During Marvel Comics' recent Fear Itself story arc, one of the big left-field shockers was the death of Captain America, a.k.a. Steve Rogers' former sidekick James "Bucky" Barnes. However — as readers of Fear Itself #7.1 learned yesterday — Bucky's story isn't quite over. Spoilers on.
In a conference call today with Captain America author Ed Brubaker and Marvel editor Tom Brevoort, io9 learned about Marvel's plans to continue Bucky's adventures in February 2012 with a new Winter Soldier comic, an espionage series Brubaker described as "James Bond meets Splinter Cell."
Captain America fans know that "the Winter Soldier" was Bucky's handle when he moonlighted as a brainwashed Soviet assassin during the Cold War. And even though Bucky seemingly died at the end of Fear Itself #3, "a vast majority of the Marvel Universe" still thinks he's dead. Quipped Brubaker:
I knew 90% of the angry "You killed Bucky" fans were fans who were upset that I brought him back in the first place who I had won over. Hopefully I will be able to win them back again.
Among those who know that Barnes still respires are Steve Rogers, Nick Fury, and Black Widow (Bucky and her will be "the Nick and Nora Charles" of seedy spy games, guaranteed Bubaker). Bucky's faked death will allow him to work undercover, but each covert operation brings him closer to exposing his mission to the rest of the Marvel Universe. Explained Brevoort:
It's not to say he's not going to encounter other Marvel characters, but he'll be doing it more shadowy as the Winter Soldier and that nobody's going to quite know that Bucky's back and around and alive. If it's discovered that Bucky's alive, that causes some problems for Cap too [and] you'll see some recognizable Marvel characters and Marvel villains in the earliest issues of Winter Soldier.
Brubaker further promised that Bucky will have to reveal his not-deadness on occasion, and that those malefactors who've grown complacent "will shit their pants" when the Winter Soldier drops by. Noted former Gotham Central scribe Brubaker, "I always think when Batman is written right, it's when people aren't sure if Batman really exists. It's trying to add that little bit of flavor to a Marvel book."
What sort of rabble will the Winter Soldier roust? Brubaker hinted that Bucky will contend with nefarious multinational corporations and other characters with Cold War superhuman roots. Winter Soldier will continue Brubaker's predilection for mixing real, clandestine Soviet history with the Marvel mythos:
Right before I started writing [Captain America] seven-and-a-half years ago was when I looked at the Marvel history of the [covert Soviet superhuman project] the Red Room and actual KGB experiments in a way to blend fact and fiction.
This series won't be sunbeams and candyfloss for Bucky. According to Brubaker, "We will see the psychological toll of keeping his identity secret from everybody but his three closest friends." Brevoort also warned that there's a good chance Bucky will crack in the course of his mission:
This is a guy who'd been operating for years in a semi-amnesiac condition doing things that were reprehensible. Having to step back into that world is more than just staying out of the sight of cameras. It's entering back into a world and a place where his hands, his body, his self did some reprehensible shit that are the very things that are cropping back up now that have to be dealt with.
Sounds like a far cry from energy conservation PSAs! Winter Soldier #1 hits stands February, with interior pencils by Butch Guice, a cover by Lee Bermejo (header image), and a variant cover by Gabrielle Dell'Otto (second image).