The new Marvel book The Wakanda Files explains how HYDRA managed to turn Steve Rogers’ best friend, Bucky Barnes, into a mindless killer to fulfill their ambitions.
The character is set to return next year in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and the plot will pick up after the events of Endgame and feature the two eponymous superheroes through their trials to live up to the legend of Captain America and his heroic feats. While fans are excited for the return of Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes, the MCU hasn’t exactly gone out of its way to explain what happened to him when he fell off that bridge in Captain America: The First Avenger.
Luckily, the new in-universe tie-in book titled The Wakanda Files, written by Shuri, has dedicated a section to revealing how HYDRA managed to imitate Steve Rogers and create their very own super soldier.
Apparently, Doctor Zola personally oversaw the project in the 1940s. Based on the scientist’s journals, Shuri surmises that Bucky was resistant to the sinister organization’s brainwashing, but it seems that they were quite thorough with their process. As she notes:
“Hydra’s Winter Soldier program subjected Barnes to electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), followed by suggestive keywords and phrases to activate a brain soup knot that could take years to unravel. If we’re able to reverse it at all. ECT is extremely painful, and Hydra didn’t administer any dulling agents.”
The new Marvel book further compares this experience to a person who’s in REM sleep. Except, in the case of Bucky, he was actually awake, yet unable to manifest a free will of his own. Luckily, HYDRA didn’t account for the Winter Soldier’s unshaken loyalty towards Steve Rogers, as Shuri observes:
“The shared memories of Barnes with his best friend, Steve Rogers, momentarily fired memory centers, jogging bits and pieces of his past life while in the sleeplike trance.”
Now that Captain America is gone, however, T’Challa’s sister falls short of determining whether the brainwashing was completely reversed. If not, this could turn out to be an interesting plot thread for the upcoming miniseries on Disney Plus.