Who is your favorite Captain America: Steve Rogers or Bucky?
(Warning: this will be quite long)
It’s Captain America month, and in case you haven’t heard, Marvel’s latest superhero movie, Captain America: The First Avenger, has managed to knock Harry Potter out of the #1 spot at the box office in America. The film not only managed to top Potter’s final outing, but also garnered some rave reviews from critics around the world. However, the fever for the caps is not only reaching Hollywood. Right now, Captain America is headlining the ‘Fear Itself’ summer comics crossover mega-event, where Steve Rogers’ former partner Bucky Barnes met the unfortunate demise of him last month. Since the reception of Bucky’s death is extremely poor, I’m beginning to question if perhaps Barnes was the more popular Captain America after all.
Steve is the original and best known Captain America. Steve’s story began as a skinny art student from Brooklyn who was rejected by the US Armed Forces because of his poor form. Desperate to help the war effort, Rogers agreed to participate in a top-secret operation known as Operation Rebirth, which transforms Steve into the pinnacle of human perfection. In the final days of World War II, Rogers is thrown into the frozen Atlantic after trying to stop a bomb dropped by the villainous Baron Zemo, where Rogers remained frozen in suspended animation for years, only to be awakened one day by the Avengers.
Steve gains appeal for being a man out of time. Although that has drastically faded in recent years, Steve’s morals and values constantly reflect his time in the past. His never-say-die attitude is something all heroes admire as well, and his commanding presence makes him one of the few worthy to lead the Avengers. Steve’s morals have often led him to question the actions of some of his teammates. In the 2006-2007 ‘Civil War’ mega-crossover, Steve opposes a government superhero registration law, led by former teammate Tony Stark, as he sees it as a removal of civil rights. Steve’s efforts to oppose the registration law led him to turn himself in to the authorities where he was tackled to the ground during his trial on the steps of the federal courthouse.
It is 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. In addition to a brief stint as Captain America during the 2010 ‘Siege’ comic event, Rogers relinquished the mantle of Captain America to focus on leading the superhero community as Commander Steve Rogers. This is again what makes Steve such a pure character. His sacrifice of relinquishing the mantle of Captain America really emphasizes how good-hearted the character is.
James ‘Bucky’ Barnes
Bucky was one of three characters along with Uncle Ben and Jason Todd who was thought to always stay dead in the comics. However, in 2005, Bucky was revealed to be a Soviet Assassin known as the Winter Soldier in Ed Brubaker’s brilliant Captain America series. Having spent his time as a Winter Soldier assisting in the Cold War effort, Bucky was kept in suspended animation between missions so that his masters could keep him in check.
It wasn’t until Steve Rogers found out that Bucky regained control after Rogers used the mystical device known as the Cosmic Cube to restore all of Barnes’ memories. After spending time working for S.H.I.E.L.D., Bucky rose to the mantle of Captain America when Steve was shot and killed in the aftermath of the superhero Civil War.
What made Bucky a great Captain America was that he had flaws. Unlike Steve, Bucky’s only superhuman asset was his bionic arm, meaning he didn’t have as much of an advantage 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 acceptance from him. 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 but Steve to wield the shield.
Brubaker created an epic narrative with the past eventually catching up with James. After Baron Zemo leaked his past life as the Winter Soldier to the press, Bucky was forced to go to trial where he was found guilty of crimes against Russia. It wasn’t long after escaping from Russian prison when Barnes met the poor demise of him in the Matt Fractions ‘Fear Itself’ crossover event.
Result: My favorite Captain America has to be Bucky. He has drastic flaws, but he’s still a good guy. Barnes was a more thoughtful Captain America 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 second half of 2011, Roger’s Captain America is starting to look a bit stale.
Let me know what you think, do you prefer Steve or are you like me and think Bucky is a more convincing Captain America? Leave your comments below.