What I wanted to discuss this go around was the ‘resurrection’ and of Bucky Barnes to the Marvel Universe proper, and how I view it as a Captain America fan. I know that there are long time Cap fans who both agree and disagree with my approach to all of this and I figured with the release of Captain America #34 today, that now was as good a time as any to expound on some of the things I’ve said elsewhere on the subject so as to attempt to organize my own thoughts and try to present them in a coherent manner.In quickly recapping the events of the last two years, Steve Rogers a.k.a. Captain America was seemingly assassinated as Marvel’s Civil War event was nearing it’s conclusion (truth be told, I chose to skip that event almost entirely as I wasn’t in the mood for another round of Marvel’s politic and I wasn’t all too impressed by a number of the creative teams involved). While in custody following his surrender, Cap was shot at close range by (a brainwashed) Sharon Carter a.k.a. Agent 13. Since that time, his closest family, friends, teammates, and the M.U. as a whole have been trying to come to grips with his death and how to best move on with his legacy. Whilst trying to track down the perpetrators. Long story short, one of the biggest players in all of this is Rogers’ former side-kick, Bucky Barnes.
“Wait! Isn’t Bucky dead? And wasn’t he on the short list of those characters that Marvel wasn’t supposed to ever bring back?”
That’s the very one. And Bucky is who I wanted to discuss a little more here.
Ed Brubaker’s extended run on Captain America has been a very successful one for Marvel, readers, and critics alike. Though that’s not to say that everyone is on board with all that has gone down. While seen as a positive move by many, others have certainly expressed frustration that — among other things — Bucky Barnes was brought back from the dead at all. And while I’d love to discuss any number of things that have happened since his return, at length, that will have to wait for future entries. What I’m concerned most about here is his initial return.
There have been numerous criticisms surrounding Bucky’s re-appearance, and any number of them are worth discussing, but more than any other criticism is the re-occurring declaration that: ‘Bucky should have stayed dead.’
To this, I simply ask: why?
I’m not here to be an apologist for Brubaker and his storytelling, but taking this approach to Bucky’s return just doesn’t make an awful lot of sense to me. In disagreement, I could at least understand the sentiment if Bucky had nothing more to offer a reading public. I could understand it if Bucky’s death was akin to Barry Allen’s and the multi-verse’s fate hinged on it, and I could understand it if this kind of return to the land of the living never happened, but what I can’t understand is why this character ‘needs’ to sleep peacefully in the drink when the reason he was offed in the first place, the reason his potential was cut short, was ultimately because Stan Lee didn’t like teen sidekicks!
“One of my many pet peeves has always been the young teenage sidekick of the average superhero.” – Stan Lee.
Truly, Bucky’s “death” was a heroic one and his life and memory have long been honored by Cap, and those that knew and read of his bravery. That memory even became an integral part of Captain America’s own motivations over the years (for good and bad). I honestly respect that, but when we have the option of adventuring alongside a viable legend it puzzles me why he’s ‘supposed’ to be dead when he only met that fate in the first place because Stan Lee wasn’t all that keen on the sidekick. Now, I’m not knocking Lee, or begrudging him his opinion on the matter but why the stigma that Bucky should stay forever gone and buried? In this medium?
Death should be always be a serious, thought-provoking subject — even in comics — but were that same stigma applied to other characters then we’d be without any number of the following: Captain America (Steve Rogers), Superman (Earth-2), Superman, Green Lantern (Hal Jordan), The Silver Surfer, Hawkman, Wonder Woman, Jean Grey, Captain Mar-vell, Adam Warlock, Wolverine, Magneto, etc. The tip o’ the barrel at that. Should all of these characters have stayed dead in a similar manner? Sincerely, why is Bucky resigned to that short list of ‘never-to-returns?’
The only thing I can come up with is that Bucky provided a serious measure of guilt and torment for Captain America over the years. His unfortunate death was a spur in Captain America’s side for good and bad and as a result he has long been relevant in both life and death. But hasn’t that angle been played out long past its natural progression? That subject has been touched on for 40+ years. Is it not just as credible to say that Bucky’s return provides a whole new set of motivations for Steve Rogers?
Or as Brubaker recently wrote:
“But the real important part of that is that if you’re going to take away the tragedy of Steve losing his best friend during the war, you have to replace it with something else that serves the same function. And the tragedy was that, not only did he lose his friend in the war, but his friend was turned into everything that he would have hated. So when Bucky comes back, he’s a real conflicted character. I think that’s why people like the character. He doesn’t feel like a stunt character. He’s become a classic Marvel character. He’s not a black and white good guy or bad guy. He’s a good guy who’s had a lot of bad stuff happen to him. He’s done some bad things that he totally regrets. And I think that makes his character really work.” – Ed Brubaker.
Honestly, it wasn’t until Brubaker brought Bucky back that I really gained a bona-fide appreciation for the character. Certainly I’ve admired his service and his sacrifice over the years, I considered him an integral part of Cap’s great supporting cast and I enjoyed those flashback stories and reprint issues a great deal thanks in no small part to his contribution. But honestly, Bucky just never came alive (sorry…sorry) as a character for me to the degree that he’s done so under Brubaker’s care. And as a result, he’s quickly become one of my favorite characters! So, for the time being, I’m anxious to see how he handles the mantle of Captain America. I can think of no character more appropriate and deserving of it — in Rogers’ own absence — as Bucky Barnes is.
Now, let it be known that, to me, Captain America will always be Steve Rogers. And more than that, he is the character that I’ll always prefer to see in the role. He is the original, he is the success story, and he is the man that has forged the legend ever since determining to stand up for a just cause. Cap has long been a hero of mine (and my favorite comic character) so you can know that I hope for a speedy return. I just also happen to be of the mindset that, like Mark Gruenwald before him, Brubaker has a plan, that the good Captain isn’t forever lost to us, and that we can enjoy the ride in the meantime as he tells the story of Steve Rogers’ influence on one of Marvel’s great supporting casts and Rogers’ own best friend. As always, “Go get ’em Cap!”
I welcome any comments here, and elsewhere.