With Marvel’s Infinity War on the horizon and Chris Evans having publicly said that he will be stepping back from the role of Captain America (and then possibly reneging), many people have been speculating about what’s next for the shield. As most people know, Steve Rogers has stepped away from being Captain America on more than one occasion, hands down the worst being the time he became Nomad. No, seriously, it was beyond painful. Whether it’s been due to personal reasons, loss of powers, or even death, the comics are littered with Rogers having to give the role up for a time.
Fortunately for the United States, the idea of Captain America has never quite left. Even with Rogers turning the mantle over to several different people, the Captain has always had a place in the pages of Marvel. Most recently, Cap’s long time friend, partner, and confident, Sam Wilson, AKA Falcon, took the role over. Bucky Barnes, Cap’s first best friend who eventually became the Winter Soldier, has also held the title of Captain America as has U.S. Agent, John Walker. Each of these versions of Captain America has had a different personality and approach to dealing with the weight of the star.
Given the likelihood of Chris Evans backing away from the role, fans seem to be attached to the theory that Bucky Barnes will be taking over as Captain America once Evans either dies or steps away following the fourth Avengers film. While it’s easy to understand why fans think this might happen, the reality doesn’t exactly jibe with the way Bucky has been handled within the MCU, particularly following the events of Black Panther. I am going to assume if you’re reading this piece, you’ve seen Black Panther and its post-credit scenes. If not, you may wanna close the article now.
Following the events of Black Panther, we see Bucky emerge from a tent and in talking to Shuri, we find out that he is now known as the White Wolf and has seemingly been cured of whatever Hydra did him via their Winter Soldier conditioning program. The clip is brief and doesn’t expand upon the role, but we can see in the Avengers: Infinity War trailer that Bucky is now in Wakanda and has a new, blue arm rather than his silver arm with a red star. He is also at the forefront of Wakandan soldiers preparing to hold the line against Thanos’ army of Outriders.
We’re just getting started, but try to draw a straight line from here to Captain America for Bucky. While I realize Captain is also holding the front lines of Wakanda, we know that he is a man without a country. He is a Nomad. I would put dollars to donuts that the film includes some sort of dialogue introducing him as Captain America only for him to cheekily say, “I’m a man without a country right now. I’m more of a nomad than Captain America.” Yeah, you know you can see it happening.
In order to explain why Bucky doesn’t work as Captain America, it’s super helpful to explain why he does work as the White Wolf. Introduced in Black Panther Vol 3 #4, Hunter, AKA the White Wolf, is T’Challa’s adopted brother. Taken in by T’Chaka following the death of his family in a plane crash that landed in Wakanda, Hunter becomes the leader of the Hatut Zeraze also known as the Dogs of War. The Hatut Zeraze are basically a Wakandan spec-ops team, similar to an American SEAL Team Six. At one point they even almost assasinated Namor.
Fans of Black Panther were introduced to the Dogs of War in the film. N’Jadaka, AKA Killmonger, is the son of N’Jobu, who is the king’s brother and one of the Dogs of War. We are introduced to the Dogs of War, but their function is never fully explored. As for the comic version of the White Wolf, there are times he is at odds with T’Challa, but his top priority is and always will be the nation of Wakanda. In that sense, he can fight with the Black Panther but not as a villain.
In the pages of Christopher Priest’s Black Panther, Hunter is thrust into the middle of a massive battle for Wakanda involving Achebe, N’Jadaka, and an army of the dead called the Enneads. In this particular story, N’Jadaka is able to become the Black Panther but not the king, as T’Challa had dissolved parliament and plunged the Wakanda Design Group into a stock market tumble. Wanting to usurp the title of “King,” N’Jadaka challenges for the Right of Ascension, which T’Challa waived but N’Jadaka insisted on undergoing anyhow. It is at this point that Hunter insists on giving N’Jadaka the heart shaped herb, which kills N’Jadaka.