WARNING: This article contains major SPOILERS for Avengers: Endgame.
Avengers: Endgame introduced the next Captain America, but it isn't Bucky Barnes. Ever since Bucky became an integral part of the MCU, many believed he would go on to take over the role as Cap after Steve Rogers' time ran out. Instead, Steve passed the red, white, and blue shield over to Sam Wilson, aka the Falcon. The decision actually makes a ton of sense when digging deeper into Bucky's arc.
The character of Bucky Barnes made his MCU debut in Captain America: The First Avenger. He was thought to have died in WWII until he reappeared in Captain America: The Winter Soldier as the brainwashed HYDRA assassin, Winter Soldier. After sparring for most of the film, Steve successfully reminded his oldest friend about his true identity. It isn't until the end of Captain America: Civil War that Bucky is granted sanctuary in Wakanda so that that he can fully heal and regain his memories. This is when Bucky gained the nickname "White Wolf," which might provide clues that his future will be far more different than his comic book background.
Bucky was introduced as a sidekick to Steve Rogers in Captain America Comics #1, dating back to 1941. He did eventually become the Winter Soldier, but it wasn't until 2008 that he took the reins as Captain America, after Steve was fatally shot. The request from Steve was made prior to his death. Even though Steve turned out to actually survive the gunshot, he still personally supported Bucky as the new Captain America. It took a while, but Bucky eventually embraced his new persona as America's hero. So why didn't the movies follow the same path?
Many fans would have enjoyed seeing Bucky become the next Cap, but he's forging a separate identity. Bucky is now the White Wolf, a name given to him by the Wakandan people. There is a White Wolf character in the comics but he doesn't have much in common with Bucky other than his connection to Wakanda. The White Wolf from the comics was the adopted brother of T'Challa and he worked as a mercenary for his new home. With little backstory, there is much more freedom to further develop Bucky's White Wolf alter ego.
In the closing scenes of Endgame, Steve Rogers travels back in time to return the Infinity Stones back in their rightful spots in the MCU timeline. Rather than come right back, he decides to live out his life with his one true love, Peggy Carter. An old version of Steve is then seen sitting on a bench near the time portal as he somehow knew to return to that exact spot. Bucky urges Sam to go to Steve, almost as if the White Wolf knew what his oldest friend was about to do. Steve worked alongside Sam many times and there's an obvious amount of trust between the two. Steve passes the Captain America mantle to Sam, who is hesitant at first but ultimately accepts the shield. Sam Wilson has notably taken over as Captain America more recently in the comics after Steve aged rapidly so it seems the MCU is following more in line with that path.
Now that the plan for the next Captain America is sorted out, Marvel can fully portray Bucky as the full-fledged White Wolf. This, along with Sam's journey in becoming the next Cap, will undoubtedly be the focus of the upcoming Disney+ series, Falcon & Winter Soldier. Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan are reprising their roles for the series, which is expected to debut within the first year of the streaming service's release. Avengers: Endgame helps set up the new series but the title is now a little confusing considering that Falcon and Winter Soldier are transforming into new alter egos.
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