Two years into its lifespan, Marvel’s Avengers continues to add characters to its roster of playable heroes. The latest is Bucky Barnes, in the identity that Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting created for him in their legendary Captain America run, the Winter Soldier. Developer Crystal Dynamics officially announced that the Winter Soldier would join Avengers on November 29, as part of the game’s next update.
Barnes’ video game backstory will include nods to his comic book history, including his romance with Black Widow. That’s not the only thing that will make fans of Barnes’ time as the Winter Soldier in the comics happy. Every character in Marvel’s Avengers features multiple alternate costumes, or skins, some of which are taken directly from the comics. Barnes is no different. Here’s a rundown of Barnes’ comic book-inspired skins and where they come from, via a rundown from the developer’s blog.
Winter Soldier’s First Appearance Skin
Bucky’s second skin is the first directly lifted from the comics. Specifically, the early issues of Brubaker, Epting and Frank D’Armata’s Captain America run. The look is completed with a cable on his cybernetic arm, showing some impressive attention to detail. After appearing off-panel in previous issues, which included his assassination of the other Bucky Jack Monroe in issue #3, Bucky made his first full appearance in issue #6.
The following issue featured a scene that became iconic when it was adapted to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. After the Winter Soldier gives him an assist in a battle with A.I.M.’s M.O.D.O.C. Squad, Captain America thinks he recognizes him as his old partner. That causes the Soldier to reply “Bucky? Who the hell is Bucky?” The developer’s blog pays homage to that by labeling the costume with the Winter Soldier’s line.
Marvel’s Avengers Lets Players Wear The Winter Soldier’s Prison Uniform
The Winter Soldier’s second comic-inspired skin comes after he’d shaken off the mental conditioning that made him an effective assassin and regained his memories. He’d even taken on the mantle of Captain America when Steve Rogers was presumed dead. After Baron Zemo revealed his past as the Winter Soldier to the world, Bucky was arrested by the Russian Government and placed in a gulag.
In Captain America #616’s appropriately titled “Gulag” (by Brubaker, Mike Deodato and Rain Beredo), Bucky is wearing a standard issue prison uniform, complete with horizontal stripes. If being in a Russian prison wasn’t bad enough, Bucky also had to deal with someone he’d wronged as the Winter Soldier. The fourth Crimson Dynamo, Russia’s answer to Iron Man, made Bucky’s life hell as he tried to atone for his past.
Bucky’s First Marvel Comics’ Costume Appears In Marvel’s Avengers
While they don’t cite a specific comic book story as inspiration, the costume Bucky wore in his first appearance in Joe Simon and Jack Kirby’s Captain America Comics #1 appears in Marvel’s Avengers, when he was just Captain America’s kid sidekick. Crystal Dynamics put a modern spin on the costume with less fanciful details than his Golden Age costume design. The Golden Age Bucky’s buccaneer boots are replaced by army boots, for instance.
Crystal Dynamics also acknowledges Brubaker’s retcon of Bucky’s true purpose during World War II; black-ops missions that Captain America couldn’t take part in due to his symbolic value to the war effort. While this backstory won’t play a huge role in the game, it does show how much of an impact Brubaker’s take has on the Marvel’s Avengers version of the character and his John Wick level skills.
Winter Soldier’s ‘Original Sin’ Costume
The Original Sin crossover, by Jason Aaron and Deodato, wasn’t as consequential to the Marvel Universe as crossovers like Secret Wars. It did have serious consequences for a handful of characters, and the Winter Soldier was among them. After Nick Fury replaced Uatu as Earth’s new Watcher, the Unseen, Bucky Barnes inherited Fury’s role as the Man on the Wall.
The Man on the Wall protected the Earth from intergalactic threats. Bucky fulfilled this role in Ales Kot, Marco Rudy and Langdon Foss’ Bucky Barnes: Winter Soldier series. Marvel’s Avengers pays tribute to this era of the character with a science fiction influenced take on his usual costume. The developers’ blog singles out Deodato as an inspiration. Bucky’s helmet is an obvious nod to his appearance in Original Sin.
The ‘Birth Of The Winter Soldier’ Costume
The last comic book inspired Winter Soldier skin also comes from Brubaker and Epting’s Captain America run. Through the storytelling device of classified files, Captain America #11 tells the story of how Bucky became the Winter Soldier. Taking advantage of his amnesia, the Russians reprogrammed his mind. Crystal Dynamics built a skin around the helmet used to brainwash Bucky and his prototype cybernetic arm.
Given that the helmet only appears on one page of the issue, it’s an obscure choice for a skin. It’s a striking one, though, one that calls to mind Barry Windsor-Smith’s iconic Wolverine story, Weapon-X. Beyond being a unique skin of players to use in Avengers, it’s one more reminder of how Brubaker and Epting took Bucky from a character who was more important dead than alive to a vital part of the Marvel Universe.