This issue marks the conclusion of the 5-part “No Escape” story arc. As a character study of Bucky Barnes, the issue mostly works. But as the final installment of a multi-part story, it’s a bit of a mixed bag.
At the start of the issue, Steve Rogers, Black Widow and Falcon are desperately searching for Bucky who was taken captive by Baron Zemo Jr. last issue. Hysterically, Steve tells Sharon Carter to take a message from the president because he’s too busy searching for Bucky.
Zemo took Bucky back to the place where the Winter Solider was “born”. It turns out, this is the island where Bucky was supposed to have died fighting Zeom’s father. Zemo has stripped Bucky of his costume and nearly all of his weapons and dropped him on the island where he can choose to either escape or confront Zemo.
Throughout this arc, Bucky has been shown to rush into danger when the wiser course of action would be to flee. Naturally, he pursues Zemo. Of course it leads up to a climatic showdown between two wounded sons.
Zemo taunts Bucky repeatedly about earning redemption. He claims that Bucky has taken up the mantle of Captain America too easily considering the blood on his hands as the Winter Soldier. The problem is, we’re never really given any compelling reason why Zemo would care. At least not to the extent that he would go to all this trouble just to try to teach Bucky a lesson.
Brubaker makes some interesting points about Bucky and the degree to which he has or has not earned redemption for his sins. Given that he was essentially a victim himself, Bucky could easily let himself off easily. But he still feels guilty for his acts as an assassin. No doubt this theme of guilt and redemption will be played out further as Bucky returns to an America that is now aware of both of his identities.
While I’m interested in the continuing saga of Bucky’s redemption, this issue and the arc as a whole feels a little bit like a cheat. It turns out Zemo was merely playing head games with out hero. And without a proper motivation to do so, it feels like Bucky (and the readers) just got jerked around for the hell of it.
Still, I enjoyed the character moments with Bucky seeking redemption rather than taking the easy way out. And I thoroughly enjoyed Butch Guice’s old school pencils. I just wish the finale held together better than it did.