In less than one year, Marvel Studios will release the mother of all superhero movies: Avengers: Infinity War. The Russo brothers, who directed Captain America: Civil War, are going to have to top that epic hero-packed extravaganza. How are they going to do it? Well, killing off a major character like Captain America would sure make a hell of an impact.

As of now, details for Avengers: Infinity War are scarce. We know that filming is underway in Atlanta, the United Kingdom, and more, so it seems doubtful that we’ll get a trailer before this year’s Comic-Con International in San Diego (which takes place annually in July). But, if we’re killing time before then by theorizing, there’s reason to fear for Steve Rogers’s safety.

The biggest clue foreshadowing Captain America’s departure comes down not to Easter eggs or universe-centric theories, but something less fun: actor contracts. As of now, Chris Evans, who has played Steve Rogers since 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger, is slated for only two more Marvel movies. One of them is Infinity War, and the second will most likely be 2019’s still-untitled Avengers 4. A number of other actors with similar stipulations, such as co-star Anthony Mackie, who plays Sam Wilson, aka the Falcon, will also dub Avengers 4 their swan song, unless something changes behind the scenes.

Meanwhile, Sebastian Stan, who plays Bucky Barnes/the Winter Soldier, has a whopping NINE films in his contract. Stan has fulfilled three, his fourth will be Avengers: Infinity War, and his fifth will presumably be Avengers 4. That still leaves enough for an entire solo trilogy, plus one more for a crossover appearance.

Article continues below

But, while heroes like Tony Stark and Hawkeye can peacefully retire and kick back, Captain America’s comic book history suggests he’s in for something more harrowing. Shortly after Mark Millar’s Civil War, the comic which served as the loose basis for the film, Captain America is assassinated by Red Skull in Ed Brubaker’s aptly named The Death of Captain America. Though later comics would undo this via some weird timeline shenanigans, in the wake of his “death,” Tony Stark suggested that Bucky Barnes — aka the Winter Soldier — take up the mantle. Bucky’s costume as the star-spangled hero emphasized Bucky’s steely past, with adamantium armor and a pistol and combat knife as part of his arsenal.

Bucky Barnes as Captain America

Bucky’s substitution lasted for quite a while, even through Steve’s resurrection just a year later in Captain America: Reborn. From there, the Marvel Universe saw three Avengers teams: The New Avengers led by Luke Cage, the black-ops Secret Avengers led by a non-Cap Steve Rogers, and the premier Avengers, led by Bucky as Captain America along with Wolverine, Iron Man, Spider-Woman, Spider-Man, Thor, and Hawkeye.

But, don’t bet that Tom Holland’s Spider-Man will team up with Chris Hemsworth’s Thor and Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye, because both Hemsworth’s and Renner’s contracts also expire after Avengers 4. While it’s possible that either one of them could die based on looking at their contracts, Captain America still looks like the most likely suspect. Thor doesn’t have a replacement already in the waiting like Steve does with Bucky, and Hawkeye has already escaped death once, since Age of Ultron trolled fans by heavily foreshadowing a killing that never happened (to Hawkeye, at least; RIP Quicksilver). Plus, Hawkeye’s already retired. He doesn’t need to die.

All this is, of course, massively wild guessing to what the mega-secretive Marvel Studios has planned for its universe after Avengers 4. Marvel’s movies hardly adapt the comic books 1:1, so precedents from that medium are hardly set in stone. But, if one wants to forecast the future of the fictional Marvel Cinematic Universe, there’s no reason it wouldn’t be mapped out in the real (and boring) world of contractual obligations.

Photos via Marvel Entertainment

There are many lists on the internet that rank the greatest fight scenes, or the most impressive stunts pulled off by living human beings. This list is not like any of those. The following items listed below are, with some room for debate, the most influential stunts and action sequences in cinema, the ones that raised the bar and define what action movies looks like today.

One of Fortnite: Battle Royale’s most annoying Season 6 challenges is back for Season 7, but thankfully it’s given a festive twist and made just a little bit easier. Here’s what you need to know to find and play the piano sheet music in Fortnite Season 7 Week 2.

Fortnite’s latest challenges hit on Thursday morning and the playing of giant pianos is back in festive fashion. Except it’s a Christmas miracle that we don’t actually have to find the sheet music first like in Season 6. These days, players can head straight to the pianos to play beautiful renditions of “Jingle Bells” and “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate has been out for less than a week, but one of the world’s top Smash players is already offering a (preliminary) tier list. Gonzalo “ZeRo” Barrios, who dominated Smash Bros. Wii U tournaments, recently offered up a ranking of the new Ultimate roster in a Twitch stream (via EventHubs).

A mythical new weapon has come to the world of Fortnite: Battle Royale in the form of the Infinity Blade from the video game series of the same name, and it just made one place on the map the most trafficked location of all.

Following up on a Monday teaser, Epic Games introduced a sword called the Infinity Blade to Fortnite Season 7 and it’s so much more than another pickaxe like some players thought. The Fortnite version 7.01 patch notes outline everything to know about this new weapon, and it’s unlike anything else we’ve seen before in the game. In fact, the closest thing to the Infinity Blade is the Infinity Gauntlet that transformed players into Thanos for the Infinity War crossover in April. (Both items are classified as “Mythic.”)

This December, Inverse is counting down the 20 best science moments seen in science fiction this year, whether it be on the big screen or small, in books, on stage or in the immersive worlds of video games. Our science and entertainment writers have teamed up for this year-end series to show how real-life science has been memorably — though not always accurately! — portrayed in the culture. Watch this space for more additions all month long.