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Captain America and Bucky #620: Review

Jul 2011
Ed Brubaker, Chris Samnee

Story Name:

Part 1 of 5: Masks

Review & Comments

3 stars

Captain America and Bucky #620 Review by (July 31, 2011)
Comments: Comic is retitled CAPTAIN AMERICA AND BUCKY with this issue, for a five-part retelling of Bucky’s story.

Captain America and Bucky #620 Review by (August 2, 2011)
This issue has been retitled "Captain America and Bucky", even in the indicia. It would be impossible to have 2 concurrent series just called Captain America. It begs the question what will happen after the current 5-issue story is over. It may also give Marvel a problem if they ever want to revert the 'main' Cap title to its original numbering, as they have done before. This 5-issue storyline will tell of the Cap/Bucky partnership from Bucky's point of view. As such the series might more truthfully have been renamed "Bucky and Captain America" (or for this issue in particular "Bucky, guest-starring Captain America"). The main cover shows young Bucky holding the folded flag at his father's military funeral. If Cap was really the main star of this series, then this story might have been told from Cap's memories, and maybe the cover would have had Cap at Bucky's funeral. I mentioned in my comments on Marvels Project that I don't really like Brubaker's severe editing of Timely history. And I prefer timelines that have Cap and Bucky's origin much earlier than CAC#1's March 1941 cover date, rather than later. But apart from my personal preferences I liked the flow of this issue, as well as its subject, and will certainly buy the rest of the series. I am interested to see how Brubaker fits the rest of the earlier modern Marvel version of Bucky's story into Winter Soldier's life story. Chris Samnee's art has a cartoony realism that fits well with the aim to make the original simplistic story more believable. The muted colouring suits the times too.

In the present issue Brubaker has tacked his version of Bucky's training on the end of a childhood expanded from the earlier revelations, with some changes. He gives us a date for Mrs Barnes' death as 1935, while Mr Barnes is already in the army. He makes sister Rebecca younger than brother James, and chooses the option where they are separated after their father's death, probably not much later. But he sends Rebecca to a boarding school rather than to an aunt. Bucky is shown fighting Bucky's father's name is now also James, rather than George. The fact that his training companion Samson is already a Major by the time of James' funeral suggests fast promotion on Samson's part (if James joined up in 1930). And that maybe James wasn't just a Private by then. Bucky is shown to be a scrapper from an early age. And to relish it. His black market deals are included in the mix. Gen'l Phillips is shown to have his eye on Bucky in 1940, but wanting to wait until his 16th birthday. Then the 2 months SAS training (which would have to occupy the whole of July and August 1941), during which Bucky sees newsreels of Cap. Followed by the meeting with Cap from CA v5 #12 and #14. It looks like Cap and Bucky may use the Barnes (military) house as base.

This was the state of play when Ed Brubaker started his run on Captain America. He wanted to portray Bucky as a tougher character, less the teen sidekick, probably to make the Winter Soldier version of Bucky more believable. CA v5 #50 has Bucky on his 16th birthday in the brig for brawling. Major Samson sends him to the UK for SAS training. Then CA v5 #12 and #14 show Gen'l Phillips, the man in charge of the Super-Soldier project, introducing him to Cap as a combat-ready partner. In Brubaker's scheme this is August 1941 (therefore Bucky was born in 1925). (The SAS was only formed in July 1941, just in time to give Bucky his training!) In Marvels Project #7 Brubaker makes it clear that the old idea of Bucky befriending Steve and just happening to become Cap's partner was propaganda via comics and newsreels. This leaves nothing of the Timely original except that Bucky was the camp's mascot. Meanwhile this harder-edged Bucky crops up in Wolverine: Origins #17-20, where it is stated that he is tasked to do jobs behind Cap's back - jobs that Cap can't be seen doing. In this case assassinating Baron Strucker. And in CA & Black Panther: Flags Of Our Fathers #4, set before the Cap/Bucky partnership, the military top brass are told that Cap needs a partner to do things he is unwilling to do.

This issue is the first comprehensive account of Bucky's early life, to set alongside Captain America #255's description of Steve Rogers' upbringing. CA#255 invented nearly everything from scratch. In contrast this issue mainly pulls together fragments from various sources. Of course, being written by Ed Brubaker it favours things he revealed in his Winter Soldier stories over earlier alternatives. Timely's CA Comics #1 just said that Bucky Barnes was the mascot at Camp Lehigh. He discovered Steve Rogers was Cap, and became his partner Bucky. I don't think Timely ever added any more to these bare bones. Tales of Suspense #63 filled in some gaping holes. It said that the camp adopted him when he was orphaned after his father died in training. (Which implied that his mother died earlier.) It also added several months training before Bucky became Cap's actual partner. Bucky's full name James Buchanan Barnes wasn't revealed until CA#255. Adventures of CA #2 added the youth's propensity for fights and dodgy deals to the mythos. The next bit of the story came out of left field, in Marvel Holiday Special #1. It gave his parents names George and Winnifred, and said that his father joined Camp Lehigh in 1930 and died still a Private. But the shocker, including to Steve, was that Bucky had an older sister Rebecca, who went to live with an aunt after their mother's death. CA v3 #48 muddied the waters by claiming that the siblings separated after both parents died. CA v4 #26 exonerated Cap from possible charges of child endangerment by showing Col Price order him to train Bucky as his partner after the lad discovered his secret. (Strangely Bucky was named Michael here!)


Synopsis / Summary / Plot

Captain America and Bucky #620 Synopsis by Peter Silvestro
After the death of his mother, young James Barnes learned to use a brave face as a mask against fear and despair, as his soldier father tired to raise him and his sister Becca alone. The burden became a heavy one, as James learned to hide his anger from the world at large but let it out under provocation, constantly getting into fights with other kids. His father disapproved and tried to discourage the temper in his son; then one day his father did not come home. Becca was put in boarding school and, as per his father’s wishes, James was raised by his old pals at Camp Lehigh. He learned to wear a cheerful mask to cover his loneliness as he became the camp hustler, obtaining black market goods for anyone willing to pay. After he gets into a barroom brawl, James is visited in jail by Major Samson who reveals that James’ dad was also a hothead—which is why he didn’t want his son to develop the same way. Samson introduces James to General Phillips who tells the boy that because of his talents for marksmanship and hand-to-hand combat, he is being selected for a special assignment. When he turns 16 he is sent to England for grueling training with the S.A.S. to become the best fighter he can be. While there he marvels at the newsreels featuring a new hero, Captain America. When his training is complete, James is returned home where he demonstrates his new abilities by beating a gang of much large fighters. He is observed by General Phillips and a big blond stranger. James knows instinctively who this man is—and he is right. James learns he will be partner to Captain America. They return to the Barnes home where James tries on a new costume and asks Steve to call him Bucky. He put on a new mask for life…and that is where his troubles really begin….

Chris Samnee
Chris Samnee
Bettie Breitweiser
Ed McGuinness (Cover Penciler)
Ed McGuinness (Cover Inker)
Val Staples (Cover Colorist)


Listed in Alphabetical Order.

Bucky Barnes
Bucky Barnes

(James Barnes)
Captain America
Captain America

(Steve Rogers)

Plus: General Chester Phillips.

> Captain America and Bucky: Book info and issue index

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