Published on July 16th, 2012 | by Gavin Jones0
Now is the Winter Soldier of Our Discontent
With the news that the Captain America sequel will be titled Captain America: The Winter Soldier comes a certain level of expectation in respect to both the plot content and the high benchmark already set by Ed Brubaker’s original Winter Soldier storyline. As stated over on The Far Side(kick) blog there was an unwritten rule at Marvel “No one is really dead, except Uncle Ben, Gwen Stacy and Bucky.” but Brubaker chose to ignore that rule and bring Bucky back in sensational style. Of course superhero comic book characters come back from the grave all the time, it’s part of the canon but the return of Bucky was in my humble opinion the best handled storyline of it’s kind. Before we get into the ‘why and why nots’, we need to all be on the same page, so what follows is a quick update on who the Winter Soldier is, at least from the comic book continuity.
James Buchanan “Bucky” Barnes, Captain America’s young sidekick was thought to have met his end trying to defuse a bomb placed on an experimental jet by Baron Zemo, he failed and the jet exploded, ‘killing’ Bucky and plunging Cap into the sea where he would be frozen in ice until he is discovered and thawed out years later by The Avengers. What actually happened according to Mr Brubaker was that Bucky was saved from his watery grave by a Soviet submarine crew, taken back to Moscow and reprogrammed to be a state-sponsored assassin for Department X. Bucky lost an arm in the explosion that saw him fall into Russian hands so this was replaced with a bionic version, that allowed him his first real taste of power beyond that of a ‘normal’ human. As part of his transformation into the Winter Soldier, a now amnesia ridden Bucky was placed into suspended animation and only released when required, usually for a particularly nasty job, this made him the ultimate weapon, untraceable, deadly and on hand whenever needed. Of course eventually Cap and the Winter Soldier’s paths crossed and after much investigation Rogers was able to discover the truth, the at the Winter Soldier was actually his best friend and trusted companion, Bucky. Steve was able to return Bucky’s memory to him via the cosmic cube, racked with guilt for his actions as a Soviet agent Bucky set about putting right the wrongs that he had committed which led him on a path to becoming the new Captain America after Rogers’ untimely demise at the hand of an unseen assassin at he climax of Marvel’s Civil War.
So that pretty much takes us up to current continuity, other than Steve Rogers is now back as Captain America again, Bucky is ‘dead’ again but actually rocking it as the Winter Soldier again, only this time going all Quantum Leap and putting right the things that once went wrong (and that he was personally responsible for). Now in the movie continuity Marvel have played around a little with Bucky’s origin but for all intents and purposes, he’s Cap’s best friend and compatriot, he’s also ‘dead’ falling from a train whilst saving Cap from evil Hydra agents, so far so good. Jump ahead to present day, Cap has been thawed out and is now part of The Avengers, believing Bucky to be long gone, along with almost everyone else he knew and loved. Judging from the title of the next Captain America flick, it’s safe to assume we’ll be seeing Bucky return from the grave and follow a similar path to what we’ve seen in the comic books, most likely going up against Cap but returning to the side of right and might by the time the end credits role. As much as I love the Winter Soldier storyline, it was my sole reason for reading Ed Brubaker’s extended Captain America run, I can’t help but feel Marvel could’ve made a better choice for the sequel to The First Avenger.
The Winter Soldier storyline had real impact in the comics because Bucky was a character we never thought we’d see again, Cap had gone such a long time without him at his side that it really seemed as though he would remain dead forever. And when he did come back the character had been corrupted so far from his original ideals that it was a real kick in the balls for both Steve Rogers and anyone else that knew Bucky back in the day (in the comics Bucky knew Wolverine, Namor, The Human Torch (Jim Hammond), Toro, Nick Fury, Black Widow). In the movie continuity, the characters haven’t had that time to almost forget about Bucky and neither have we, last time we saw him was about 20 minutes from the end of the first film. The Bucky in the movie also wasn’t quite the same plucky young adventurer from the comics, he was a grown man, a soldier and hero in his own right, his fall from grace cannot be as far or have as big an impact.
It’s not that I don’t want to see the Winter Soldier storyline on the big screen, I do, I really do, I just feel that if Marvel could’ve kept it in their pants for a little bit longer they would’ve had something really special on their hands. I’m not even saying hold out forever, just the third film in the series would’ve been enough, this would’ve given audiences enough time to ‘forget’ all about Bucky, giving his return the desired impact. This would also have allowed Cap some time to grow as a character and get used to his new surroundings in the 21st century, without straight away shoehorning in his past. Lets not forget that nearly 60 years had passed in the comic books before Bucky returned, allowing Cap to have many solo adventures, as well as other team ups with new partners and The Avengers, why not choose any number of those stories for Cap’s second solo outing? It could be argued that with the Avengers Assemble movie, Marvel feel Cap has already had time to adjust and now it’s time to tie-in his second solo movie with the first and the Winter Soldier storyline is the perfect way to do that, especially as it allows for poignant flashbacks to World War II and maybe even some untold tales of Captain America and Bucky.
Of course, we shouldn’t second guess Marvel Studios, they’ve done a bang up job so far with all the movies released under their guiding light, this is mostly just fanboy ranting before even one second of the movie has been shot. What is interesting though is this comment from Ed Brubaker on twitter ‘Sorry folks, I know as much as you do about the Cap movie at this point. Although I’m hoping that’ll change soon.’, I do find it worrying that Marvel have announced the Captain America sequel will be based on a story written by a guy who still works for them…just, and they haven’t even bothered to consult him. Bad Marvel! Go and sit on the naughty step!