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In the increasingly interconnected Marvel Cinematic Universe, Black Panther was unique. Unlike other Phase Three films, Black Panther didn't really address the wider MCU, feature a lot of other heroes or even set up the missing Soul Stone. However, Black Panther did feature a fun cameo in its mid-credits scene with the Winter Soldier. Bucky Barnes awakened from cryosleep and in Wakanda, with the Wakandan children calling him "White Wolf". This nod to the character from the comics was a fun twist, teasing a possible future for Bucky Barnes. Actor Sebastian Stan liked the twist and it actually made him want to revisit the comics, as he explained:
Now talking about comic books and merging them with the MCU, I want to go and revisit the Black Panther comics because of the White Wolf situation. And that's a whole different line, so I didn't even see that really going that way and understanding what that could be. But it's really clever the way they do it, if you think about it. I look at that and I go, 'Of course. That makes sense, that feels well.' I don't know how they think about it.
Like many of us, this fun twist seems to have been surprising for Sebastian Stan as well. In the Black Panther comics, the White Wolf is a man named Hunter who is adopted by T'Chaka. He is a fierce warrior who leads Wakanda's secret police and has a complicated relationship with his adoptive brother, King T'Challa. It is surprising that Marvel introduced the White Wolf moniker into MCU canon, but as Sebastian Stan tells Kinowetter, it actually makes a ton of sense. The Winter Soldier already has difficult history with T'Challa, and yet he will be defending Wakanda all the same when Thanos comes to town. So having Bucky Barnes become the White Wolf would be a clever way of introducing the character.
What Sebastian Stan is speaking to here is how Marvel incorporates elements from the comics in ways that work for the films. We didn't get direct adaptations of the Planet Hulk or Civil War comic book storylines, but those tales inspired the direction for the movies. These are different mediums, but Marvel cherrypicks the best and most appropriate stuff for adaptation into the cinematic universe, and does so in a way that honors the inspiration while constantly providing nods to deep cuts from the source material.
Now it remains to be seen whether or not Marvel actually has Bucky Barnes adopt the White Wolf identity from the comics, complete with his own white vibranium suit. It is entirely possible that the White Wolf mention in Black Panther was simply a fun Easter egg and nothing more; a bit of fan service for those who know the comics. But if Marvel should decide to have Bucky be the film version of the White Wolf, it has already been set up for him to do so in a way that makes sense and still honors the spirit of the character. This is all pending he survives Avengers: Infinity War, of course. And if he takes on the White Wolf identity, that makes Steve Rogers' successor to the Captain America mantle much clearer.
You can watch that post-credits scene again and all of Black Panther when it hits Blu-ray on May 15. But before that, you can see Bucky Barnes unfrozen and on the field of battle when Avengers: Infinity War hits theaters on April 27. Be sure to keep an eye on our Marvel Cinematic Universe page for all the latest from Earth's Mightiest heroes.