Bucky Barnes is returning for Marvel's Infinity War, and he has Black Panther to thank. And thank him he will, since his path back to the role of a superhero wasn't an easy one (and considering his bout with Iron Man, Bucky's future won't be any smoother). When he was last seen by Marvel fans in the closing moments of Captain America: Civil War the former Winter Soldier was being entrusted to Wakandan science - and placed in Black Panther's custody. Now, a new Marvel comic is shedding light on just what T'Challa and his scientists are up to in "rebooting" Bucky for his MCU future.
The return of Bucky isn't a secret in itself: he was being put back into a comatose state in Civil War, and the trailers for Infinity War show him awake, recharged, and fighting alongside Cap and the rest of his loyal heroes. That group includes the Black Panther, but according to Marvel's Avengers: Infinity War Prelude #1, it will mainly by T'Challa's sister who restores the hero Bucky used to be.
In the past, Marvel's Prelude comic series tended to reveal little significant bombshells or additional storytelling, mainly revisiting past movie events to set up a coming film (in this case, Infinity War). That's how the Wakanda section of the comic begins, with Steve Rogers sharing some final words before Bucky goes into the care of T'Challa's best minds. The comic clarifies that the "best mind" refers to Shuri, T'Challa's sister (portrayed by Letitia Wright in the Black Panther movie). Not only is she the inventor of Black Panther's new armor, but a pioneering mind in the field of neurology. That's according to the comic, which explains exactly why Bucky is being put under in the first place.
With Bucky in their care, Shuri is able to create a digital replica of Bucky's brain, including the mental conditioning and trigger words embedded by his Soviet captors. With the ability to find, analyze, and remove these neural triggers on a digital replica before going into the real thing, Bucky won't be at risk of becoming... well, even more broken. He may still be lacking a replacement Wakandan bionic arm when the comic jumps months ahead of Civil War, but Shuri has made more progress than MCU fans may have hoped.
The comic offers a bit of a heartbreaking moment for Captain America fans, as Shuri explains the challenges of tracking down and isolating the most traumatic memories contained in Bucky's brain. No surprise, those are the memories tangled up in the conditioning and triggers words - and almost all of them include Steve Rogers, Bucky's former best friend.
Fortunately for the fans, this is still comic book superheroes we're talking about. So as impossible as it may seem to imagine being able to "remove" Bucky's conditioning, or simply "reboot" his brain, Shuri can pull it off. That's what she claims, at least, and since she's smarter than Tony Stark we'll take her word for it. While Tony Stark needed to hack open an Infinity Stone to create the artificial intelligence Ultron, Shuri believes that by solving the riddle of cleansing Bucky's brain. she may have done even better. That leaves the door wide open for Shuri to upgrade Black Panther with an A.I. of his own - or other heroes in the MCU, we suppose.
Either way, Bucky is seemingly cured, able to rest in peace until he's call upon to protect Earth in Infinity War. Getting Bucky back good as new may have seemed like too much to ask. But judging by the comic prequel, that's exactly what the next Avengers may bring. Even if we don't get an early glimpse of his recovery in Black Panther, that's the hero and characters responsible for it so... credit where it's due.
Marvel's Avengers: Infinity War Prelude #1 is available now.
- Avengers: Infinity War / The Avengers 3 (2018) release date: Apr 27, 2018