Bucky Barnes: Soldier, Tough Guy, Unequivocal Softie

I’m going to be spending a lot of time in the next month talking about the latest installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (which I really, really loved), but before I get into my many spoilerific deconstructions of Civil War, I thought I’d catch up on my comic book reading…

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Thunderbolts no. 2 (2016) Preview
art by Jon Malin

Let’s get something out of the way right off the bat: Bucky Barnes is a sucker.

He may look like a hard case and hit like a badass, but at the end of the day he’s a softhearted sucker for a hard-luck story. It’s part of his charm. And with the recently ended Standoff! crossover and the newly begun Thunderbolts series, Marvel has made the smart decision to exploit that aspect of his character, gifting him with a daughter-figure who charms him, confounds him, and (to my utter delight) brings out the sucker in him big time.

In what was likely no surprise to anyone, the little ghost girl on the cover of Thunderbolts #1 did indeed turn out to be Kobik—the sentient cosmic cube who manifests as a four-year-old and who was the lynchpin of Marie Hill’s failed Pleasant Hill supermax superhero prison. Given Bucky’s history with cosmic cubes (he destroyed one during the climax of the original “Winter Soldier” arc after coming to understand its potential to do harm), he and Kobik didn’t exactly get off to the best of beginnings. He tried to kill her; she catapulted him across the city with the power of her mind.

But then she went and found him, and well. Bucky’s a sucker…

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Assault on Pleasant Hill: Omega no. 1 (2016)
Nick Spencer, Daniel Acuña, Angel Unzueta, Matt Wilson

You’re in for it now, son. You never stood a chance.

Of course, Bucky also very clearly has something important in common with Kobik—a shared life experience that binds them. He knows what it’s like to be turned into a weapon against your will, to have such atrocities imprinted on your mind and forever on your conscience, to be hunted down and made to pay for things you had no say in and wanted no part of. Naturally, he’s going to do everything in his power to protect someone else from enduring the kind of horrors he faced.

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Thunderbolts no. 1 (2016)
Jim Zub and Jon Malin

The problem is that Bucky Barnes doesn’t know the first thing about dealing with children, and it—adorably—shows. As a fundamentally empathetic person, he has good instincts when it comes to developing human connections (when he’s not going off half-cocked), but a kid person he is not. Hell, he wasn’t even a kid person when he himself was a kid. I suspect he’s going to become one, though. Or maybe that’s just me getting my hopes up. I am 100% here for Bucky Barnes and his surrogate cosmic cube daughter—and 100% here for all the mayhem that’s going to cause.

It’s been a while since we’ve had a chance to see Bucky functioning in a large(ish) company of people. He’s mainly been on his own, or working with a small team of trusted individuals, since “Gulag.” In Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier we were able to see Bucky on a somewhat solitary journey of self-examination. What I’m excited to see now is how the results of his recent introspection will impact his interactions with this team. He’s still the Man on the Wall, but he’s not the only man on that wall anymore and it’s only a matter of time before everyone realizes he’s a marshmallow. Hopefully, they won’t rub it in too much.

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