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The last we saw of Bucky Barnes was in the post-credits scene included in Captain America: Civil War wherein Bucky Barnes is placed back into cryogenic stasis until a cure can be found for the brainwashing that is plaguing him. From that point, it would seem like there'd be a substantial amount of time before Bucky Barnes could reappear in the MCU'. However, with the Infinity War event drawing ever so closer and a new era of the Marvel Cinematic Universe being introduced in Phase 4, it's likely that Bucky Barnes will return sooner than expected.
Not to mention how Bucky Barnes' new cryogenic containment is in the country of Wakanda. Along with Black Panther (2018) premiering early next year, it's possible that Bucky Barnes will be awakened from his stasis during Black Panther. And it may not be T'Challa or Steve Rogers who wakes him. There's potential for another villain to want to harness Bucky Barnes' mercenary capabilities including Ulysses S. Klaue (Andy Serkis), just as Helmut Zemo (Daniel Bruhl) intended to use Bucky in Captain America: Civil War. An easy to control, brainwashed mercenary would seem like a worthy asset to get a hold of and Klaue might be the one to take advantage of that.
Could 'Klaw' Be The Villain Of Black Panther?
Klaue was subtly introduced to the MCU during Avengers: Age of Ultron, wherein Klaue described his troubles for robbing Wakanda of its resources (e.g. vibranium). During Avengers: Age of Ultron, Klaue agreed to an exchange with Ultron for the vibranium he stole from Wakanda. After the exchange for the vibranium was made with Ultron, Klaue escaped from the shipping container being used as a battleground by the Avengers and Ultron. Klaue is no longer seen after his confrontation with Ultron but he can be seen sporting an identical look to his comic-book appearance including the amputated arm before his final scene in Avengers: Age of Ultron concluded. The most reasonable place for Klaue to reappear should have been in Captain America: Civil War, but that didn't come to be, which could place Klaue's next on-screen appearance to be in Black Panther.
Klaue is famously known as an adversary to T'Chala and Wakanda, it would be fitting for Ulysses S. Klaue to fill the role of a supporting villain in Black Panther, or even as the main villain of the film. Within Klaue's diabolical schemes, there's potential for Bucky Barnes to be seen as an asset that can be acquired by Ulysses S. Klaue. Although, Bucky Barnes may be more weary of his surroundings if he's awoken by someone other than a Wakandan research scientist or T'Chala himself. Meaning that Bucky Barnes could be ready for a fight in the scenario that he's woken up by an adversary or confused party — all hypothetical at the moment. Nothing is confirmed but the IMDb page for Black Panther has Andy Serkis indexed alongside Michael B. Jordan and Lupita Nyong'o as starring cast for the film, possibly spoiling the reveal of Ulysses S. Klaue being the villain of Black Panther.
Bucky Barnes's Next Appearance May Be In Black Panther
My prediction is nothing more than conjecture at the moment, but going off of the progression of the MCU and the long thread of connectivity between each central point, it's easy to come to the conclusion of Bucky Barnes being released from cryogenic stasis during Black Panther. We can't forget to mention that Sebastian Stan, the actor who plays Bucky Barnes in the MCU has signed on for several more films, none of which have been confirmed yet. But the most plausible place for Sebastian Stan's Bucky Barnes to return would be in Black Panther.
Not only would an appearance in Black Panther give Bucky Barnes an opportunity to go on his first solo adventure (technically not a solo-venture) as a hero, but there'd be some room for growth in the relationship between T'Challa and Bucky.
In Captain America: Civil War, their demeanor towards one another was contentious at best, but the fact needs to be noted in stating how T'Challa did believe Bucky Barnes was responsible for his father's death, and that was the event which set T'Challa on a path to kill Bucky. Luckily, the conclusion of the film resolved their intermediate conflict and left the two with a blank slate waiting to be filled with duo exploits in future films — most likely to occur during Black Panther.
The idea of a Bucky Barnes and Black Panther dynamic would be very interesting to explore. Not to mention how Bucky Barnes could learn so much from T'Challa in terms of patriotism and heroism in the modern day. Their experience together could lead Bucky Barnes on to the path that sets him up to become Captain America. Bucky Barnes is famously known as the second hero to take on the alias of Captain America in Marvel Comics. After Steve Rogers's presumed death during the Civil War event, Bucky Barnes steps into the shoes of Captain America.
Why Bucky Barnes's Character Arc Is Leading Him To Become Captain America
That being said, in the scenario that Bucky Barnes acknowledges the need for Captain America's presence in the world while Steve Rogers is indisposed of, it could inadvertently force Bucky into a Captain America suit of his own to wane public outcry for Captain America's return. We know that Steve Rogers dropped his shield and unofficially left the title of Captain America behind in becoming a wanted fugitive at the end of Captain America: Civil War. And while it isn't plausible to assume that Steve Rogers is going to jump back into the shoes of Captain America very soon, that places Steve Rogers on the sidelines to have another solo adventure outside of his Captain America persona. But what kind of event could drive Bucky Barnes into the shoes of Captain America? Is it possible that Steve Rogers will be targeted for assassination in public? And as villainous individuals begin to plan worldwide takeovers with the news of the Avengers being completely dismantled, someone will need to step into the shoes of Captain America to disprove the belief of Steve Rogers's death, that being Bucky Barnes.
The shift of mantles is inevitable, there's just no clarity as to when Bucky Barnes will officially take on the title of Captain America within the MCU. Although, it's also possible that Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) won't take on the alias of Captain America at all. There's room for Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) to become the next Captain America instead of Bucky Barnes, accounting for Sam Wilson's comic book history having his character transition from Falcon into Captain America. It's possible that either Bucky Barnes and/or Sam Wilson will sport the star-spangled uniform at some point in the near future. A situation may arise to where a new Captain America is needed and Sam Wilson steps up as the new Captain America.
Is It Possible That Sam Wilson Will Become Captain America Before Bucky Barnes Gains The Opportunity To Do So?
Of course there'd be skepticism from the world with a different man, Sam Wilson, holding the title of Captain America, but that plot-thread could be utilized as a ploy in setting up the truest iteration of Captain America being portrayed by Bucky Barnes — speculative of course. We won't know if Bucky Barnes is destined to follow his comic book origins by becoming Captain America until the next time Sebastian Stan reprises his role of Bucky Barnes a.k.a. Winter Soldier within the MCU (as yet to be determined).
As previously mentioned, the most plausible place for Bucky Barnes to appear next would be in Black Panther, seeing as how Bucky was last seen being cryogenically frozen in Wakanda. It's safe to assume that Black Panther will depict Bucky coming out of his cryogenic stasis to either help T'Challa in defending Wakanda or the two having an international adventure that places them at the forefront of the public's eye once again. Either way, that'll definitely be an interesting dynamic to develop. But predictions aside, there has been no formal casting call for Sebastian Stan to return as Bucky Barnes. Despite Stan's implied sabbatical from the MCU with his character being frozen, Bucky Barnes will probably make an appearance in Black Panther as his story arc begins to take off in a completely different direction. There's so much potential for the character of Bucky Barnes to build off of from where he currently stands.
Going back to where we last saw him, Barnes's character arc could venture off into a variety of directions, with even the most subtle action leaving a lasting note on where Bucky Barnes's path is leading him. But for entertainment's sake, Barnes's release from cryogenic stasis will be quite meaningful when it occurs. That step in Barnes's career will see him on to the path of becoming a hero within the MCU rather than the fugitive-mercenary he's been branded as, along with a greater chance for him to become Captain America during Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
What do you think? Should Sebastian Stan return as Bucky Barnes during Black Panther? Or should Bucky Barnes's character be saved for Phase 4 altogether? Or do you think Bucky Barnes will become Captain America in Black Panther? Have any thoughts, leave them in the comment section below.
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Should Sebastian Stan become Captain America when he returns as Bucky?
Black Panther premieres July 6, 2018. Directed by Ryan Coogler. Starring Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita N'Yongo, and Andy Serkis.