Warning: Black Panther SPOILERS ahead! Read at your own risk!
There's a lot to digest now that Black Panther has debuted in theaters. Between the film's historic box office performance and its inclusion of one of Marvel's best villains yet in the form of Michael B. Jordan's Erik Killmonger, there's no shortage of great potential for the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Having said that, one of the most exciting elements of Black Panther's story comes during the post-credits scene, in which Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) finally wakes up from cryosleep. He's obviously going to play a significant role in Avengers: Infinity War, but the scene also makes us think that he could go on to become the obscure Marvel hero White Wolf at some point as well.
For the sake of context, let's dive into what specifically happens in the Black Panther post-credits scene, and what it could mean. In the short clip, a group of Wakandan children run out of a hut and declare that the "White Wolf" has awakened. From here, Bucky emerges and shares a brief exchange with Shuri (Letitia Wright) to set up their alliance going forward. The conversation between the two main Marvel characters clearly establishes big things for Infinity War, but the fact that the kids refer to Bucky as "White Wolf" seems like a thinly-veiled reference to the Marvel character of the same name.
As Marvel purists will likely be able to tell you, there's actually a character in Black Panther's lore named White Wolf. In the comics, White Wolf is a Caucasian man named Hunter who grew up in Wakanda after his parents were killed in a plane crash. Adopted by King T'Chaka, he eventually goes on to become a master hand-to-hand combatant, as well as a skilled marksman. However, easily his most noteworthy trait is his vibranium suit, which is nearly identical to the outfit worn by T'Challa, except it's white instead of black.
Within the current pantheon of Marvel Cinematic Universe heroes, Bucky definitely stands out as the best option to take on the role of White Wolf. He's a badass soldier with a penchant for martial arts and large firearms, and his tenure as The Winter Soldier means that he has clearly picked up all of the necessary traits that we generally associate with someone like Hunter. Moreover, while Bucky and T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman) seem to have mended their relationship after the events of Captain America: Civil War, their initial hatred of one another could easily translate to a loose adaptation of the antagonistic relationship between White Wolf and Black Panther. Bucky wouldn't be a straightforward adaptation of White Wolf, but he meets many of the necessary qualifications to make it possible within the framework established by the MCU.
Moreover, allowing Bucky to take on the mantle of White Wolf would actually clear up some space elsewhere in the Marvel Cinematic Universe for another passing of the torch. Many fans have wondered which friend of Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) would inherit the mantle of Captain America when Rogers inevitably retires from active duty (or dies). If Bucky dons the White Wolf suit, then the stars, stripes, and vibranium shield would be waiting for none other than Anthony Mackie's Sam Wilson, a.k.a. Falcon. Many fans already expect a massive changing of the guard when Phase 3 comes to an end, so bringing White Wolf into the fold could easily allow the folks at Marvel to neatly hand off some of their best mantles while also honoring the other heroes who stick around.
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At this point, it's anyone's guess as to whether or not Bucky Barnes will take on the mantle of White Wolf in a future Marvel Cinematic Universe movie. So for now, we will just have to watch what the newly-thawed Winter Soldier does with himself when the Russo Brothers' Avengers: Infinity War premieres in theaters later this year on May 4!