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Captain America Modern Era Epic Collection: The Winter Soldier
Marvel Comics

Comic Books

‘Captain America Modern Era Epic Collection: The Winter Soldier’ contains the most influential story in the character’s 83 years

A landmark story that stands alongside the character’s most definitive moments.

Over the last few years, I have read a lot of Captain America; covering around ten Epic Collections – roughly 15 years’ worth – of the Star-Spangled Avenger’s first volume, this job has seen me through a third of that series. I’ve seen Falcon join Cap, in 1970, as his partner; I’ve seen the effects of real-world politics on the book’s storytelling; I’ve gone through the tail end of writer Mark Gruenwald’s massive, year’s-long run on the character.

With that deep background in place, I can confidently say that few of those stories have as much lasting impact on the character as the one collected in Captain America Modern Era Epic Collection: The Winter Soldier.

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Captain America Modern Era Epic Collection: The Winter Soldier

Marvel Comics

That might seem to be an unfair claim – The Winter Soldier was only published 20 years ago rather than 30 (or 50, or 60); clearly, the more recent story would influence the contemporary understanding of the character most.

That ignores, however, that The Winter Soldier has had more impact on that understanding than anything that has come since. No singular story about Steve Rogers told in the last twenty years has so radically altered the fabric of the Marvel Universe, the trajectory of the character, and his moral center.

An immense shift had occurred in Marvel Comics by the time Captain America relaunched under the creative direction of writer Ed Brubaker and artist Steve Epting. The events of 9/11 not only reframed the question of American identity but also necessitated a deeper, more introspective examination of the Marvel hero. None more so than the one walking around draped in the flag.

Captain America Modern Era Epic Collection: The Winter Soldier

Marvel Comics

Saying that the country had been put on its back foot is understating the complexities of the early-2000s political unrest, but it serves as a fitting analogy for Captain America; as the American people had their security horrifically taken from them, so too did Steve Rogers. Throughout 17 issues, everything he had known to be true about his life was proven to be a lie.

Captain America Modern Era Epic Collection: The Winter Soldier

Marvel Comics

His memories of foundational events are casually warped by the Red Skull’s cosmic cube, the institution of the costume is attacked, and, most importantly, Bucky is proven not to be as dead as we had known him to be since Avengers #4, back in 1964. Steve is gutted by the discovery, not least because Bucky has been made a ruthless, morally blank killer.

Captain America Modern Era Epic Collection: The Winter Soldier

Marvel Comics

The seismic reveal of Bucky’s resurrection doesn’t affect Steve alone; the book integrates those preceding decades of history by maintaining Steve’s most important supporting cast, from Sharon Carter and Nick Fury to Tony Stark and Sam Wilson. Even in reinventing Cap’s history, the book utilizes his emotional core; in doing so, it tightens the radical implications of its own story.

It’s striking, looking back, how emotionally nuanced the storytelling of The Winter Soldier is – Steve is given a much more earnest interiority than the character had been previously afforded, not least due to the shift toward realism the medium took at the turn of the millennium. That realism isn’t without failures, however – the book seems dead set on giving concrete numbers to the impossible-to-define sliding Marvel timeline – Steve waking up just “over a decade” before the events of Winter Soldier, etc – which is an inclination that is doomed to invalidate itself almost immediately. The same commitment to time lends some alarming implications to the relationship between Crossbones and the physically teenaged Sin, but those are best left to separate consideration.

It is tempting to think that the MCU’s adherence to this story greatly impacts its legacy – would The Winter Soldier ring as monumental if the films had adapted, instead, Rick Remender and John Romita, Jr’s Dimension Z or the rise and fall of Nazi Cap?

Due to the story’s emotional insight, the character revelations, and its unique place in American history, of course it would.

Captain America Modern Era Epic Collection: The Winter Soldier contains the Captain America story, a landmark that stands alongside Cap’s initial thaw and the passing of the mantle to Sam Wilson as the character’s most definitive moments.

Captain America Modern Era Epic Collection: The Winter Soldier
‘Captain America Modern Era Epic Collection: The Winter Soldier’ contains the most influential story in the character’s 83 years
Captain America Modern Era Epic Collection: The Winter Soldier
Emotionally and politically resonant, radical in its narrative upheaval, and mirrored in the MCU, no other single Captain America story has had as much impact on the Marvel Universe as The Winter Soldier.
Reader Rating1 Votes
8.6
Reads as a blueprint to a successful Captain America story.
Politically influenced but emotionally savvy.
Altered its characters directions and understandings.
Impeccably paced.
Never loses sight of Cap's longstanding supporting cast.
An adherence to realism often stumbles under the ridiculous nature of comic books.
10
Fantastic
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