We knew Endgame would likely be actor Chris Evans' last time playing Cap (aka Steve Rogers), but we didn't know exactly what that meant until the 22nd Marvel Cinematic Universe movie hit theaters this week. The prospect of continuing without Cap -- the heart of the Avengers, in the eyes of CNET Editor in Chief Connie Guglielmo -- was pretty daunting. Warning: spoilers ahead!
Now we know Steve survives the final battle with Thanos and his army, having held his own beside some vastly more powerful allies. Not bad for a guy who was once just a skinny kid from Brooklyn.
After this, he goes on a time-traveling mission to return the Infinity Stones to the right moments in the timeline. However, instead of coming back to the present after doing that, he decides to stay in 1945 and finally go on that date with Agent Peggy Carter -- a woman he fell in love with and lost when he went on ice at the end of 2011's Captain America: The First Avenger.
He reappears in the present having lived his life with her, an old man now (going back to the pre-internet days must have been jarring!). His two partners, Bucky/Winter Soldier and Sam Wilson/Falcon, stand in front of him. He lost both to Thanos' snap, but they were restored during this latest wild MCU adventure. Now Steve must decide who will wield the shield and take over as Cap.
Bucky's a lot like Steve -- a man out of time. Cap's World War II partner was captured by evil organization Hydra in The First Avenger. In that movie's 2014 sequel, we discovered he was brainwashed into becoming the Winter Soldier and cryogenically frozen between assassination missions for decades. Fortunately, the excellent scientists of Wakanda fixed him up.
Military veteran turned flying superhero Sam's led a very different life, having met Steve in modern times and sticking by him even as the Avengers fell apart in Captain America: Civil War.
It's not a major surprise when Steve chooses Sam as his successor, but it is a delightful moment when he hands over the Vibranium shield. Civil rights hero Martin Luther King would be proud to see a black man assuming the role, but I'm almost as excited about what Sam's Captain America costume could look like as we hit Phase 4 of the MCU.
, Bucky took over from Steve after the Death of Captain America storyline. He used a gun, and his outfit -- which first appeared in 2008's Captain America No. 34 -- was a little darker, but pretty similar to Steve's. It's cool, but a little understated.
Steve later got better (death is usually a minor inconvenience in comics, especially for the major heroes) and Bucky ultimately handed the shield back.
Years later, Steve had the Super Soldier formula drained from his body and Sam took on the role. But he didn't just wear a slightly altered version of Steve's costume -- he made the Captain America mantle his own by merging it with his Falcon costume.
This outfit, which made its debut in 2014's of All-New Captain America No. 1, had a magnificent pair of red wings that worked so well with the iconic shield. Of course, comic Steve eventually got better again (having battled his evil Hydra twin in the controversial Secret Empire storyline) and Sam returned to his Falcon identity.
Sam's costume may have been retired in the comics, but that doesn't take anything away from how glorious its design was and I really hope the MCU version mirrors it closely. His Civil War/Infinity War/Endgame costume has some red trim, so it wouldn't be a stretch to push towards Cap's brighter colors.
But clothes don't make the man. In the six MCU movies he's appeared in, Sam's proven himself a loyal, steady and honest hero -- unquestionably the most worthy person to wield the shield.