o) and Okoye (Danai Gurira) bring Everett Ross (Martin Freeman) back to the country after he's injured, Shuri (Letitia Wright) makes the comment, "You've brought me another broken white boy for us to fix." This is a blatant reference to Bucky.
However, instead of depicting Bucky in one of Wakanda's labs, sleeping in cyro-stasis, the Black Panther post-credits scene shows he is up and walking about in what appears to be a remote Wakandan village. Based on the Civil War mid-credits scene and the Avengers: Infinity War prelude comic, we know Shuri has been working on curing Bucky of the brainwashing done by Hydra. Though he's certainly made progress thanks to Shuri, Bucky likely has a ways to go before he gets to the point of recovery where he'll be in Avengers: Infinity War. Still, his recovery isn't the only hint of Bucky's upcoming character arc in the MCU.
In this scene, Bucky is referred to as "White Wolf." While some moviegoers may not know the significance of that particular nickname, Marvel Studios may have disguised key information as mere a Easter egg. Comics fans will recognize the mantle of White Wolf as a character from the Marvel books, and while it's possible this is simply an Easter egg for diehard fans, it's more likely an indicator of Bucky's character arc in future MCU movies.
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