If you want to "shield" yourself from wild speculation, turn back now, because Sebastian Stan is once again waving Old Glory in front of our faces. We have varying rumors from "now" to "never" on when Chris Evans will shuffle out of the MCU, and even then, it is unlikely to be permanent. However, the hot tip to put on some star-spangled pantaloons when it eventually does happen is Stan's Bucky Barnes.
A recent post on Stan's Instagram has him proudly displaying a Captain America-esque shield, sporting his Winter Soldier star at its center. It looks pretty good paired up with that metallic arm of his, as Colossus will tell you, metals are in this season. The post comes with the caption:
"Excuse me...where's the restroom?" A big thank you and shout out to Casey McBroom @shield_labs for making this for me. Will come in handy…"
Many are focusing on "will come in handy" to signal his rise to the role of First Avenger. Kevin Feige talks quite openly about recasting some of the major players and Captain America: Civil War certainly set the stage for the fall of Steve Rogers, leading many people to ask, "When will Captain America hang up his shield?" Barnes may be the boy of the hour, but if Sebastian Stan does find himself down on his "Buck," let's look at who else could frisbee that vibranium shield.
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1. Isaiah Bradley
Dubbed the "Black Captain America," Bradley was turned into Cap by an offshoot of the original Super Soldier program, codenamed Project: Rebirth. Featuring in the 2003 series Truth: Red, White & Black, Bradley became a cult favorite despite his short tenure in the role. Sadly the timelines don't currently match up and Isaiah is another from a bygone era. Marvel would have to pop him out of the deep freeze if he were ever going to be Captain America.
2. William Naslund
The first "real" replacement to Rogers, William Naslund was appointed the Captain America moniker when Rogers went MIA, presumed dead. Naslund could tie-in well to the MCU because he took on the role after both Bucky and Rogers vanish — say on a trip to Wakanda (wink wink). However, if he were to carry the shield, don't expect it to be for long. Naslund was crushed to death in action by a gaint robot — nexxxxxt!
3. Jeffrey Mace
Another story that would need modernizing; Jeffrey Mace worked as a reporter at the Daily Bugle prior to WWII. You can't really have Mace without Naslund, but his role at The Bugle could closer tie us to Spideyverse than before. Secondly, we have already seen Mace in Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., portrayed by Jason O'Mara, when he was appointed as the new director of the organization. This mace was also a powerful Inhuman too (the full package). While it looks like the Inhumans solo film will be retooled as a TV series, this could be one way to introduce them into the larger MCU, plus the part is already cast.
4. John Walker
With Rogers dropping his shield at the end of Civil War it certainly looked like he was done. We know that this isn't the case, but we could introduce John Walker as a preliminary replacement. Walker took on the Cap costume for a more violent version of his predecessors, while Rogers resigns for being fed up with the US government. Rogers eventually confronts Walker about his temper and reckless crime fighting skills, so convinced of the error of his ways, Walker retires as Captain America. A faked assassination and his return as the hero US agent meant that his crime-fighting didn't end there, he was appointed warden of prison The Raft and had a part in Civil War II, as well as a showdown with...
5. Sam Wilson
Apart from Barnes, the next easiest person to have pick up the shield would be Sam Wilson. After being introduced as Falcon, Wilson is also the most recent comic book character to take on Captain America, so it could nicely bring the movies up to date with their paper counterparts. After the Super Soldier serum in Rogers's blood began to decay his body, he "officially" handed over to Wilson, who believed that Cap should be more than just a symbol. The Sam Wilson from the MCU first appeared in The Winter Soldier and Anthony Mackie has gone on to add some much-needed comic relief to the films — particularly his part in Ant-Man. Get used to at least Falcon sticking around for a while, although I'm not sure about him being Captain America just yet.
Back to Barnes though — the image has him lifting the vibranium shield, and we all know where there is an abundant supply of that metal lying around: Book your tickets to Wakanda. The current version of Barnes doesn't look like he is going anywhere, having taken refuge in cryo-sleep at the end of Civil War. However, he is (conveniently) in Wakanda until his brainwashing can be cured. With the upcoming Black Panther film spending some time in the legendary land with the Wakandans, it could be time for Rogers to hand over the baton.
This wouldn't be the first time we have been teased though, it looks like Stan himself is at the mercy of Marvel, telling one convention:
"I'll say this: They sure like to dangle a cheese in front of my nose a lot. They're like 'Oh yeah, that's where you pick up the shield,' and I'm like, 'Yeah, I've heard that one before. There it is again.'"
Of course he could just be thanking the people at Shield Labs for giving a snazzy little piece of movie memorabilia. We do know that Stan is signed on for a nine-film contract, while he has officially only done Winter Soldier and Civil War (First Avenger was completed before he signed), so there is a lot more bang for Buck coming our way!
Check out Bucky's "death" from The First Avenger, and don't forget our poll below!