Captain America: The Winter Soldier Buyer's Guide
Posted by James Hunt at 10:42 on 09 Apr 2014
To kick the series off, we're looking at Ed Brubaker's Captain America: The Winter Soldier, arc, which was a major influence on the recently-released Marvel Studios movie of the same name. If you want to read the original Winter Soldier stories, here's how to get started.
Ed Brubaker's much-celebrated Captain America run began in 2004 with the launch of Captain America Volume 5, which comprises two major storylines: the introduction of the Winter Soldier, and the Death of Captain America.
Rather than writing standard superhero adventures, Brubaker's work draws heavily on the political and espionage background of Cap's lore, partnering him up with SHIELD and Agent 13 (Sharon Carter) and pitting the character against fascist, terrorist and anarchist organisations, rather than standard super-villains.
Get Started With: Captain America Vol. 5, #1-6, #8-9, #11-14. Brubaker's first storyline, minus the inessential stand-alone chapters.
If You Only Buy One Issue: Captain America Vol. 5 #25. It's the "Death of" issue, and one of the best-selling Marvel Comics of the last decade.
Skip: Captain America Vol. 5 #10 & #50, Captain America Vol. 1 #601. One's a tie-in to a crossover, the other two are stand-alone issues of no particular importance to the narrative.
Captain America Vol. 5
Captain America Vol. 1 #600
Civil War #1-7
Winter Soldier: Winter Kills #1
• Captain America Vol. 5 #1-6 - The Winter Soldier, Part 1
This first arc is the story that introduces the Winter Soldier. Obviously, there are decades of Captain America stories that come before, but all you need to know is contained within these issues. Tonally and narratively, they form the basis of Brubaker's run, but they're not exactly a complete story. Issue #6 ends on a cliffhanger.
• Captain America Vol. 5 #7 - The Lonesome Death of Jack Monroe (optional)
Pegged as an "interlude" in The Winter Soldier storyline, this issue reveals the backstory of one of the characters killed off in the previous arc. It's non-essential, though it does offer some clues as to The Winter Soldier's identity (which was a big deal in 2005. Not so much now, though!)
• Captain America Vol. 5 #8-9, #11-14 – The Winter Soldier, Part 2
The second part of The Winter Soldier arc. There are a couple of gaps in the numbering, but don't worry – when read sequentially these issues form a coherent narrative and you won't be aware that anything was ever missing.
• Captain America Vol. 5 #10 – House of M (skip)
A tie-in to Marvel's big crossover event of 2005, this "House of M" storyline takes place in an alternate universe where Steve Rogers was never frozen in ice and Magneto's family are powerful world leaders. It's a self-contained issue that has nothing to do with the rest of Brubaker's run.
• Captain America Vol. 5 #15-#21 - Red Menace
These issues continue the storyline of The Winter Soldier and his newfound freedom, while Cap continues battles against the Red Skull's forces. Issue #15 is a notable stand-alone story that introduces Sin, the Red Skull's daughter, who becomes one of the series' major antagonists from this point on.
• Captain America Vol. 5 #22-#24 - Drums of War
Part of the Civil War crossover event which ran from 2006-7, these three issues deal with Captain America's role as leader of the anti-registration resistance, particularly the effects his choices have on his supporting cast. To best understand them, you should also read Civil War #1-7, but it's not impossible to do without it.
• Winter Soldier: Winter Kills #1 (optional)
Set during Civil War (but not directly connected to the narrative), this double-sized one-shot fills in some of The Winter Soldier's backstory and guest-stars the Young Avengers.
• Captain America Vol. 5 #25-30 - Death of: Act 1: Death of the Dream
When Steve Rogers is shot and killed, his friends attempt to find out who did it and why, as the Red Skull makes his move to conquer America. The first part of a three-act story. Ends on a cliffhanger.
• Captain America Vol. 5 #31-36 - Death of, Act 2: The Burden of Dreams
In his role as the new Captain America, Bucky attempts to bring the Red Skull to justice, aided by the Black Widow, Falcon and Iron Man. The second part of a three-act story. Ends on a cliffhanger.
• Captain America Vol. 5 #37-42 - Death of, Act 3: The Man who Bought America
In the final part of the Death of Captain America trilogy, Bucky accepts his role as the new Captain America and stops the Skull's plans. The final part of a three-act story. Doesn't end on a cliffhanger!
• Captain America Vol. 5 #43-48 - Time's Arrow
Bucky faces a villain from his past, as well as a former ally apparently gone rogue. Largely a stand-alone arc that deals with Bucky's difficulties following in Steve's footsteps. Of all the multi-part stories in Vol. 5, this makes a good one to read in isolation.
• Captain America Vol. 5 #49 - The Daughter of Time
A stand-alone issue in which Sharon Carter deals with the fallout of her manipulation by the Red Skull. Leads into Captain America Vol. 1 #600
• Captain America Vol. 5 #50 - Days Gone By (Optional)
A one-shot story where Bucky reflects on his past. Double-sized with a backup story, but inessential to the overall narrative. This is the final issue in Volume 5.
• Captain America Vol. 1 #600 - One Year After
Resuming the original numbering of Captain America's first volume, Captain America #600 is a triple-sized anniversary special with multiple stories, one of which is set on the first anniversary of Cap's death. It leads directly into Reborn.
• Captain America Vol. 1 #601 - Red, White and Blue-Blood (optional)
A double-sized stand-alone issue unrelated to the overall storyline, but drawn by Marvel Comics legend Gene Colan. Mostly a flashback to WWII, but a framing device places it at some point soon after Civil War, with Bucky appearing in his Winter Soldier costume and no reference to Cap's death, hence its position in the reading order below.
Captain America Vol. 5 #1-6
Captain America Vol. 5 #7 (optional)
Captain America Vol. 5 #8-9
Captain America Vol. 5 #11-21
Civil War #1-4
Captain America Vol. 5 #22-#23
Civil War #5
Captain America Vol. 5 #24
Winter Solider: Winter Kills #1 (optional)
Civil War #6-7
Captain America Vol. 1 #601 (optional)
Captain America Vol. 5 #25-49
Captain America Vol. 5 #50 (optional)
Captain America Vol. 1 #600
Captain America Vol. 5 #10 is part of the House of M storyline, and so is not included here.
What Comes Next?
The story continues with Captain America's resurrection in Reborn #1-6. A full guide to the Captain America Reborn storyline will be posted soon!