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Bucky Flies Solo in Winter Soldier #1

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Death becomes the Winter Soldier as he embarks on a new clandestine chapter as Marvel’s go-to super-spy for the new millennium.

In 2005, Ed Brubaker did the unthinkable. He broke one of the most hallowed unwritten tenets of modern comic books and resurrected James “Bucky” Buchanan, the former sidekick of Captain America. Bucky, remember, had perished during the dying days of World War Two, attempting to stop a missile from striking his homeland, the good ol’ U. S. of A.

As many fanboys will attest, this was a huge deal. Intrinsic to the Silver Age retelling of Cap’s origin in Avengers #4, Bucky’s death set the tone for Steve Rogers’ modern superhero career and arguably informed many of his actions as America’s number one super soldier. Despite facing down dastardly secret organizations such as Hydra and AIM, and taking on cosmic menaces like Korvac and Thanos, always lurking in the background was Cap’s inability to save his young sidekick. To bring Bucky back would be to irrevocably shatter the status quo of one Marvel’s most recognizable characters, one of the linchpins of their entire universe.
      
So stated the infamous Bucky Clause... that is until Brubaker decided to revisit the verbiage and perform a little retrofitting of accepted continuity. Beginning with the modern classic Captain America #11, Brubaker told a much different story of a sixteen year old boy secretly trained to pull off the dirty jobs a symbolic sentinel of liberty couldn’t – or wouldn’t – touch with a ten foot pole. No longer simply an excitable sidekick tagging along with his super soldier mentor, Brubaker transformed Bucky into a force to be reckoned with, a true, cold-blooded killer capable of sabotage, infiltration, and assassination in service to his country.

But that was only the beginning.

After seemingly sacrificing his life stopping the evil Baron Zemo’s rocket plane from reaching American shores, Bucky’s near-lifeless body was retrieved from the frigid North Atlantic by a Russian patrol submarine, who brought him back (minus an arm and a few memories) to the Soviet Union, where he was used for decades as a top secret wetworks operative, performing covert assassinations throughout the Cold War and into the new millennium.

Eventually freed from his programming by none other than his former mentor, Bucky would go on to claim the mantle and shield of Captain America in the wake of his arrest and assassination in the aftermath of Civil War. His tenure would be short-lived however, as he perished during the Fear Itself event during a battle with a mystically-enhanced Sin, his last mission garbed in Cap’s red, white, and blue.

This time, though, thanks to Brubaker and collaborator Butch Guice, fanboys won’t have to wait half a century or more to read the ongoing adventures of the Winter Soldier. That’s right – ongoing!

The Bucky Clause does not apply here though. Unless you’ve been living under a rock since Fear Itself came to a somewhat discordant close, then you’re already in the know. You see, cagey super-spy that he is, Bucky faked his death thanks to an injection Nick Fury’s Infinity Formula and has taken up a new line of work, putting to rest some of the old ghosts from his Cold War ops, as a newly-purposed Winter Soldier.

If this smacks of the tired, typical comic book practice of event-based deaths and resurrections, so be it says Brubaker who claims he’s had this particular curveball warming up in the bullpen for months. Originally, the idea was to have Bucky “die” heroically within the pages of Captain America but Fear Itself came along and the opportunity to infuse his sacrifice with even more meaning was a hard one to pass up. Plus, it folded in nicely with Brubaker’s plans for a Winter Soldier ongoing, providing a global stage for his demise, and allowing Bucky to slip back into the shadows for his one-man crusade putting the ghosts of his past to rest.

           

Preview pages have been pretty scarce but what little has hit the internet still reveals much about the thrust of the new series. Positioning Bucky as the new millennium Nick Fury a la his Agent of SHIELD days, Cap’s former sidekick sees this new shadowy chapter of his life as not a return to his cold-blooded days as the Winter Soldier but as an opportunity to achieve the redemption he’s long strived to attain since his “return”. Aided and abetted by his one-time lover the Black Widow, Bucky’s espionage talents will be put to the test as he travels the globe righting the wrongs he committed during his years as the Winter Soldier.

Featuring absolutely stunning atmospheric artwork by talented veteran Butch Guice, this is a book to watch. With his calculated breach of the Bucky Clause, Brubaker has achieved what no one thought was possible, creating an instantly popular, relevant character out of the one demon haunting his mentor’s past.

Even if this isn’t the first time a sidekick has graduated into the spotlight once hogged by their partners (let’s not forget Nightwing and Arsenal), Brubaker and Guice’s chronicle of the Winter Soldier’s bid for redemption stands poised to be the most complete exploration of the relatively new “adult sidekick” archetype in quite some time.

Winter Soldier #1, Ed Brubaker (W), Butch Guice (A). Marvel Comics, ongoing series, $2.99. On sale February 1, 2012.

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