Art by Lee Bermejo and Gabrielle Dell’otto
Orphaned and raised at Camp Lehigh, young Bucky Barnes became something of a mascot for the soldiers at this camp. He walked into the tent of a young soldier named Steve Rogers. He saw this soldier changing into the uniform of Captain America, and Steve trusted Bucky to keep this secret. Bucky became the partner of Captain America, and he fought alongside him throughout his many missions in World War II. Hebattled against enemies such as the Red Skull, Baron Strucker, and Baron Zemo. Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes became the best of friends. He even joined the Invaders alongside Captain America, Namor, the Human Torch, and Toro.
Towards the end of the war, Captain America and Bucky went on a mission to halt a missile launch from a base controlled by Baron Zemo. The two were unable to stop the launch, and they climbed onto the missile as it lifted off. They were able to force an in-air detonation. Captain America was able to leap from the missile before it exploded, but Bucky’s arm was caught. He couldn’t get away from the missile. Both were considered dead for some time.
However, Bucky’s body was found by Soviet soldiers. Knowing of Bucky’s skill and prowess as a soldier, they reprogrammed him in their Red Room (the same program used to train the Black Widow) to become their assassin, the Winter Soldier. He had lost an arm in the missile’s blast, and they replaced it with a super hard and strong bionic limb. He ran many missions for the Soviets, having a high kill count. He worked alongside another covert agent, the Black Widow, on many occasions.
After the fall of the Soviet Union, he was passed around the underworld until he came into the hands of the CEO of Kronas Oil Corporation, a man named Alexander Lukin. Under Lukin, he committed a pair of particularly notable assassinations. The first was the killing of Jack Monroe aka Nomad. The second was the killing of Johann Schmidt aka the Red Skull.
It was around the time of these assassinations that S.H.I.E.L.D began to track him. When he bombed an A.I.M instillation in Philadelphia, he came face-to-face with his old partner, Captain America. Despite the mask and arm, Steve Rogers immediately recognized him. However, Bucky did not remember him or recognize his own name when Steve called it.
While on the trail of a Cosmic Cube held by Lukin, Captain America and the Falcon ran into the Winter Soldier at a former Soviet base. After a fierce battle, Captain America used the Cosmic Cube to restore Bucky’s memories. This caused Bucky to have a breakdown, and he destroyed the Cosmic Cube and escaped.
When a Sleeper, one of Red Skull’s “scorched earth” protocol giant robots, awakened in London, Captain America, Union Jack, and Spitfire were on the frontlines of stopping the machine. Bucky showed up there, and he began to work with Captain America once more.
Shortly after, the Super Hero Civil War broke out, and Bucky worked for Captain America in the shadows, even connecting the Young Avengers. At the end of the war, when Steve Rogers was assassinated, Bucky took up the mantle of Captain America.
As Captain America, he partnered up with the Falcon and battled Baron Helmut Zemo and the now-insane 1950’s Captain America. He also aided the Avengers in their battle against the Skrulls during the Secret Invasion. He joined up with Luke Cage’s underground New Avengers and helped them fight off the Dark Reign of Norman Osborn. He even started a serious romance with Black Widow.
Steve was resurrected by, ironically, his old foe, the Red Skull. Once Steve was liberated from the Skull’s control, Bucky offered his old friend back the mantle of Captain America. Steve turned down the shield and encouraged Bucky to continue his work as Captain America.
Bucky and Steve helped the Avengers fend of Osborn’s Siege against Asgard. Steve then became the new Director of S.H.I.E.L.D, and Bucky joined up with the headlining Avengers team.
From the shadows, Helmut Zemo was continuing to plot against Barnes, and he revealed his former identity as the Winter Soldier to the public. This led to him being tried in U.S. court. He was acquitted, but he was then taken by the Russians and put into a gulag without trial. He was able to escape, but he had to become a fugitive.
When Sin, Daughter of the Red Skull, brought the Asgardian God of Fear to Earth, Bucky took up the shield once more. He took the fight to Sin herself, but she brutally beat him with the power of her own Asgardian hammer. This left Bucky on the brink of death, and he was saved by a dose of Nick Fury’s Infinity Formula. Still a fugitive, he went back underground as the Winter Soldier, working alongside Black Widow and S.H.I.E.L.D Agent Jasper Sitwell.
He began to work at locating and apprehending the other Soviet agents whom were put in deep freeze along with himself. During this operation, he found a conspiracy involving Lucia von Bardas and the Red Ghost. He brought them down. While on the trail of the final agent Leo Novokov, Black Widow was captured and reprogrammed by Novokov. With the help of Daredevil, Wolverine, and Hawkeye, he was able to liberate her and arrest Novokov. However, the process to deprogram Black Widow caused her to forget her memories of Bucky. This ended their relationship. After this, he was ordered to capture an immensely powerful Soviet agent named Tesla Tarasova. However, fter discovering her intent and past, he let her walk free.
He briefly worked with a new iteration of the Invaders organized by Steve Rogers, Namor, and Jim Hammond aka the Torch. They were able to halt a potential invasion of Earth by the Kree Pursuer known as Tanalth.
After the Watcher was discovered to be murdered, Bucky was among the heroes organized by Nick Fury to investigate. He became suspect of Fury quickly, and he was instrumental in discovering that Fury was the one to kill the Watcher. He also uncovered Fury’s secret operations as the “Man on the Wall.” He had preemptively ended many alien threats before they ever approached Earth. Bucky took over this role after Fury was made into the new Watcher of Earth.
Bucky, alongside Quake, began to dismantle many extraterrestrial threats to Earth. He ran amuck of Loki, and he was led to Mer-Z-Bow. This planet was inhabited by a psychically linked race, and Bucky fell in love with their queen, Ventolin. He and Quake were tracked by a Crossbones from an alternate universe as well as an older Bucky from the same universe. This led to a conflict that ended in the older Bucky and the other Crossbones returning to their own universe.
Bucky eventually returned to Earth after discovering traces of another Cosmic Cube on Earth. He discovered that it was held by S.H.I.E.L.D, and they were using it in their new prison, Pleasant Hill. He helped to uncover this operation, and he worked with Steve, Sam Wilson, and the Avengers to bring down the prison as well as halt a riot led by its inmates.
Bucky escaped Pleasant Hill with the Cosmic Cube, then in the form of a little girl named Kobik. He recruited Mach X, Atlas, Moonstone, and Fixer to help him protect Kobik. They became the newest iteration of the Thunderbolts, and they work to help uncover the corruption of S.H.I.E.L.D as well as continue to protect Earth from extraterrestrial threats. This is where Bucky Barnes is in the present day.
Bucky Barnes could be considered a failed super hero. He was corrupted by the Soviets, his tenure as Captain America was tumultuous at best, and he continues to actively rebel against law enforcement. However, all these show how thoroughly committed Bucky Barnes is to leaving a positive impact in the world. He wants to make up for what he was forced to do in the past, and those memories haunt him to this day.
He is frankly quite anti-social, and has never been close to other heroes other than Steve, Sam, Namor, and Toro. He is in constant emotional turmoil from his anger with the state of the world, his guilt over his work as the Winter Soldier, and his desperation to do something good. He’s aware of how many people perceive him, and it would be a lie to say these things do not eat at him. However, he weathers these judgments and continues to do what he thinks is best for himself and others. His retaking of the name, the Winter Soldier, shows how he is owning up to his past, and he wants to do what he can to fix what he’s done. He’ll never stop fighting corruption and malice, and he’ll do anything to make his friends proud of him. These qualities are what makes him my absolute favorite Marvel Super Hero of all time.
Further Adventures of the Winter Soldier: