BY MATT TUCK
Is Steve Rogers dead? Is he trapped in the Soul Stone? Was he a Skrull? The theories abound, but we could soon find out after comments from The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’s showrunner adds to the mystery.
A CLOSELY GUARDED SECRET
The fate of Captain America himself, Steve Rogers, is the most closely guarded secret in all of Marvel, it seems. It is so protected that not even the man behind FATWS could get an answer, and his show dealt directly with Captain America.
Recently, Inverse interviewed FATWS showrunner Malcolm Spellman, and apparently he asked Marvel Studios the big question: What happened to Captain America? Despite heading up the studios’ latest entry into the Cap mythos, Marvel played its secret close to the chest. “We’re wondering if Steve’s on the moon, too,” he told the site. “That’s as good a guess as anything because they won’t tell me.”
Why wouldn’t Marvel tell the guy who was leading the way for the newest Captain America? It adds more intrigue to the largest lingering question mark hanging over the MCU. We know that Kevin Feige and company meticulously plan every aspect of the cinematic universe, and he is known for being very careful with the dissemination of future details. Whatever “leaks” come out of Marvel Studios, we can be certain that it is not by accident and is part of the larger plan.
The fact that not even someone in Spellman’s position could get an answer to Steve’s whereabouts leaves me to wonder if Feige has an ace up his sleeve that he is not ready to play just yet. In other words, Chris Evans could be on his way back to the MCU.
THOSE ENDGAME MOMENTS
Iron Man may have gotten the best death scene in all of Marvel (even outdoing Yondu’s tear-jerking last hoorah in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2), but Captain America stole the show in Endgame. I have never heard an audience reaction quite like the ones for Cap lifting Mjolnir and finally saying the iconic line, “Avengers, assemble!” Tony Stark’s snap was great, but it just doesn’t beat Cap’s epic moments.
And then he got old, handed over his shield, and faded out of the spotlight. So where did he go? Even more importantly, will we see him again? That is the greatest mystery in all of the MCU.
Most fans had hoped to get some answers from FATWS. Sure, most of us understood that the show was a launching pad for Falcon to step into Cap’s shoes, but it was assumed that Marvel would give us some direction concerning post-Endgame Steve Rogers. Negative, Ghost Rider.
Throughout the series, Steve was the subject of allusions and Easter eggs, and that’s not to mention the direct references. Essentially he was a major character in FATWS without actually being in the show as Sam, Bucky, and even John Walker were all working to live up to the legend that is Captain America.
While Steve had plenty of mentions and allusions, the series never offered any insight into his current status. The closest we got were the passing mentions of him being on the moon. Personally, I took this as an allusion to the first season of Umbrella Academy, as Reginald Hargreeves sent his own version of Cap, Luther, to the moon after he mutated into a chimpanzee/human hybrid.
Where does that leave Steve?
THE ROGERS FAMILY
When last we saw Steve Rogers, he returned the Infinity Stones to their rightful places in the MCU timeline. Famously, he stayed behind to live the life he sacrificed to save the world from Hydra. By the end of the movie, he was “old man Steve,” sitting on a park bench, rocking a khaki windbreaker. Then he just...left.
Endgame writers Stephen McFeely and Christopher Markus shed some light on the Rogers family, which could give us clues as to the whereabouts of Steve Rogers.
The duo said that Steve fathered Peggy Carter’s two children, and they were in attendance at her funeral in Civil War. As Markus put it, there are two Rogers children in the MCU with super-soldier DNA. Will they appear in the MCU? Better yet, have we already seen them and not known it? I would not be surprised to see them surface or at least get a nod in the next installment of FATWS or Captain America 4.
The writers went on to say that Old Man Steve’s appearance in the Endgame final scenes indicates that he has been in the MCU background since the beginning, but that still doesn’t give us the real answer.
What happened to him? Did Steve secretly die after the events of Endgame? That would be logical. Afterall, the script has him labeled at 112 years old, and that is ancient even for a super soldier. Still, it is hard to imagine Marvel letting an iconic character like Captain America pass away offscreen.
CHRIS EVANS’ STATUS
The real kicker with Steve’s MCU status comes from the business end. Actor Chris Evans’ contract expired after Endgame. Deadline reported in January that Disney and Evans were negotiating for a possible return. At the time, Marvel did not address that story, but a couple months later, Kevin Feige commented on the situation, basically saying that there are no current plans for Evans to reprise the Steve Rogers character in any way outside of an episode of the animated What If…?
As Feige often does, he carefully worded his response, saying that “things are always surprising me with what happens.” That leaves the door wide open for a number of possibilities.
On the heels of Endgame, there have been plenty of circulating fan theories, and some are raising eyebrows.
A recent theory making the rounds is that Steve and Peggy’s dance scene in the closing moments of Endgame took place inside the soul stone. Considering that an early draft of the movie script actually made Cap the MCU’s soul stone, it is not completely out of the question that he is now residing in the soul stone.
The Reddit user who posted the theory goes on to explain that Steve’s happy ending took place entirely inside the soul stone, which would fit with the stone’s comic book origins. In the finale of Marvel Comics’ Infinity Gauntlet, Adam Warlock takes possession of the gauntlet and imprisons Thanos inside the soul stone, where the Mad Titan lived for a time as a farmer, not unlike where he went after the MCU’s Infinity War.
As interesting as this was to read, it does not add up based on McFeely’s comments about Steve fathering Peggy’s two children and them being at her Civil War funeral.
With Secret Invasion on the Disney+ horizon, the Skrulls could throw a wrench into everything in the MCU. In the comics, the warlike alien shapeshifters had been impersonating Marvel heroes for decades as they plotted against humanity from the shadows before declaring an all-out war.
In the MCU, Captain Marvel introduced the Skrulls as peaceful refugees just looking for a home, but we have seen them working with - and impersonating - Nick Fury and the remains of SHIELD. Could it be that Old Man Steve was actually a Skrull all along? Does that mean the real Steve Rogers isn’t on the moon, but he is inside a space station alongside Fury?
The Skrull theory would explain why Marvel played coy with Spellman about Steve Rogers, but it would take away from that heartfelt passing of the torch moment in Endgame and lessen the impact of FATWS. However, that doesn’t mean we couldn’t see Evans appear in Secret Invasion, but as a Skrull rather than the real Steve Rogers. All in all, I rate this one as unlikely.
THE QUANTUM REALM AND THE MULTIVERSE THEORIES
Marvel has two handy plot devices at its ready: Hank Pym’s Quantum Realm and the multiverse, which both play to more speculation.
Another theory is that after passing the shield to Sam, Old Man Steve returned to his civilian life. In order to have a young Steve for future MCU projects, the theory is that Cap will be put through Ant-Man’s Quantum Tunnel, effectively de-aging him as we saw happen with Scott Lang.
The other idea is that we could see other Captain Americas from the further reaches of the multiverse. That would mean that Old Man Steve is the MCU’s original Cap, but that a Cap from another corner of the multiverse could arrive to take his place if he were needed. This would allow Marvel Studios to cast a new actor to play an alternate Captain America if negotiations with Chris Evans don’t bear fruit.
Even though Feige did not offer any answers, my guess is that Steve Rogers is still shuffling around the MCU. As we saw with Isaiah Bradley in FATWS, even an elderly super soldier still retains many of the enhanced abilities from the serum. That could mean that Old Man Steve is not as feeble as he may have appeared on that park bench.
Of course comic fans have seen this before.
Go back to 2015’s Captain America #25. Without the serum coursing through his veins, Steve finally aged, which meant he could no longer serve as Captain America. That is why he passed the shield to Falcon. Then things got controversial.
Steve would eventually return to his youthful appearance and take up the mantle once again. Only it was all a Hydra plot. Red Skull manipulated the Cosmic Cube, personified as a child, into rewriting the past so that Steve Rogers had secretly joined Hydra, which made him a sleeper agent. That kicked off the underrated epic, “Secret Empire,” and saw Steve become Hydra Supreme, aka Captain Hydra, in an alternate reality.
While this may seem unlikely for the MCU, FATWS could have laid the foundation for just such a turn. Guess who was a major part of that story arc, recruiting members from the shadows Nick Fury-style to create a revived Hydra High Council? Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine, who assumed the role of Madame Hydra.
The trouble with bringing Chris Evans back to the MCU is that it would take away from the importance of Sam living up to the Captain America role. However, if Marvel went with a version of Secret Empire, then fans would cheer for Sam to take down this manipulated alternate Steve, thus sealing his place as the MCU’s one, true Captain America.
I argue that, of all Marvel’s characters, fans are most passionate about Steve Rogers. He is the MCU’s Superman, a beloved classic icon that appeals to generations of fans from all walks of life. That is why people hated John Walker so much that some even sent actor Wyatt Russell death threats.
It also explains why Secret Empire was so controversial. Anything perceived as tarnishing Cap’s legacy is not just frowned upon, but reviled. That would make introducing Evans as Captain Hydra a risky play but one that could enhance Sam Wilson even further.
Suffice to say, if Marvel wants to cement Sam as Cap and introduce a far departure from the Steve Rogers we know and love, this would do the job.
THE BIG PICTURE
There is little doubt that Steve Rogers is not finished in the MCU. Past that, there are far more questions than answers, and I suspect that is exactly what Feige and the rest of Marvel Studios wants. We are meant to keep guessing until we finally get a big reveal. The longer they make us wait, the more memorable Cap’s return will be.