SPOILERS IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN AVENGERS: INFINITY WARThe Marvel Cinematic Universe as we know it is ending.
Though we are a few movies away from it yet, the events in Avengers: Infinity War have begun to set the tone for what future movies from Marvel Studios may look like.
It’s no coincidence that at the end of Infinity War that the characters left standing are the old guard – Steve Rogers, Tony Stark, Natasha Romanoff, Bruce Banner and Thor – the ones who have held the weight of the MCU on their shoulders. Those who turned to dust at the snap of Thanos’s fingers – Bucky Barnes, Peter Parker, T’Challa, Stephen Strange – may have been a part of the MCU for a movie or more now, but the bulk of their stories are largely untold.
Whatever ends up happening in Avengers 4, whether that means that beloved characters are killed off, walk away from the lives that they’ve known, we have no way of truly anticipating. Infinity War dealt us a hand that I wasn’t expecting, so I’m expecting the next Avengers film to do the same.
That being said, it is the perfect time for rampant speculation as to what the next Avengers film might bring, and what direction the future of the MCU might point their compass toward. Storylines from which the MCU has borrowed from the comics are plentiful, and they have deviated from well known storylines to try something different once in a while too. However, no matter what the landscape of the MCU looks like going forward, it’s becoming quite apparent that there are going to be characters who won’t be coming back, at least not in the capacity that we’re used to seeing them.
One of those being Chris Evans’s Steve Rogers aka Captain America.
It’s been the topic of many an article the past few months. Chris Evans’s contract with Marvel is just about complete, with the next Avengers movie slated to be his last. While many have interpreted this as he’s quitting Marvel, I don’t think it’s outside the realm of possibility that after the next film that he’d come back for an appearance or two. Do I think it’s likely? It’s hard to say. Evans has expressed interest in doing other projects and spending more time behind the camera. And again, this all depends on how Avengers 4 shakes out. Will Cap be killed, or will he live to see another day, but no longer take up the shield?
Considering he left that shield behind in Captain America: Civil War, no matter what the outcome I don’t think he’ll be picking it up again.
But the MCU needs a Captain America.
So who should wield the shield?
Marvel has been rather mum on what Bucky’s future looks like. And quite frankly, they’re under no obligation to tell us. They’ve even given him a new moniker – White Wolf. Whether this is a nod to the direction his character will be heading in, or something meant to throw us off the scent of their true plans remains to be seen. But what we do know is that they have spent three Captain America movies foreshadowing that Bucky might take up the mantle of Captain America.
In The First Avenger, he grabs the shield while fighting off a HYDRA henchman before he plummets from the train. In The Winter Soldier, he catches the shield a few times as Steve throws it at him, holding onto it for longer than he probably should before throwing it back. In Civil War, during the fight between our favourite beefy senior citizens and Tony, Bucky uses the shield to deflect Tony’s blaster. He also uses it in tandem with Steve and solitarily during the big fight at the end when he and Steve are pummeling Tony. There’s also a deleted scene from Civil War, where Bucky laments “I’ve got to get me one of those,” after using the shield to deflect fire from War Machine during the battle at the airport.
Are these scenes all meant to be foreshadowing or are they simply not-so-subtle nods to fans of the comics? Who’s to say? I’m sure we’ll find out eventually.
But I do think that Marvel would be remiss to not tackle the idea of Bucky Barnes taking up the shield. Even if it were only for one film. And if only because Bucky is a very different Captain America than his best friend. Just as seeing Steve playing a Captain America who isn’t really Captain America in Infinity War, seeing Marvel continue to shake up our idea of the character would be very welcomed.
In a recent interview with BUILD Series (you will need a subscription to watch), Sebastian Stan doesn’t confirm or deny the possibility of Bucky becoming Captain America. To be fair, I don’t think he knows, and even if he did he’s let enough spoilers slip that I’m pretty sure that the Russos and Kevin Feige might actually kill him if he dropped one more. Regardless, he does think that Bucky would be a much different Captain America than the current iteration.
“I mean, look, it would have to be a very different, quote, Captain America. It just wouldn’t be the same. It would be interesting…in the comic books it was always interesting because there’s an emotional turmoil, there was a guilt there that was driving for me as a character, because it’s Steve absence. It sort of felt like the guy had to once again carry on this vision that his best friend had for years and what he stood for. And that struggle, have that kinda coming into conflict with someone who’s still grappling with their own past and what is the right thing to do now.
And if you have a character who’s always searching and forgetting an identity and finally gets an identity only to have to lose it again to an idea, then it makes for a complex take on it. So if they were ever to explore that it would be a very different, definitely way darker take on the situation.”
First of all, fans of Bucky are blessed to have an actor who loves Bucky as much as they do playing this character, treating him with such care, and really getting him. I often joke that no one loves Bucky Barnes more than Sebastian Stan, but I’m not entirely convinced that’s untrue. His exasperated looks during the press tour for The Winter Soldier when Bucky was referred to as a villain continue to give me life.
Second of all, this all goes pretty much in line with how Bucky as Captain America is portrayed in the comics (or, as Peter Parker calls him – much to his chagrin – Bucky Cap). After Steve Rogers is assassinated during the Civil War arc, Bucky takes up the shield, almost somewhat begrudgingly. The world needs Captain America, and as Stan says, he feels obligated to carry on the vision of his friend.
But Bucky is a very different person than Steve, so naturally he would be a very different Captain America than Steve. This is especially apparent in the stories where Bucky is Captain America, and not Winter Soldier.
In his role as Winter Soldier (after he’s free of the KGB, has served a stint as Captain America, and then faked his death because comics), Bucky works covert missions with partner in the streets and in the sheets, Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow. He’s back to being a ghost, and he seems more comfortable this way. There’s less expected of him, and fewer people that he can potentially let down. But as Captain America, there’s no hiding – he’s front and center and he doesn’t entirely want to be.
There are a lot of missteps in his missions as Captain America. Not to say that Steve wouldn’t have also found himself kidnapped and chained up in the lairs of villains (I think this may have happened to Bucky more than once), but Bucky tackles problems in a much different way. Usually in ways that involve a lot more brute force and stabbing – which the bad guys rarely anticipate, because Captain America usually bomps baddies on the head with his shield. Bucky, on the other hand, will stab and shoot his way through enemies if he has to (and generally seems to prefer to). He doesn’t think of himself as a good man, still plagued and haunted by guilt of what he did as Winter Soldier, and is still mourning the loss of his oldest and best friend. Bucky becomes Captain America because he thinks it’s the right thing to do and Steve wanted it for him, not necessarily because it’s what he wants to do.
Before Steve is assassinated in the Civil War arc, he sends a package to Tony, including a note asking him to “save” Bucky (who up until then has remained in hiding after getting his memories back). Bucky struggles with what could only be explained as survivor’s guilt and imposter syndrome – he lives while Steve dies, and he feels that he will never have an iota of goodness that Steve ever did.
This would tie in remarkably well into the films. Bucky is someone who is still recovering from being the Winter Soldier, from decades of being used as a weapon and not knowing who he is, who has struggled to remember his past. And while he seems to have been getting the help he needs in Wakanda, he’s not fully healed yet, and will never be the same eager boy we first saw in The First Avenger. All that bravado we saw before he shipped out to war has long since faded. It’s also worth noting that in the MCU that while Steve was trying every damn way that he could to enlist that Bucky was drafted into the war (the first digits of the serial number that Bucky is mumbling in the HYDRA base when Steve finds him correspond with the digits of someone from New York who would’ve been drafted). While Bucky’s bravado and posturing is likely something that has always been a part of him in the MCU, a lot of how we saw him behave just before shipping out was likely for Steve’s benefit.
While Steve couldn’t have possibly envisioned a life where he woke up seventy years in the future and had to fight aliens, when he agreed to be part of Doctor Erskine’s program he was signing up for something that he knew would be strange. One could easily make the argument that there is no way in hell that any of this was what Bucky wanted. His agency has been stripped from him again and again, and in taking up the shield he’s given a choice for the first time in so many lifetimes. And while it may not be the choice he would’ve necessarily made had his friend not died and wanted this life for him, it’s still a choice.
Regardless of what the MCU ends up doing with Steve, he’s not going to be around much anymore – if at all. Bucky’s past as an agent of HYDRA makes the transition of a Bucky Cap storyline from comics to film seem like a no-brainer. They’ve laid the groundwork, albeit in a slightly different way, it would still feel like the natural direction to go in. But MCU Bucky is very much a reflection of comics Bucky.
Bucky’s time as Captain America is less about feeling a sense of duty to his country than it is a sense of duty to his friend. Given how much Marvel seems to love bringing these two together only to rip them apart again, I think Bucky taking up the shield would serve as a way for him to remain close to Steve after he’s gone. While Steve is reckless with his decisions as Captain America when it comes to Bucky in the films, but I think the opposite could be said of Bucky if he were Captain America making decisions because of Steve.
Yes, in the comics some of his ideas are terrible and involve him getting into messes that could’ve been avoided if he just gave it a bit more thought, but he seems a little less reckless when he’s Captain America, and that’s in part because of how he wants to treat Steve’s legacy.
Even after Steve comes back (his essence was “locked into a fixed point in space and time” and he was made to relive events in his life, so he wasn’t really dead) Bucky still continues to serve as Captain America, while Steve takes on a different role within the comics as Commander Rogers, which he stays in until Bucky is “killed” and Steve takes up the mantle again.
Seriously, no one in Marvel stays dead with the exception of Uncle Ben.
Would I like to see Bucky as Captain America in the MCU?
I’d love it.
This has been something that I wanted since I was aware of the inclusion of Bucky in the MCU, and has become something that I’ve needed since that first scene in which he picks up the shield. Though contracts and terms change, Sebastian has signed on for a nine picture deal with Marvel, and these often don’t include any cameos. So there’s still a lot of him left in this franchise yet.
What the studio decided to do with Bucky Barnes at this point is anyone’s guess. But I’ll be over here hoping that when the dust of whatever (likely) horrific events take place in the next Avengers film, that the person to carry on Steve’s legacy will be Bucky.
What do you think? Is Bucky the Captain American we need?
Did you miss our Infinity Wars Chat? Watch it here:
Written by Megan
Current Obsessions: Megan is a freelance writer from Canada, who was born on one coast and now lives on the other. Her day job is at a local research university, but she’s eagerly awaiting the day when she can focus on her writing full time. Though she’s a 90’s girl, she has an inexplicable fondness for the 80’s. She’s been watching hockey since she was in diapers, and will immediately shut down any mansplaining of the sport. She misses the snow in winter, right up until there’s some on the ground for longer than a week, then she longs for summer. Megan is a self-identified habitual ruckus causer and feminist tornado, though asking those close to her would confirm these descriptions.