Published February 27, 2017

Thunderbolts: Dawn of Winter

Jim Zub brings Bucky back to a key moment in his past!

Image for Thunderbolts: Dawn of Winter

Like all of us, Bucky Barnes has had some dramatic, defining moments; experiences that set off a chain reaction of cause and effect in his life.

In the upcoming THUNDERBOLTS #11 on March 29, Bucky will revisit one of those moments, and explore what led him to become the Winter Solder. He’ll also confront the truth about Steve Rogers.

We caught up with writer Jim Zub about what we can expect from this exciting story. The THUNDERBOLTS and CAPTAIN AMERICA: STEVE ROGERS storylines have led to this point where it makes sense for Bucky to start to figure out Steve’s secrets. Can you tell us a little about the experience of bringing the story to this dramatic moment?

Jim Zub: It feels great to contribute to something that has been slowly and carefully built over such a long period of time. We really had the space to mold the relationship between Kobik and the rest of the team, especially with Bucky, and now all that will pay off with emotional intensity as Secret Empire kicks into gear. Through each part of “Return of the Masters,” our THUNDERBOLTS anniversary story that leads into [the event], we’ve got big revelations and payoffs. This issue takes Bucky back to one of his most infamous moments: when he jumped onboard a plane carrying a bomb during World War II that ultimately led to his assumed death and becoming The Winter Soldier. Why did you make that choice, and what can Bucky hope to accomplish?

Jim Zub: Once I found out that Kobik, a living cosmic cube, would be on the team and I learned about her abilities, I started thinking about the most intense thing she could do to “help” Bucky. Sending him back to World War II so he could try and change his fate stuck in my head, and I felt thrilled that we could make it a part of the bigger story. It brings James back to his roots and shows how far he has come. The truth of Steve’s past has become a huge issue lately, and now we’ll see Bucky looking at his own past and what led him to become The Winter Soldier. Do you see any significance in having Steve and Bucky’s stories parallel each other in this way?

Jim Zub: Steve and James have an incredible bond, but at crucial points in their stories they’ve gone down similar, but ultimately very different paths that define them. Exploring how those fit together and the decisions that made them who they are deepens our understanding of their heroism, or now, in Steve’s case, his role as a villain.

Thunderbolts #11 cover by Jon Malin

Thunderbolts #11 cover by Jon Malin Steve and Bucky had a recent run-in at S.H.I.E.L.D. And their friendship always seems to run into stumbling blocks. What do you think we can expect for the two of them in the near future? Will they ever get to just have fun being BFFs?

Jim Zub: I know where Secret Empire will go and I’ll tell you that we’ll head deep into the darkness before we’ll see any possibility of pushing through to the light. Cap and Bucky’s friendship—and their loyalty to each other—has never faced a test like this. Whatever happens, they won’t come out of it the same—if they come through to the other side. We can see Steve and Bucky as, in a lot of ways, mirror images of each other, with Steve as the perfect hero and Bucky as, in some ways, the black sheep that Steve could have become if things had gone a little differently for him. But lately, we’ve seen their roles somewhat reversed, with Steve as the one keeping secrets and Bucky as the “man on the wall” and the moral compass of the Thunderbolts. Has that played into this story at all for you?

Jim Zub: That contrast factored into our plan right from the beginning. The Winter Soldier has taken on a heroic leadership role, albeit with a group of sometimes-villains, and we see Steve now acting in a more clandestine way and hiding his true nature from everyone who has trusted him for years. We’ve got a fun bit of push and pull as we test what makes these characters so great, and we keep readers guessing where it all leads. Would you like to mention or tease anything else?

Jim Zub: I’ve had such a blast writing the Winter Soldier and the rest of the Thunderbolts because I see these characters as incredibly flawed people trying to find their way in the world. Like the best Marvel characters, their flaws make them more relatable and, even when they mess up, you can’t help but root for them to come out on top.

Relive a key moment in Marvel history with THUNDERBOLTS #11 by Jim Zub and Jon Malin, coming March 29!