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Alas, poor Crossbones. The ill-fated warrior was introduced in Captain America: Civil War, but didn't last long in Civil War. The last few months have seen repeated rumors that Frank Grillo's character will return in the as-yet-untitled Avengers 4, and now we have a fresh tease. It turns out that Grillo is indeed in Atlanta, where the production is currently filming, after all.
Not only is Grillo in Atlanta right now, he's also participating in a charity reading alongside some of the MCU's top names. They're also joined by Maximiliano Hernandez, otherwise known to Marvel fans as duplicitous S.H.I.E.L.D. turned Hydra agent Jasper Sitwell. Sitwell is another character who met an untimely end in a previous Marvel movie, killed by the Winter Soldier in the second Captain America film.
What's going on?
Back in September, Grillo told Forbes that we should be expecting some Marvel news soon.
"It's great to be part of Marvel too, and I have three boys who are fanatical about Marvel, and I was surprised not too long ago because there is some news that nobody knows yet, to do with my character, that's going to be really interesting and I'm excited about that."
Although resurrections are a dime a dozen in superhero comics, Grillo later admitted that he didn't think one was in store for Crossbones. That said, the last week has given evidence that Tony Stark will use his virtual reality tech to relive events set shortly after The Avengers. We've seen repeated set photos showing members of the cast in Avengers-era costumes, and one hinted at Stark's Binary Augmented Retro Framing (B.A.R.F.) system.
At the time of The Avengers, both Jasper Sitwell and Crossbones were (in theory) agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. That organization was heavily involved in the cleanup after the Chitauri invasion, and the Item 47 one-shot already showed that Sitwell was a key part of that operation. It would make sense for both characters to reprise their roles in this mysterious sequence.
Another Intriguing Possibility
Of course, there is another possibility. Neither Sitwell nor Crossbones may be dead at all.
2019's Captain Marvel is set to introduce the shapeshifting alien race known as the Skrulls. Many fans believe the film will lay the groundwork for a "Secret Invasion" plot, and some are even speculating that this may be the plot of Avengers 4. In that scenario, we'd expect to learn that a number of secondary characters in the MCU had secretly been replaced by Skrull operatives. It's possible that both Crossbones and Sitwell were actually Skrull impostors, and that the Avengers will rescue the real people from imprisonment on a Skrull vessel.
That scenario would have a very different impact on the MCU's future. After all, suddenly both characters would be alive and active in the present-day MCU. Fans were frustrated when Crossbones was killed so early on in Civil War, and felt he'd been mishandled. This approach would essentially give Marvel a second chance with the character.
Right now, it does look as though both Crossbones and Jasper Sitwell will be returning to the #MCU. The odds look good that this will be a B.A.R.F.-powered flashback. That said, we can't rule out the possibility of Skrull replacements when Avengers 4 remains the most mysterious #Marvel film over the next two years. Over on Twitter, the Atlanta Filming account — associated with a professional photographer who takes set photos in Atlanta — has long been teasing that he's seen unexpected faces on set, but doesn't want to spoil the film. Are these two of the people he's spotted? Only time will tell.