BLAARGH! The Death of Bucky Barnes

Why do bad things happen to good fans? Whether it’s atrocious art, ridiculous writing or something else entirely – some crimes against fandom cannot go unanswered. When that happens, it’s time to say “BLAARGH!”

We’re nearing the halfway point of Marvel’s Fear Itself event and thus far the response has been fairly tepid, largely due to the fact that the first two issues held virtually no surprises to anyone following comics or comics news since around Christmas last year. Serpent, blah blah blah Allfather yadda yadda yadda, worthy, hammers, bip bip bip. We knew all of this was coming. Yes, we’ve been treated to some nice art and dialogue along the way. I’m not suggesting there was anything wrong with what we’ve seen thus far; it just was unsurprising to its core, thanks to the Hype Machine surrounding it. Then comes issue three, and, with it, a pretty serious plot point that was sadly overshadowed since the collective comics community (myself included) was busy wetting its pants over the announcement of DC’s impending relaunch the day before.

Captain America died.

No, not Steve Rogers, the former Captain America that already died and returned as the Super Soldier who is primed to return to the role of Captain America in a new #1 in July, as was spoiled by Marvel months in advance to the mainstream media. No, he’s just fine. Instead, Sin killed James Buchannan “Bucky” Barnes, the new Captain America, who reluctantly accepted the responsibility of the shield after Steve’s brief sojourn to the beyond. She killed Bucky, who’s currently unjustly imprisoned in Russia as a result of his actions as the Winter Soldier. She put a hole in Bucky’s chest, the Captain America that was just put on trial for treason and was barely vindicated at the last minute before having his redemption stolen from him as he landed into the aforementioned Russian gulag.

That sucks.

PWNED

I fully understand these are Marvel’s characters and they can do whatever they want to them and all that jazz, so please refrain from those types of comments. The reason I hate Bucky’s death so much is that he never found the redemption he needed. Yes, he was acquitted of the charges against him, but he never had a chance to return to the public eye as Captain America and earn the trust of the American people. The “Gulag” story has been great so far. It’s been a dark journey for Bucky as he confronts all the ghosts of his past and I was very much looking forward to the end to see how he came back from it. Apparently, the final issue of the current volume of Captain America ends with him jumping on a plane to go get killed in Washington.

As far as deaths in comics go, it wasn’t even a good one. For all the Hell Marvel and Bendis caught for Hawkeye’s sacrifice in Avengers: Disassembled, I always thought the notion of Clint taking out the enemy with his last action was powerful. Bucky was tossed aside like he was nothing. He went out fighting, but he never had a chance. He made no impact on the battlefield whatsoever. He wasn’t even in the story until he died! I’d noticed his absence up to that point, but figured this must be taking place alongside “Gulag,” so I didn’t think much of it. To have him come into the book just so he could die is a cheap way for Bucky to go out considering how far he’s come since his return.

He was beaten so easily to illustrate how serious a threat Sin and the Serpent are. I get it. She’s never been able to kill him and with her new Asgardian power, she did. Both Marvel and the fans like these events to have a little weight. They need to have an impact I get that, too. I’ve been reading comics a long time, so I know how the game is played. Also, since there’s a movie coming out, they just HAD to get Steve Rogers back in the costume because the legions of moviegoers who flood comic stores after the movie comes out next month would be really confused to find a different guy in the uniform That’s how that always plays out, right? Snark aside, you want Rogers back in the uniform. It’s clear now in the stories that Rogers WANTS to be back in the uniform more than he wants to be a commander. He’s a soldier. I’ve no problem with Steve taking up the mantle again. It was only a matter of time. But I personally don’t want to see Steve Rogers back in the mask enough for them to have killed Bucky when he had so many more stories in him. Those stories may not have been as Captain America, but he had more to do. Bucky wasn’t done.

Captain America writer Ed Brubaker has said since the issue came out that the plan was for Steve to come back and that something would have happened to Bucky at the end of “Gulag” to take him out of the costume, but he and Fear Itself writer Matt Fraction coordinated this instead as a major story beat for the event. Given the nature of the story, I doubt Bucky was going to end up buried in an unmarked grave in the Russian tundra, so my gut tells me he wasn’t going to die at the end of that story. If that’s the case, I have to imagine Brubaker had plans for him after he stepped down as Captain America. Fraction has said he was honored to be able “to end Bucky’s story as Captain America.” So hopefully in this story full of gods and with the tech of the Avengers on his side, Bucky will come out of this one alive and we’re awaiting the switch to our current bait.

Welcome back, but I miss Bucky already.

Bucky’s death was effective in as much as it was absolutely the first genuine surprise of the series thus far. On that level, it worked. But if he is in fact dead (for now), I feel like they’ve really stunted his character. Bucky was/is at his lowest point since he was the Winter Soldier. Going out in a few pages wasn’t a fitting end for a character whose return was SUCH a long shot in the first place. Bucky’s personal arc has been one of the most enjoyable I’ve read in a long time. We watched him rise up and we watched him fall. But now, we’re robbed of the chance to see him persevere. I genuinely hope Bucky returns during or immediately following Fear Itself. Some may cry foul and his death not sticking, but I for one cannot wait for his return. Bucky is infinitely more valuable to the stories of the Marvel alive than dead. When Steve Rogers died, his presence was felt even after he was gone. Even in death, he was a motivator. He was practically a character in the Captain America book during his death because of what he meant to the cast of that series. I don’t think Bucky has that kind of weight yet. He could, but he has to be given the chance to build that kind of legacy, and I hope the writers and editorial at Marvel give him that chance.

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Lee Rodriguez is a co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of Panels On Pages. He is also a freelance graphic and web designer, action figure customizer, swell guy, and an awesome dad.

I'm even on Google+... Kind of.

Comments (19)

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  1. Arsenal says:

    I am still not sold that he is dead dead, and if he is just going to be the Martian Manhunter of Fear Itself, the “Holy crap” the villians are serious this time death, and he will probably come back to life when the Planeteers summon Swamp Thing, or since this is Marvel…. Man Thing.

  2. Superdoug says:

    Fraction is a disrespectful hack. That’s all that really needs to be said, here. He is the SOLE reason I completely dropped Uncanny X-Men. His disregard for the history and potential of Marvel characters makes him a danger to any real fan of quality storytelling.

  3. GRIMM says:

    I loved what Brubaker did with Bucky I loved the Winter Soldier storyline and I loved it even more when he became Cap it was an evolution of the character, taking up the mantle of his predecessor…then this, the WTF, just happened moment.

  4. Geoff says:

    I agree, in part, with Arsenal, and couldn’t disagree more with Superdoug. Either way, I’m not convinced Bucky is dead. It doesn’t seem right that he would die after such a great run under Brubaker. I’m not sure why I don’t believe the death so much, but my strongest feeling about this is that either Thor or Odin will not allow him to be dead at the end of this story.

  5. Bigtymin504 says:

    Great piece. I’m a huge Cap and Bucky fan, especially Bru’s run, so Bucky’s death in Fear Itself annoyed the he’ll out of me too but like many of you said I don’t think he’s dead dead. Bru has said that Bucky is his favorite Marvel character so I don’t think his story will end there.

    Also disagree with the Fraction hate comment. I agree that his X-Men run wasn’t the best but his Iron Man and Thor work is top notch. And I hear great things about Casanova.

  6. Superdoug says:

    Well, X-Men is the only thing I read by Fraction, and it left a really bad taste in my mouth. He may be telling great stories elsewhere, but in my opinion, he crapped all over the X-Men legacy, and I haven’t been able to get around that.

  7. John-Michael (Batman25JM) says:

    Bucky damn well better not be dead.

    As for Fraction, I am NOT a fan. At all. I HATED his Uncanny X-Men run with a passion. I also think his Invincible Iron Man run is overrated. It was boring and repetitive. I dropped it after issue #500. I’ve read one issue of his Thor and that was more than enough. After Fear Itself I’m forever done with Fraction (unless, god forbid, he does another big event).

  8. Qoheleth says:

    Bucky deserves far better. Unfortunately, Marvel doesn’t have a bullpen full of excellent writers who would a)not kill him off or b)make his death meaningful. There are a few that would have done it right (if they were given full reign), but this is just hack (or stab, I guess) writing.
    Knowing Marvel (and suspecting another hack is lurking), Bucky _will_ probably return, but again without any redemption or likely without any real reason.
    I guess Jean Grey is really dead now, but who knows?

  9. JohnnyTruant says:

    From what I heard, Bru wanted to kill off Bucky in Captain America and he was going to use the Red Skull in some form to do it. It just turned out that it fit well into this story, and that’s why it didn’t happen in the main book. Bucky was going to die from the beginning.

    Now a character staying dead? That’s a different story altogether….

  10. Doug says:

    I’ve been reading Marvel for 46 years. Bucky’s death was unneccessary as Mr. Brubaker established at the end of Captain America #619 that Bucky would not be able to wear the uniform again. Marvel could have found another reason for Steve Rogers to resume the mantle. Killing Bucky was just the most expediant. If this is how Marvel thanks it’s readers for making Captain America one of their best selling titles, they don’t need or want my business. I sure have no desire to buy their product.

  11. mike says:

    I’m a big fan of Cap and I’ve been reading it for years now. I guess my big complaint is that he died in a spin off book. I haven’t been reading Fear Itself and so I just found this out. This sucks.

  12. knight70 says:

    Ed’s known for writing “smoke and mirrors” stories, guys. When Steve was “killed,” it seemed solid. I’m not convinced Bucky’s “death” is permanent. In my opinion, it’s got Nick Fury written all over it. I’m guessing Bucky will turn up down the road in the Secret Avengers. It would be cool to see Bucky as U.S. Agent. I’m hoping he’ll lead the team. Since we recently saw a U.S. Agent wanna-be, I’m guess that was a pretty strong hint. Sometimes, the best kept secrets are revealed in plain sight.

  13. Jason says:

    I haven’t really been following Captain America (even though Steve is my favourite Marvel hero) but this news rather sucks. Bucky as Cap is a great concept (much like Dick as Batman) but even though we know that Steve has to carry the shield once more (because nothing in the Marvel universe ever really changes) killing Bucky is the wrong way to go about it.

    I guess I’ll go back to my general apathy towards Marvel then.

  14. TNelson says:

    I was devastated! Bucky was turning into a truly interesting character. Heck, Marvel already succeeded at that, he was rad! Why oh why did they have to kill him?

    I like that he wasn’t as strong but still fought really well. I also like that Steve Rogers was moving on into more of an advisory role–that’s just realistic and resonates. Or have two Captains, I dunno, I really liked it when they fought together during the Siege.

    I think this plot twist was complete garbage. I mean, kill the falcon or something! The dude has a bird…

  15. knight70 says:

    I’m not convinced that Bucky’s dead at all. We’ve all seen Cap’s shield busted, too. I have a feeling that we’ll be seeing Bucky turn up at some point within the next year or so. I’m sure Cap’s shield will be restored somehow, as well. It could be that Bucky faked his death, considering he was still a Russian fugitive at the time of his “death.” It would be a nice way for him to move right into his black ops persona, and maybe lead the Secret Avengers or even a team of Invaders. Once the Serpent is history, maybe all of the devastation he did will reverse as a result. I have faith that Ed has plenty more planned for Bucky down the road in the current continuity. I seriously doubt he would have gone to all the trouble to resurrect Bucky, only to have him “killed off” so easily.

  16. Shounough says:

    I’m so sad about Bucky’s Death! He never got a chance to have that battle saving event to shut up the people who thought he shouldn’t been the new Cap. R.I.P. Mr barnes! He deserve better!

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