‘Captain America': More ‘Winter Soldier’ In New Photos

Sebastian Stan's Bucky returns to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but as friend or foe? Plus, Black Widow strikes back!

According to the Klingons, revenge is a dish that’s best served cold. Something tells us the Winter Soldier prefers vengeance on the frosty side as well.

Bucky Barnes , World War II veteran and longtime friend of Steve Rogers, returns to the Marvel Cinematic Universe in next summer’s “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” but under drastically different circumstances than the last time we saw him. He’s no longer the wise-cracking sharp-shooter battling the forces of HYDRA alongside Cap and the Howling Commandos. These days, he’s a shaggy-haired super-spy, mysteriously operating in the modern-day, just like his old friend Steve — but on the wrong side of the law.

Empire Magazine has new photos from “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” in their latest issue, including a new look at Bucky as the latest Marvel menace. It’s our best glimpse yet at Sebastian Stan as the titular Winter Soldier, mask concealing half of his face, ratty hair taking care of the rest. He has one bionic arm reeled back, ready to launch a nose-breaking punch at any minute. The other hand wields Captain America’s shield — a startling image for a number of reasons.

For one, if Bucky has Cap’s shield, what does that mean for Cap? It’s a sign that our hero is on the wrong end of a beat-down. But beyond that, is this a sign of things to come in the Marvel Cinematic Universe? At one point in the comics, Bucky, now reformed and back on the side of the angels, assumes the Captain America mantle when Steve Rogers is “assassinated.” (“Assassinated” in quotes because he’s not really assassinated, because comics.) Is this just an Easter egg for fans of the Bucky-Cap era, or is it a signal that Bucky-Cap will happen in a future Marvel movie?

In addition to the Bucky shot, the Empire issue has new images of other “Captain America” leads, including Scarlett Johansson as the Black Widow. After playing Widow in two previous Marvel movies (“Iron Man 2″ and “The Avengers”), Johansson makes her mark on Steve Rogers’ world in “The Winter Soldier,” working with the star-spangled superhero on various S.H.I.E.L.D. operations.

If the new “Winter Soldier” images are any indication, then Widow ought to watch her back, or else risk becoming “red” in someone else’s ledger.

A third photo from “Winter Soldier” shows two generations of S.H.I.E.L.D. leaders in the midst of a tense moment. Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury stands in a subordinate pose, hands behind his back, head tilted sidewise and an almost apologetic expression on his face. Robert Redford, making his Marvel movie debut here as top-level agent Alexander Pierce, listens intently, offering nothing in response except for a cool gaze.

Several questions and theories surround Redford’s character. One rumor suggests that he’s not the man he seems, someone with dark ideas in mind for Captain America and his allies. Another frequent fan-suggestion posits that Pierce once operated under the “Nick Fury” alias, meaning “Fury” is just a name and title passed across generations of S.H.I.E.L.D. higher-ups. Whoever he really is, we already know this much about Pierce: He’s not a man you want to cross.

Empire’s final photo features Chris Evans as Steve Rogers in his new S.H.I.E.L.D. uniform. The redesign skips the red and white and goes straight to the blue, with silver streaks left behind as tribute to the character’s signature stars and stripes. It’s a darker Cap than we’ve ever seen before — and something tells us that new look will fit right in with the dark themes of “The Winter Soldier.”

“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” arrives on April 4, 2014.