Okay, we think enough time has passed that we don’t need spoiler space on this one: Bucky Barnes is dead. Again. This past week, we saw the release of the last Bucky Barnes as Captain America comic, with Captain America #619. Next month, we get a relaunched Captain America #1, while the main title continues as Captain America and Bucky #620, depicting the adventures of Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes in the past.
We’re extremely excited for both those titles, but thought we’d take a look back through the history of the recently departed, and count down our seven favorite Bucky Barnes moments:
Named after Cap creator Joe Simon’s friend Bucky Pierson, Bucky Barnes, kid sidekick to the star spangled avenger debuted in Captain America Comics #1. It’s hard to argue that, for the first few decades of his life, Bucky was AS important to Cap as Robin was to Batman, with the character appearing in virtually every story with the title character. In fact, along with Bruce’s ward, Bucky probably helped create the modern view of sidekicks. Who, you know, don’t exist anymore. But point made, Zalben. Point made.
Though we were a little back and forth in general about the Avengers/Invaders mini-series that came out in 2008, we were gung-ho about how cool it made teen Bucky. Sent forward in time, battling it out with the assembled might of the Avengers, Bucky Barnes was the only one able to keep a cool head, freeing his entire team, and bringing the conflict to a head.
Every big event has to have a big character death, and Fear Itself is no different. With Steve Rogers having to get back into the Captain America uniform by necessity (hey, it’s movie time, you guys! And to be fair, Marvel always said it would happen sooner rather than later), it’s bye-bye Bucky. Even if it’s a bummer, as he’s quickly become one of our favorite “new” characters in the Marvel U, writer Matt Fraction and artist Stuart Immonen gave him a properly heroic send-off, never giving up in the face of impossible odds. Also, when there’s magic involved – as there is here – we wouldn’t count him out totally.
4. Bucky Goes Evil Dead
After Bucky was blown up by a rocket back in World War II (we’ll get to that in a second), he lost his arm. Luckily for him, he’s in a comic, book, so it got replaced by a detachable robot arm. This came into play once Bucky was captured in a recent(ish) issue of Captain America, crawling through the air ducts and beating up guys all Die Hard style. Some people call this idea “stupid,” but I call it, “why are you reading comic book then?”
We’ve enjoyed pretty much all of Ed Brubaker’s run on Captain America, but his concluding arc for Bucky Barnes – the just completed “Gulag” – has been superb. Sent to a Russian jail for crimes he didn’t commit, Bucky stays strong, always doing the right thing because he thinks the truth will eventually come to light. When it doesn’t (though unbeknownst to him, it actually does), he stops holding back, and takes down the entire prison without even breaking a sweat. It’s moments like those that make us hope Bucky Barnes survives the icy cold hands of death a second time.
Interestingly Bucky’s death was first depicted not in Avengers #4 – the re-into of Captain America to the Marvel Universe – but in Avengers #56. That aside, Bucky’s heroic sacrifice, trying to halt the flight of an experimental rocket created by villain Baron Zemo, led to decades of great stories, and gave as much motivation to Steve Rogers as Uncle Ben’s death gives to Spider-Man, or the Wayne’s to Batman. Like the second time he died, Bucky went out trying to protect the ones he loved – is there anything more heroic?
…But the number one moment isn’t even a moment, necessarily, it’s the storyline that brought Bucky back into the Marvel Universe. Bucky DIDN’T die in the plane explosion, according to Brubaker. Instead, he was brainwashed by Russian scientists, and became the highly trained government assassin The Winter Soldier. When fans first heard Bucky would be coming back, the moaned in horror. But by the end of this storyline, he became a fan favorite, and eventually, possibly even a more popular Captain America than the original guy in the uniform. We’ll miss you, Bucky.