William "Bucky" Barnes has always been an interesting character. Originally dubbed someone who would NEVER come back from the dead within the Marvel Universe, the teen sidekick was resurrected by Ed Brubaker in his now legendary run on Captain America with the Winter Soldier storyline. So popular in fact that it was the basis for the second Captain America film, and while it took certain liberties with the original storyline, such as Red Skull heavily factoring into the proceedings, the tone and major story beats were hit in rapid succession. As Bucky slowly moved away from his Winter Soldier persona, trying to build a life for himself without being a weapon for the bad guys, Steve Rogers became wrapped up in Marvel’s Civil War. When the Anti-Registration side lost, Cap was shot and killed, and rather than having a world without a shield slinger, Bucky took up the costume and put his own spin on the identity while still carrying Steve’s patented shield.
Bucky as Cap was fascinating to be sure, he offered a Captain America that not only wasn’t afraid to kill his enemies and carry a gun, he didn’t have the same level of abilities that Steve did, not having super soldier serum running through his blood. Bucky offered a more vulnerable Cap who was still struggling with coming to grips with the modern world, along with the death of his best friend. Granted, Steve would eventually return, only to age a few decades recently, allowing for Sam Wilson, the Falcon, to be the new Captain America in the comics, but Bucky still had a good run. If the movie is following the books, this is certainly an event that may be in the cards.
Sebastian Stan is an interesting case; in so much that the actor has been signed up for a ton of Marvel Studio pictures like his fellow heroes, but has yet to even reach the halfway mark on them. Stan was originally signed for a 9 picture deal, and so far, Captain America: Civil War, arriving next May, will make for the third movie that he has featured in within the MCU. Clearly, there’s a reason behind Sebastian having such a long running contract, Marvel has plans for him, and what better plans than having him become the new Captain America? Considering the style and theme of Civil War as it stands, I don’t think we’ll be seeing Thanos popping up in the end credits, but Bucky donning the shield and putting on the mask would be a nice foreshadowing of things to come.
Captain America: Civil War is the final movie of the character’s “trilogy”. For Tony Stark, we don’t have another solo Iron Man film planned, but he does continue to appear as a supporting character and/or team member of the Avengers. While Steve Rogers could certainly fill a similar role, a new class of heroes is beginning to emerge. What better way to ring in the new by putting a new slant on the old with Bucky becoming the new Captain America for this next generation? This would also fix the problem of Chris Evans’ contract and number of movies he would have to appear in. Relying on Sebastian Stan for the future of the franchise would make for a fantastic new angle. Heck, maybe at some point we can even see Sam Wilson become Captain America and Jane Foster become Thor! Change is a good thing and we’ll have a wide open landscape for it following Civil War and Infinity War down the line.