(Spoilers ahead for the post-credits scene in Marvel’s “Black Panther,” but not the rest of the movie)
“Black Panther” is, of course, not an outlier when it comes to Marvel movies having extra scenes after the credits begin rolling to tease upcoming movies in the shared Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s got a pair of extra scenes, the first being a sort of final ending to the film itself and the second being a sort of look forward.
At first glance, the second post-credits scene may seem rather innocuous. We see Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), aka the Winter Soldier, hanging out in a Wakandan hut and receiving a visit from the tech genius Shuri (Letitia Wright). And a few children refer to Bucky as “White Wolf,” but otherwise nothing much happens. You may be tempted to not think much of that nickname — Bucky is, after all, very white. But actually that title is significant, because White Wolf is the name of a Marvel character from Wakanda.
As you may recall, we last saw James Buchanan “Bucky” Barnes at the end of “Captain America: Civil War.” T’Challa agreed to either rehabilitate Bucky from his Winter Soldier mind control, or, seemingly, freeze him until such time as he could be fixed. In Wakanda, Bucky would be safe from the rest of the world trying to kill him, which gave Captain America some peace of mind, as well. The time has apparently come for that fix, which is presumably what he’s working with Shuri on — along with a new arm to replace the one Iron Man destroyed, of course.
Okay, let’s do a comic book deep dive now.
The character in the “Black Panther” Marvel Comics stories named White Wolf (whose first appearance came in 1999) isn’t Bucky Barnes, but rather another white guy altogether named Hunter. In the comics, Hunter was in a plane crash as a child in Wakanda that killed his parents. T’Chaka, the king of Wakanda at the time, adopted Hunter as his son. Before long, though, T’Challa was born, and Hunter realized he was never going to be the true Wakandan heir. Hunter became jealous of T’Challa and tried to win his adoptive father’s favor by out-performing T’Challa, working extra hard to train to become the best Wakandan around. It didn’t change T’Chaka’s mind, but he did give Hunter a consolation prize: Command of the Wakandan secret police, the Hatut Zeraze. A fierce warrior, Hunter became known as the White Wolf.
In the comics, after T’Challa became king following T’Chaka’s death, the son disbanded the Hatut Zeraze because of the group’s brutality. Instead of finding new roles in Wakandan society, they become mercenaries — White Wolf included. The group left Wakanda, but remained loyal to their home, and White Wolf stayed somewhat grudgingly loyal to his king. That leaves the comics version of White Wolf as something of an anti-hero, helping out Wakanda and Black Panther when they really, really need it.
Obviously, none of that backstory applies to Bucky, and since Hunter’s story starts before T’Challa is born, it’s too late to shoehorn him into the Marvel Cinematic Universe with exactly the same background. Instead, it looks like elements of Hunter’s will be applied to Bucky.
That suggests a few things. First, we might see the creation of the Hatut Zeraze with Bucky, rather than Hunter, in charge. That could lead to some interesting conflicts in a later “Black Panther” film if it follows the comics — the fighting force would become something more dangerous than T’Challa would be willing to put up with, and that would mean that Bucky, too, would have to cross that line. It’s certainly not impossible, given that he’s been an unfeeling assassin for roughly 60 years.
Next, if Bucky goes full White Wolf, he ought to get something akin to Hunter’s Hatut Zeraze suit. The costume is Vibranium, making it extremely tough to destroy, as well as bulletproof. It also sports cloaking technology and Vibranium boots that let White Wolf drop several stories and survive the fall, landing, essentially, like a cat. It did not appear that he was wearing such a suit in the trailer for “Avengers: Infinity War,” where he’s seen fighting Thanos’ minions on the Wakandan planes, so it may be a while before all this comes to fruition.
But, given Bucky’s troubled past and likely desire to stay out of the spotlight in Europe and North America, where he’s known pretty much exclusively as a murderous assassin, it would make sense for him to stay in Wakanda if they’ll have him. Our guess is he does some particularly heroic stuff to defend Wakanda during “Infinity War,” and thus will be more than happy to keep him around. This is all just guesswork, though, because Bucky as White Wolf, and White Wolf emerging at this point in time, doesn’t have a precedent in Marvel lore. But we’ll see!