Entertainment Weekly’s Avengers: Infinity War covers, revealed today, confirm a small detail about Bucky Barnes — that is, the Winter Soldier — only hinted at in the end credits scenes of Black Panther.
[Warning: This post contains what could be considered spoilers for Avengers: Infinity War.]
As the focal point of Captain America: Civil War, James “Bucky” Barnes’ actions as a brainwashed Soviet and Hydra assassin became the wedge that drove the Avengers apart. The team became split between Iron Man, who’d been orphaned by the Winter Soldier; and Captain America, who’d grown up alongside Bucky in the 1930s before they both became frozen super-soldiers.
After the events of Civil War, Captain America fled with Bucky to Wakanda, where the Black Panther promised to keep Bucky safe — and keep others safe from Bucky’s brainwashing — until a cure for his programming could be developed.
The end credits scenes of Black Panther — and a tie-in comic — confirmed that Wakanda’s princess and chief engineer, Shuri, developed and implemented that cure. Bucky can no longer be subliminally forced to become the Winter Soldier, and that might make you wonder: Should we still be calling him by that code name?
Now Entertainment Weekly has confirmed that Bucky is dropping the Winter Soldier for another appellation entirely.
“Sebastian Stan’s rehabilitated assassin now goes by White Wolf,” the magazine says in its description of a cover featuring Bucky and the Guardians of the Galaxy’s Mantis, “It’s intriguing to see a man whose memories were scrambled, wiped, and rebuilt paired with Pom Klementieff’s alien mind-reader.”
This matches the implications of Black Panther’s final credits scene, in which Bucky woke in a Wakandan village, and was greeted by the Wakandans around him as “White Wolf.” Here’s an excerpt from our explainer on the scene:
In the Marvel Comics version of the Black Panther’s story, T’Challa has an older foster brother named Hunter, a child orphaned when his plane crashed in Wakanda, killing his parents, all before T’Challa was born. Despite Hunter being a foreigner — and white — King T’Chaka, T’Challa’s father, adopted him and raised him.
Hunter grew into a devout Wakandan patriot, despite his outsider status in the country, and T’Chaka appointed him to be the leader of the Hatut Zeraze, or “War Dogs,” Wakanda’s secret police and special forces. (In the Black Panther movie, Lupita Nyong’o’s Nakia is a member of the Hatut Zeraze.) As the leader of the War Dogs, he became known as the White Wolf.
A lot of the White Wolf’s character doesn’t seem easily transposed to Bucky — his family relationship to T’Challa, for example, or his sometimes antagonistic relationship with the Black Panther. But the idea of Bucky putting his martial skills to work as a Wakandan spymaster? Now there’s an interesting possibility. After all, Bucky’s essentially considered a war criminal in most other countries around the globe.
It’s a new dawn for Bucky Barnes, one we’ll all get to see when Avengers: Infinity War will hit theaters on April 27.