When Stevie Was Dead: Part III: The Man Who Would Be Cap
Things pick up speed in this third installment, as Bucky finally comes face to face and fist to fist with Iron Man.
Part II ended with Sharon gunning down Natasha and Sam (non-fatally, as it turned out, though Tony takes this as a sign that she's not wholly brainwashed), and Bucky sent off to Dr. Faustus for a similar treatment. He spends much of an issue resisting Faustus' various incursions. Meanwhile, the Red Skull addresses some of Kronas Corp's security personnel:
For all Steve Epting's marvelous realism, some of his depictions of the Skull can be really (enjoyably) cartoony.
Back in brainwash-ville:
More brainwashing, eventually it looks like Faustus has succeeded in reverting him to his Winter Soldier state:
You'll be shocked to learn that Bucky was faking it, the gun was aimed at Faustus, and the gun wasn't actually loaded. Also, the gun has an electric shock function which disables Bucky. Evil-Sharon was playing at being surprised. Faustus orders him returned to his cell for further treatments the following day.
Meanwhile, Black Widow and Falcon are on the case, and track the bad guys back to their lair. They bust in, creating a chaotic situation. Faustus orders Sharon to retrieve Bucky and take him to the escape hangar.
So, first stab at escaping programming, not so successful.
Faustus, Evil-Sharon and co. make their getaway with Bucky.
She tosses Bucky, and Falcon, obviously, dives after him...
Bucky gets taken the helicarrier.
In the next issue, the Skull berates Faustus for being an idiot and losing Bucky, since he knows that the Skull is in Lukin's body.
On the helicarrier, Bucky escapes confinement thanks to the awesomely comic-booky reveal that he can remotely control his cyborg arm (I must say, the arm verges on a utility belt at times; it's done a bunch of one-shot things that are never mentioned again). Iron Man heads off to confront him.
See what I was saying about one-off tricks? He could have used that against M-11 in his recent Agents of Atlas appearance, for example. I absolutely love that it didn't work, though; EMPs are like the #1 most overused writing crutch when somebody wants to have a non-powered character defeat Iron Man.
They fight for a bit, with Tony trying to talk him out of it or take him down non-fatally; Bucky eventually succeeds in knocking him into an electrical conduit and getting his faceplate off (the latter I don't really buy, even with the cyborg arm, but anyway, it's not used to have him lose humiliatingly).
Tony shows him the letter that Steve sent him, wherein Steve requested that Tony A) help Bucky B) have the Captain America legacy continue (from an in-universe perspective, as an aside, while Steve is most certainly the best at the job, there's an idea with some currency among fans and writers that being Captain America is something only Steve can do, which to me seems wholly at odds with the idea of American values). Tony, always looking to cut corners, wants to kill two birds with one stone.
And the issue ends on that low-key but appropriate note.
Bucky's appearance in Young Avengers Presents #1 happens in between this issue and the next one; I posted parts of it here here.
Next time, the Skull's dastardly plan has gone into motion. Since Bucky was on the verge of exposing him in his Lukin body, he fakes Lukin's death, and uses that as a jumping-off point to totally jack the US economy, since Lukin is in charge of a ludicrously wealthy mega-corporation (having used the Cosmic Cube earlier in the series to add numerous other international conglomerates to his already huge company).
This came out at pretty much the exact same time that the wheels were really starting to come off the wagon last year, incidentally.
Kronas is apparently responsible for the subprime lending crisis too, and are exercising contract options to try and turn millions of Americans out of their homes, in addition to the chaotic commodities market. There's quite a bit of civic unrest, as you could understand.
Bucky, wearing his new costume (he feels he couldn't wear Steve's) is on the case, along with Black Widow.
And we'll leave off on that note (one of the two great "hero shots" in this arc).