It’s Captain America month, and in case you haven’t heard, the latest Marvel superhero flick Captain America: The First Avenger has managed to knock Harry Potter off the number 1 box office slot in America. Not only has the film managed to overtake Potter’s final outing, it has also raked in some favourable reviews from critics worldwide. Cap fever isn’t just hitting Hollywood though. Right now Captain America is headlining the summer’s mega comic cross event ‘Fear Itself’, where former sidekick of Steve Rogers, Bucky Barnes met his unfortunate demise last month. With the reception to Bucky’s death being extremely poor, I’m beginning to question if perhaps Barnes was the more popular Captain America after all.
Steve is the original and most well known Captain America. Steve’s story began as a skinny art student from Brooklyn who was rejected by the U.S Military for his poor shape. Desperate to aid the war effort, Rogers agreed to take part in a top-secret operation known as Operation Rebirth, which transforms Steve into the peak of human perfection. In the closing days of World War 2, Rogers is hurled into the freezing Atlantic after trying to stop a bomb launched by villain Baron Zemo, where Rogers remained frozen in suspended animation for years, only to one day be awoken by The Avengers.
Steve gains appeal from being a man out of time. Although that has worn off drastically in recent years, Steve’s morals and vales constantly reflect his time in the past. His never say die attitude, is something all the heroes look up too, and his authoritive presence makes him one of the only few worthy of leading the Avengers. Steve’s morals have often led him to question the actions of some of his teammates. In the 2006-2007 mega crossover ‘Civil War’, Steve opposes a government superhero registration act, led by former team mate Tony Stark as he sees it as a removal of civil rights. Steve’s efforts to oppose the registration act led him to surrender to authorities where he was shot down upon his trial on the steps of the federal courthouse.
It was later revealed that Steve was trapped in time, as a result of the Red Skulls evil plan. After reliving his past, Steve was eventually rescued by the new Captain America and the New Avengers. Apart from a brief stint as Captain America during the 2010 comic event ‘Siege’, Rogers gave up the mantle of Captain America to focus on running the superhero community as Commander Steve Rogers. This is again what makes Steve such a pure character. His sacrifice of giving up the mantle of Captain America really emphasizes what a good heart the character has.
James ‘Bucky’ Barnes
Bucky was one of the three characters alongside Uncle Ben and Jason Todd that were thought would always stay dead in comics. Yet in 2005, Bucky was famously revealed to be a Soviet Assassin known as the Winter Soldier in Ed Brubaker’s brilliant Captain America series. Having spent his time as the Winter Soldier aiding the Cold War effort, Bucky was kept in suspended animation between missions so his masters could keep him under control.
It wasn’t until he was discovered by Steve Rogers did Bucky regain control after Rogers used the mystical device known as the Cosmic Cube to restore all of Barnes’s memories. After spending time working for S.H.I.E.L.D Bucky stepped up to the mantle of Captain America when Steve was gunned down in the aftermath of the superhero Civil War.
What made Bucky such a great Captain America, was that he was flawed. Unlike Steve, Bucky’s only superhuman asset was his bionic arm meaning he wasn’t as advantaged in combat as his predecessor. This often led to Barnes being captured, which actually became a cliché associated with the character. Barnes was not an idol to his fellow superheroes, as he had to earn their acceptance. Bucky was trying to redeem himself for his past actions as the Winter Soldier, he never wanted to be Captain America, he just didn’t want anyone other than Steve wielding the shield.
Brubaker created an epic narrative with the past eventually catching up with James. After his past life as the Winter Soldier was leaked to the press by Baron Zemo, Bucky was forced to go on trial where he was found guilty of crimes against Russia. It wasn’t long after escaping the Russian prison did Barnes meet his poor demise in Matt Fractions crossover Event ‘Fear Itself’.
Result: My favourite Captain America has to be Bucky. He’s drastically flawed, but he’s still a good guy. Barnes was a Captain America more reflective of the 21st Century. His story arcs were more compelling, and his character was richer. Steve will always be the classic Captain America, but as we enter the later half of 2011, Roger’s Captain America begins to feel slightly outdated.