Bucky doesn’t have a clear MCU future after The Falcon and The Winter Soldier. But he could become the leader of the Thunderbolts in Phase 4.
Bucky Barnes could be the leader of the Thunderbolts in the Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase 4. In the aftermath of Avengers: Endgame, Phase 4 will shake up the status quo by introducing multiple new Marvel heroes, villains, and super-teams. The debuts of Shang-Chi, the Eternals, and many others are exciting, but Marvel Studios isn’t forgetting about the characters that already exist. Doctor Strange, Spider-Man, and others will lead sequels, while Disney+ opens up a new avenue for MCU characters to flourish.
The streaming service is where Sebastian Stan will make his next appearance as Bucky Barnes aka Winter Soldier (or White Wolf). He’s starring in The Falcon and The Winter Soldier alongside Anthony Mackie, with the show giving both an opportunity to lead an MCU project. Bucky’s MCU journey to this point has been as a supporting character to Captain America’s story, but that will change with the Disney+ show. Plot details have been kept under wraps, but it will continue Bucky’s story after saying goodbye to Steve Rogers in Avengers: Endgame. Part of this journey will include Bucky ditching his Winter Soldier hair and finding himself after Shuri freed him from Hydra’s brainwashing.
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While the immediate future for Bucky will see him team up with Sam Wilson, it has been said that they aren’t exactly friends when The Falcon and The Winter Soldier begins. They could come together to keep John Walker from hurting the legacy of Captain America’s name and eventually go up against Baron Zemo, but what happens after? It’s theoretically possible he’ll become the leader of the MCU’s Thunderbolts team.
Bucky Doesn’t Have A Clear MCU Future Without Steve
Since Bucky joined the MCU, he has been a huge piece to Steve Rogers’ story. The childhood best friend turned partner in war left a big impact on Captain America, and vise versa. His apparent death during World War II weighed heavily on Steve, so the revelation that he was still alive – and was turned into a super-assassin by Hydra – was quite shocking. Steve helped jog some of Bucky’s original memories and characteristics, allowing the longtime friends to eventually pick up where they left off, just 70 years later. The importance of Captain America in Bucky’s life makes his ultimate decision to grow old with Peggy Carter at the end of Avengers: Endgame one that currently leaves Bucky without a defined future.
Marvel Studios has already moved past his time as the Winter Soldier, and Avengers: Endgame‘s ending also saw him skipped over to become Captain America. While Bucky took on the mantle after Steve in the comics, the MCU leaped straight to making Falcon the new Cap. Of course, that won’t be an instant change with John Walker’s introduction in The Falcon and The Winter Soldier. Still, some of Bucky’s biggest storylines in the comics are now seemingly off the table without his arc taking a step backward. Marvel hasn’t quite known what to do with him recently either, as he was mostly wasted in Phase 3 after his pivotal role in Captain America: Civil War.
Thanks to some recent Marvel Comics stories, there is a chance Bucky’s future could still be pulled from the source material. Continuing his stint as “the Man on the Wall,” Bucky became the Thunderbolts’ newest leader. He led a team that consisted of Atlas, Moonstone, Mach-X, and Fixer, with their priority being to protect Kobik, a manifestation of the Cosmic Cube. His stint with the Thunderbolts didn’t last terribly long as Baron Zemo and the Masters of Evil appeared to kill him during Secret Empire. Still, Bucky’s leadership position could be translated to the MCU.
Falcon & Winter Soldier Might Set Up Thunderbolts
Marvel Studios hasn’t officially announced any plans for the Thunderbolts to form in the MCU, but The Falcon and The Winter Soldier is rumored to set them up. The return of Baron Zemo, finally taking his true name, and donning the purple mask are signs that Marvel is pushing the character closer to his comic counterpart. Zemo created the first Thunderbolts team in the comics after many members of the Avengers died. Now that the Avengers’ ranks in the MCU have had some major losses after Avengers: Endgame, the timing of Zemo’s return could be linked to the team assembling on-screen.
Fans have been wanting to see the Thunderbolts in the MCU for years now, but so far, Zemo is the only team member confirmed to be in The Falcon and The Winter Soldier. There are rumors that Erin Kellyman is playing Songbird, and Miki Ishikawa is playing Jolt, while speculation about some of the other known cast members without confirmed roles point to them playing Thunderbolts characters too. Whether or not the speculation and rumors turn out to be true, Zemo’s return is enough to indicate the Thunderbolts could be in Marvel’s plans.
But, there is also some potential evidence that Zemo isn’t the villain in The Falcon and The Winter Soldier. Set photos have shown Zemo working with Falcon and Bucky, not against them, while footage from the series included Bucky refusing to shoot him. If Zemo isn’t the villain, he could potentially change the public perception and play the part of a hero. Any noble turn by Zemo won’t last, but it could be enough to push the Thunderbolts forward.
Why Bucky Leading Thunderbolts Make Sense
While Zemo founded the Thunderbolts in the comics under the trick of having villains secretly take on new, heroic identities, Marvel Studios might not go in this direction. If the Thunderbolts are going to lead their own movie or Disney+ show, Marvel won’t be able to keep the twist that the “heroes” are really villains a secret. This could force the MCU to make the Thunderbolts more like DC’s Suicide Squad and become a government operation or straight-up superhero team. In either case, Zemo’s potential good behavior in The Falcon and The Winter Soldier won’t last. Many won’t be so quick to give the man who broke up the Avengers too much power either.
Instead of Zemo, or even Thunderbolt Ross as Red Hulk, leading the MCU’s Thunderbolts lineup, Bucky could be called upon to lead them. With Spider-Man: Far From Home confirming Bucky is viewed as a hero publicly, his past actions as a deadly assassin responsible for the deaths of Howard Stark and even JFK might be forgiven. In that case, is there anyone better than Bucky who should be put in charge of criminals and villains looking to reform? It’s even possible that working with Zemo in The Falcon and The Winter Soldier will be a way for him to demonstrate that he can take command of the Thunderbolts and show them a different path. After all, if Steve Rogers was one of the Avengers’ greatest members and leaders, there is something quite poetic about Bucky then getting a chance to lead a team of his own filled with a roster that isn’t too dissimilar from who he used to be.
Next: Marvel’s New Phase 4 Slate (2020 – 2022)
Key Release Dates
- Black Widow (2021)Release date: May 07, 2021
- Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings (2021)Release date: Jul 09, 2021
- Eternals (2021)Release date: Nov 05, 2021
- Spider-Man: Homecoming 3 (2021)Release date: Dec 17, 2021
- Thor: Love and Thunder (2022)Release date: Feb 11, 2022
- Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022)Release date: Mar 25, 2022
- Black Panther 2 (2022)Release date: May 06, 2022
- Captain Marvel 2 (2022)Release date: Jul 08, 2022
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