The Marvels #3 reveals that before having his memories restored, the Winter Soldier partnered with the Red Guardian, soon to star in the MCU.
Warning: contains spoilers for The Marvels #3!
Captured and brainwashed after being injured in World War II, the Winter Soldier spent decades as a Cold War assassin, but while fans knew Bucky had traveled the world as a deadly Russian asset, The Marvels #3 just revealed he did so as the partner of the Red Guardian, soon to be played by David Harbour in the MCU’s Black Widow.
A Russian equivalent to Captain America, the comic-book Alexi Shostakov is the former husband of Natalia Romanova, aka the Black Widow, and has enjoyed a long history in the comics, first appearing in 1967’s The Avengers #43, and even adopting the Ronin persona in more recent times. Expertly trained and ruthless in his pursuit of both Russian victory and his personal grudges, Alexei has led the Winter Guard and clashed with the Avengers, Captain America, and Black Widow many times, but his role as Bucky Barnes’ villainous partner is a bombshell born of The Marvels‘ unique approach to Marvel’s vast universe.
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Coming from Kurt Busiek, Yildiray Cinar, Richard Isanove, and Simon Bowland, The Marvels #3 continues the series’ time-hopping mystery. Intended to follow a set of events rather than a specific cast of characters, The Marvels jumps between time periods and heroes to expose a mysterious plot involving the nation of Siancong – a setting introduced in The History of the Marvel Universe in order to create a timeless replacement for the Vietnam War in the backstories of several Marvel heroes. Sprawling and ambitious, The Marvels has yet to reveal the full scope of its story, but readers know it involves a pre-Fantastic Four Ben Grimm and Reed Richards, superhero tour guide Kevin Schumer, mysterious puppetmaster Threadneedle, and as of this Marvel Comics preview of the upcoming third issue, the Winter Soldier and Red Guardian.
Whatever is happening in the Free State of Sin-Cong (as it’s called in this time period), it’s attracted some wildly unexpected visitors, as the Winter Soldier and Red Guardian take aim at a party of Shi’ar aliens, who are in turn watching a delegation of the Deviants (monstrous opposites to the Eternals.) But even Reed Richards and Ben Grimm’s team includes some surprises, with Georges Batroc and George Tarleton both mentioned by name in the preview. Batroc the Leaper is a frequent opponent of Captain America in the modern day (and was recently seen in the MCU’s The Falcon and the Winter Soldier), while George Tarleton will eventually become the supervillain known as MODOK. Alain Racine, Crash Simpson, and the original, villainous Doctor Strange are also shown on the credits page, promising a wild ride through Marvel continuity.
Still, it’s Bucky’s fate that will most absorb fans in these preview pages. It makes sense that as a Russian asset, the Winter Soldier would have worked alongside the Red Guardian, but it’s nevertheless tragic to see Bucky Barnes tread so close to the superhero community when it will still be more than a decade before Captain America restores his memories. While there was no hint that Bucky was alive until he finally tangled with Steve Rogers as the Winter Soldier, he had of course been working in the shadows for decades, kept in suspended animation between missions to extend his useful lifespan. The Marvels #3 will show the Winter Soldier at his worst, partnered with the Red Guardian in a gross mockery of his time with Captain America – and fans will love every minute of it, as this enthralling series continues to reveal unseen moments of Marvel history when it hits retailers June 30.
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