If there's one thing that's become evident over the years is comic readers detest cheap comic book deaths. Actually it's when the deaths become insignificant with when the deceased character is miraculously brought back from the dead. Whether it's magic, science, alternate realities, time travel, clones, life-model decoys or some other type of doppelgänger, comic book writers have a multitude of ways to revive a dead character.
One of the few characters it was felt would and should never be brought back was Captain America's first sidekick, Bucky Barnes. When Ed Brubaker set his plan into motion with the re-introduction of Barnes as the Winter Soldier, I personally was both surprised and immensely intrigued to see where the story would take him.
Bucky went from being the beloved hero that sacrificed himself to a brainwashed assassin. Soon he was able to overcome his programming and stepped up to the role of Captain America when Steve Rogers was seemingly killed. In that role as Captain America, it looks as if Marvel may have plans to kill Bucky once again so that Steve Rogers can return to the mantle of Captain America. (Spoilers if you haven't read Fear Itself #3).== TEASER ==
Deaths have always been a common shocking plot device to draw attention to comics. They have become mini-events in the media's eyes and are now splashed across the headlines. In the recent Marvel event, FEAR ITSELF, the Red Skull's daughter, Sin, has been transformed by an ancient Asgardian force of evil. In a chaotic battle in Washington DC, Bucky faced off against the Asgardian-powered Sin and didn't walk away from the encounter in one piece. He was left with a pretty nasty gaping hole in his chest and we saw his final words as the comic page faded to white.
Before you cry out that you've been spoiled, this is something that happened a month ago and also something that Marvel has discussed. Bucky's wound looked pretty bad and the preview image Marvel released for Fear Itself #4, he appears to be lying motionless on a slab. Could this really be the end for Bucky? With the upcoming release of Captain America: The First Avenger in theaters, it's no surprise that Marvel would want and need to have Steve Rogers back in costume. Doing so doesn't mean Bucky has to die.
Because characters never stay dead in comics, if Bucky does die, it shouldn't be a big deal, right? He died and returned before so why not again? It just doesn't feel like the deaths we've been seeing. Even though the death occurred in a Marvel event book, there wasn't any attention drawn to the fact that he may have died. Imagine the media attention the issue would get if Marvel announced The Death of Captain America (again) a month before the movie was released. It wouldn't matter that it was a different Captain America just as it didn't matter in the media's eye that it was Ultimate Spider-Man that died rather than the actual 616-version.
It might be because of the movie that Marvel decided not to gamble with shocking non-comic book readers with the comic book death of the character.
If it was the Red Skull's daughter that killed Steve Rogers' partner, that could have some big repercussions. There's some good story-telling potential there. What doesn't feel right is all the work that Ed Brubaker has put into making Bucky a hundred times cooler than he was before his return. Bucky has gone on an incredible journey in becoming Captain America and the recent Trial of Captain America and the following story with Bucky in a Russian Gulag feel like too much just to have him die by a giant Asgardian hammer.
In the pages of Captain America, Nick Fury has made it clear to Steve that the nation needs a Captain America and also that even though Bucky was exonerated in the U.S., he's too tarnished to be Captain America. This is where it would be perfect for Bucky to take on a different identity such as USAgent.
There's also the fact that when Steve was stuck going through time as part of Red Skull's plan that fooled the world that he was dead, he saw the future (in Captain America Reborn #6). He saw a future where Bucky was dead while wearing his old Winter Soldier costume. As long as Bucky was Captain America, this future couldn't happen. This was part of the reason Steve didn't reclaim the identity from Bucky.
In FEAR ITSELF, it looks like he died because he was Captain America. If he wasn't wearing the suit and slinging the shield, there's a chance he would have still been there fighting alongside the Avengers but it's also possible he wouldn't have been in immediate danger.
I've been a huge fan of what Brubaker has done with Bucky. I would absolutely hate to see him die after all the time that has been invested in him. The Captain America series is being renamed to Captain America and Bucky and will feature the formative years of Bucky Barnes as he rises from scrappy army brat to Captain America’s closest ally. If it is time for him to die (again), we can probably rest assured that he will return somehow. Perhaps some Asgardian magic could revive/cure him. Let's just hope it doesn't have to come to that. Bucky's come too far to simply die once again.