We’re right on the verge of Secret Empire, when Steve Rogers’ secret Hydra allegiance becomes public knowledge, and he attempts to take over the world. But this week’s Thunderbolts #11 throws a new wrench into the works – and into the history of Steve’s longtime ally Buck Barnes.
Spoilers ahead for Thunderbolts #11
Thunderbolts #11 opens with Bucky having been sent back in time to World War II by Kobik, with his present day memories intact. Quickly realizing he has a chance to change the future, Bucky also quickly becomes aware that things aren’t as he remembers them – namely, in the Kobik timeline, Bucky survived the encounter with Baron Heinrich Zemo that, in mainstream continuity, nearly killed him and left Steve frozen in the Arctic Ocean.
As the implications mount up – no Winter Soldier, possibly even no Avengers – Bucky also realizes that something is different about Steve. But before he can do anything about it, he’s captured by Helmut Zemo and strapped to a rocket just like the one that the elder Zemo killed him with in the original timeline. Steve intervenes, telling Helmut they never agreed to kill Bucky. Helmut explains that it’s revenge for the death of his father, and Steve agrees to spare Bucky if he’ll say “Hail Hydra.”
Bucky refuses, and Helmut launches the rocket. Just as it explodes, Bucky is saved from death at the last minute by Kobik, who transports him back to the future – but with his new knowledge of Steve’s Hydra allegiance. As Bucky is transported home, he admonishes Kobik for what she's done not just to Steve's timeline, but to his own. As Kobik gets upset, we’re given a glimpse of moments from Bucky’s history as seen through shattered glass – possibly implying that his history may undergo some retconning as part of Secret Empire.
Thunderbolts #12 is due out on shelves April 24.