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Sam Wilson Can Be The Next Great Avengers Leader - But Only By Beating Red Hulk In Captain America 4

There are many questions about what awaits us in the MCU's future, but one absolute certainty is that Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) is Captain America, so stick that on your vibranium shield and let it shine. 

Speaking of shields, Sam understood the gravity of this own from the start. After being offered the red, white, and blue mantle at the end of "Avengers: Endgame," it took the events of "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier" for him to bravely carry on from where Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) left off, and make the role his own. However, it's a long road to walk (or fly) as the star-spangled hero, and Sam — while an experienced do-gooder — is new to this incredibly high-pressure role. By the end of the Disney+ series, he still hasn't stretched his wings wide enough to reach the levels of his predecessor. Because following Steve Rogers doesn't just mean taking down a group like the Flag-Smashers, or even just being an Avenger — but also, presumably, assuming Rogers' role as field leader of Earth's Mightiest Heroes. 

It's a job only a few can handle, and "Captain America: New World Order" is Sam's chance to prove himself against Avengers-level threats. Sure, he may have fought against Thanos' forces, but Sam's victory stats aren't that high after being tackled by a Tic-Tac and swatted by a spider. No, the new Captain America has to face off against an opponent that could squash him in two seconds, and somehow prove victorious anyway. 

How are they going to pull all that off? Don't worry — we have a Hulk. Maybe. A big, nasty red one. 

Red Hulk is probably the true villain of Captain America 4

Judging by the cast list making up "Captain America: New World Order," Sam's first Cap chapter is set to be blasted with gamma radiation. Liv Tyler is finally coming back as Betty Ross, along with Tim Blake Nelson as Samuel Sterns aka the Leader. Both of these characters last appeared in "The Incredible Hulk" in 2008, the year the MCU all began. The real draw, however, is Harrison Ford, who signed on in 2022 to replace the late William Hurt as Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross, the former general turned secretary of state, and now, per Kevin Feige, the president of the United States

It's exciting enough that Indiana Jones is joining the MCU as none other than the commander-in-chief, but it's even more interesting that this role could also lead to him becoming one of Marvel's most powerful monsters — and, very probably, the true threat Sam Wilson needs to face.

In Marvel Comics, Thunderbolt's repeated failed attempts to take down the Hulk see him eventually resort to trying out those Gamma rays for himself, developing a furious red tinge and a host of powers to match. While there's not yet confirmation that Ford's Ross will become Red Hulk (aka Rulk), given the other characters involved — and the fact that such a prominent actor was signed up as a new Ross to begin with — this theory certainly wouldn't be a stretch. And if this happens, it sets up a grand finale for "New World Order" that's not just Sam Wilson vs. Red Hulk — it's Captain America vs. an all-powerful U.S. president. This sets up a monumental hurdle for Sam to overcome, and also delves deeper into themes that "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier" only skimmed over.

To truly shine in Avengers 4, Sam needs to prove himself in Captain America 4

"The Falcon and the Winter Soldier" saw Sam refuse a shot at being a super-soldier, but still rise to the call of being a hero, nonetheless — and clearly cement himself as a better man than the U.S. government's chosen Captain America, John Walker (Wyatt Russell). 

Even so, while Sam's victory was earned, his path forward is far more challenging than that of other superheroes — both as a hero without powers, and as a Black man who has chosen to represent the dream of the United States as a whole. To become the Avengers leader that he seems destined to be, he needs to face opponents more substantial, fierce, and frankly more terrifying than the ones he fights in the series. What better perp to fit those criteria than Red Hulk?

Seeing Sam face off against the acting U.S. president charged with something extra could be a David and (gamma-riddled) Goliath battle for the ages. It would also be Sam's most significant challenge to date — a task that not even his predecessor came up against. Let's not forget that when Steve took on Thanos, he assembled some backup to get the job done, and even then, it was left to Tony to make the final call. With this battle, Sam would have to go it alone against a giant, grumbling Harrison Ford dipped in Kool-Aid. More importantly, though, after the dust is settled and Thunderbolt has been struck down by Sam Wilson, "Captain America: New World Order" could provide the kind of statement that only a few Marvel chapters have dared to tell. 

Captain America 4 should continue the conversation that started in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier

By the end of "The Falcon and the Winter Soldier," that iconic shield was given extra weight thanks to a hero that had been erased long before a gauntlet did. Isaiah Bradley (Carl Lumbly) was the fact-dropping diamond of the series, blowing viewers away by bluntly setting straight the dark history of the super-soldier program. Bradley's scenes were the most electrifying of the show, particularly as he adamantly remarked, based on his own experiences, "They will never let a Black man be Captain America. And even if they did, no self-respecting Black man would ever wanna be."

Sam Wilson may have changed Bradley's mind following his televised speech as the new Captain America, but Bradley wasn't wrong to tell the hero that the new job wouldn't be easy. So, what better way to demonstrate that Bradley was right, than by Captain America slugging it out with a Hulkified U.S. President, the ultimate figure of entrenched power? 

In this situation, Captain America would be the ultimate underdog, continuing to oppose the imbalances and prejudices of the past. He would be an outclassed, seemingly powerless hero coming to literal blows against a gamma-fueled authoritarian force in Ross. Such a daring venture could be one of the best things Marvel ever does, with this world of comic book heroes holding up a mirror to our own and keeping it there until the post-credits. 

Do this, Marvel, and Sam Wilson will have earned his shield as a hero — one who wields a power even more impressive than any magic hammer or technological super-suit, and the unquestionable leader for the next generation of Avengers.