WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Spider-Man: Homecoming, in theaters now, and potentially for Avengers: Infinity War, arriving in May 2018.
Spider-Man: Homecoming is filled with nods to previous films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but one may provide a clue to an upcoming release. It comes as Jon Favreau's Happy Hogan oversees removal of items from Avengers Tower to be transported to the team's new headquarters.
Happy spends much of Spider-Man: Homecoming as (effectively) Peter Parker's babysitter, but his duties at Avengers Tower go well beyond keeping an eye on a teenager with superhuman abilities and a high-tech suit. As items are being loaded onto a transport carrier, Happy casually mentions that one of them is a new shield for Captain America.
Wait, what? That’s right, it appears Tony Stark has been busy since his showdown with Steve Rogers in the final moments of Captain America: Civil War. Could he have made changes to the shield after Cap relinquished it? If that’s the case, then we may get to see this new model next year in Avengers: Infinity War.
We only have to look at far as Marvel comics for variations on the iconic shield, which has taken different shapes and forms over the decades. And the current series Captain America: Steve Rogers may provide the first potential clue to its cinematic future.
When the series debuted last year, it placed Steve Rogers in a new uniform with a matching new shield. When the Super-Soldier Serum was removed from his body by the villainous Iron Nail, Steve aged into an old man, and thus was unable to continue as a superhero. As a result, he passed his mantle, and his shield, to his longtime friend and former partner Sam Wilson, better known as the Falcon. When Steve eventually regained his youthfulness, and his enhanced abilities, with the help of the sentient Cosmic Cube Kobik, he decided there should be two Captain Americas, which meant he'd need a new shield.
The heater shield design in that series harks back to what Captain America used during his World War II days. However, one key difference is the current shield in the comics can split in half to become two smaller pieces of armor that can be worn on both arms; there's also a powered dagger piece on the end that can be used to cut into objects. It's easy to imagine a similar design making the leap from comics to film, perhaps accompanied by a Stark-designed costume similar to what the Sentinel of Liberty wears in Captain America: Steve Rogers. (We'll ignore the part about Steve acting as a sleeper agent for Hydra.)
But what if the Marvel Cinematic Universe instead cherry-picks from animation? Disney XD's The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes has featured an energy shield created by Tony Stark that's activated using a wristband, and could even generate a force field around the user and others. However, the device was used only briefly.
Other versions of the shield have appeared in the comics, but the majority of them pop up in alternate universes. Even in other realities, however, the shield typically maintains its circular shape, with slight modifications made to the color scheme, the type of metal it’s made from, or the star resting in the center.
It’s quite possible the shield Happy refers to is the prototype passed to Tony from his father, Howard Stark. The last time audiences saw this shield was in Iron Man 2, when Tony was searching for answers in his father’s belongings. Perhaps the shield made the move from Los Angeles to Avengers Tower in New York City. However, that raises the question of why Marvel Studios would call it out in Spider-Man: Homecoming. It has to be to seed the unveiling of new look for Captain America’s iconic shield. Besides, most of Marvel's heroes get at least a minor upgrade in each film, whether for story or merchandising purposes.
Captain America will need all the help he can get when Thanos decides it’s time to gather all of the Infinity Stones. As a futurist, Tony may already have factored that in and simply made a necessary invention by upgrading his former teammate’s weapon. And thanks to the wall-crawler's actions in stopping the Vulture from stealing the Avengers inventory in Spider-Man: Homecoming, the shield is now safely stored away at the new headquarters, awaiting its rightful owner.
In theaters now, director Jon Watts' Spider-Man: Homecoming stars Tom Holland, Michael Keaton, Zendaya, Donald Glover, Jacob Batalon, Laura Harrier, Tony Revolori, Tyne Daly, Bokeem Woodbine, Marisa Tomei and Robert Downey Jr.