Winter Soldier is Responsible for Captain America’s Most Heroic MCU Moment

While Captain America has proven time and again throughout the MCU that he is a hero beyond question, there is one heroic deed that stands above the rest as it was one of selflessness and sacrifice–though in the comics, Captain America’s ultimate act of heroism never happened as it was instead carried out by the Winter Soldier years before Bucky Barnes donned that intimidating moniker.

In the Marvel Cinematic Universe film Captain America: The First Avenger, fans are given Steve Rogers’ origin story which details how he became the iconic super soldier as well as his most impactful missions throughout the course of World War II. At the end of the movie, after Red Skull was defeated and the Allied Forces were on the verge of victory, Captain America finds himself in a Hydra aircraft which carried a number of catastrophic bombs that were to be flown via autopilot to heavily populated areas with Allied countries. After disabling the autopilot, Captain America realizes that there is no way to land the plane safely, and as it made its way over the icy waters between Europe and the northern United States, Captain America decided he must sacrifice himself as the only thing he could do was to guide the plane directly into the water to protect the lives of millions of innocent people, even if it meant he may die in the process.

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In Avengers #4 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, Captain America joins the team of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes after he is discovered frozen in a block of ice and is thawed out by the Avengers themselves. Once he was awakened, Captain America tells his new teammates about how he ended up frozen in the first place. During the war, Captain America and his sidekick, Bucky Barnes, hijacked a Nazi plane that was carrying bombs meant for Allied countries and worked towards aiming it away from the Nazis’ intended targets. While both heroes were on the outside of the aircraft, Bucky found a way to blow it up before it did any damage–an explosion that killed Bucky and sent Captain America flying through the air until he eventually landed in the freezing waters below and became frozen in a block of ice for years.

While most of the plot points are the same between the MCU and Marvel Comics version of how Captain America became frozen in ice following his escapades during World War II, the movies completely undermine Bucky’s importance in that final mission while simultaneously elevating that of Captain America. In the comics, it wasn’t Cap who had to make the call to sacrifice himself for the betterment of the world, it was Bucky, who didn’t have the luxury of being frozen in ice only to be found a few years later by a group of heroes. Before it was revealed that Bucky survived and became the Winter Soldier, he died during this mission and effectively gave his life to help win the war against the Nazis–making his sacrifice that much more impactful.

Even though it wasn’t Captain America’s hand on the trigger during this scene in the comics, he was still instrumental to this final mission and made it possible for Bucky to do what he did, which is why the MCU’s version of events still worked perfectly in terms of establishing Captain America’s origin before he joined the Avengers. However, while the plot structure remained unaffected, the fact remains that Captain America’s most heroic MCU moment wasn’t done by him at all in the comics as it was actually carried out by the Winter Soldier.

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Author: Spencer Connolly