One of the best things about Captain America: Civil War was how it seamlessly wove two brand new superheroes into the world of the Marvel Cinematic Universe while simultaneously juggling about a dozen previously-established heroes — and somehow making it feel organic. Tom Holland's Peter Parker and Chadwick Boseman's T'Challa were undoubtedly the breakout hits of the movie, and now fans are clamoring to see their solo Spider-Man and Black Panther movies, due out in 2017 and '18, respectively. But, speaking of that latter film, is there a chance another superhero could make an appearance in Wakanda? Will Bucky be in Black Panther ?
That certainly seems to be what the Civil War mid-credits sequence suggests. The scene shows Captain America and the Winter Soldier hiding out in T'Challa's home country, with Bucky being put back "on ice" until someone can figure out a way to un-brainwash him. Steve Rogers then informs the Wakandan king that, "If anyone finds out he's here, they'll come for him." To which T'Challa answers, "Let them try."
Of course, Black Panther could turn out to have nothing to do with James Buchanan Barnes at all, but, after such a blatant set-up at the end of Civil War, that would feel like sloppy storytelling. It seems much more likely that Bucky will be involved in the plot of T'Challa's first solo film; the real question is, how big will his involvement be? Just a cameo or a full-on supporting role?
As the Marvel Cinematic Universe grows in Phase 3, it seems as though Marvel Studios is less and less interested in pure "solo" movies in the way of the original Iron Man or Thor. This makes sense for a lot of reasons. First, one of the advantages of building a Cinematic Universe is that you give yourself plenty of toys to play with, so why would you isolate your characters into their own solo movie when you could bounce them off of each other in exciting new combinations? Furthermore, as the world of the MCU expands, it starts to strain credulity that these characters wouldn't interact with one another.
This was already a problem after the first Avengers movie. When the various members of the Avengers were facing world-ending catastrophes in Phase 2, why didn't they call on each other for help? Once you've gotten the team together, it's hard to separate them again without asking your audience to suspend their disbelief. Civil War did such a good job integrating T'Challa into the world of the MCU that it would be a shame to see Black Panther isolate him from all of that. Yes, Wakanda is a notoriously reclusive country, but that doesn't mean it needs to exist in a vacuum.
As far as we know from the teaser trailer, November's Doctor Strange seems as though it will be a relatively self-contained adventure. But other than that, Phase 3 is chock-full of team-ups and crossovers: we'll check in with all five members of the Guardians Of The Galaxy again; Iron Man will stop by Spider-Man: Homecoming to help out Peter Parker; Hulk will journey to Asgard in Thor: Ragnarok ; Hope van Dyne is getting promoted to co-lead in Ant-Man And The Wasp; and, of course, every established superhero will join forces to fight Thanos in Infinity War. Essentially, Black Panther would be an outlier if it didn't include another hero in some way, shape, or form.
Of course, there will be some concerned at the idea of Marvel's first black superhero getting his movie co-opted by a white guy. If Bucky is included, the writers will have to be careful not to let him overshadow the titular hero. But this shouldn't be a problem; if Civil War proved anything, it's that Marvel excels at juggling large numbers of characters without dropping the ball. Black Widow had a sizable supporting role in The Winter Soldier, but I don't think anyone feels like she "stole" the move from Cap.
There's another reason to believe that Bucky might be showing up sooner than we think, and that's Sebastian Stan's contract. He has one of the biggest contracts out of anyone in the MCU, having signed up for a whopping nine films — and they've only used two of those nine films so far. (Stan didn't sign the contract until after The First Avenger, so only The Winter Soldier and Civil War count towards his total so far.) Even if Bucky appears in both Infinity War — Part 1 and Part 2, that still leaves five films on Stan's contract.
Why would Marvel have signed Stan up for so many movies if they didn't have big plans for his character? In a recent interview with Empire, Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige hesitated when asked about the Winter Soldier's possible involvement in Black Panther — but certainly didn't deny it: "When asked if Bucky could appear in Black Panther’s solo movie, due in 2017, Kevin Feige pauses for a long time. 'It... remains to be seen. He’s certainly in stasis there.' But the well-worn Feige Poker Face is in full effect here. 'Where and when he comes out? I’m not sure...'"
It sounds like, even if they hadn't initially planned on including Bucky in Black Panther, that's certainly a conversation that's being had at Marvel Studios right now. It makes sense: Bucky has emerged as a fan-favorite, consistently leading polls on Civil War 's characters and launching buzz about a possible Winter Soldier solo movie. With Stan already locked in for so many movies, it makes sense to use him — especially when the groundwork has already been laid in Civil War.
Images: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures; Giphy