Whenever a new MCU project hits, it causes a fuss on back issues comic book markets.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is the latest example. It’s not only how fans were interested in past tales of either Sam Wilson or Bucky Barnes but also the Flag-Smashers, Helmut Zemo, Sharon Carter, and other characters.
It’s remarkable how the MCU can alter these characters a bit but let them be just faithful to the comics as well. This allows experienced fans to enjoy fresher takes while doing justice to the source material.
With so many characters in this series and decades of history to draw on, there are many great stories for the show’s fans to read.
But a few stand out from the pack to showcase the critical moments of the characters and how a few directly inspired the show.
Honorable mentions include Avengers #183 (Falcon joins the team) Captain America #193-200 (Madbomb) and the 2020 Falcon and Winter Soldier mini-series.
The coming of the Falcon (Captain America #115-119)
From the start, Sam Wilson was a fantastic partner for Cap.
The Red Skull had used a Cosmic Cube to swap places with Cap, forcing him to run. Washing up on a desert island, Steve meets castaway Sam Wilson and his pet bird Redwing.
Steve quickly trains Sam as a partner with an early version of his winged costume to help him defeat the Skull.
While this origin would be tweaked a few times over the years, Sam was always Steve’s trusted ally, and his debut a key moment for Marvel fans to enjoy.
Avengers Under Siege (Avengers #270-277)
Whatever else about the Masters of Evil, they can never be accused of not trying to live up to their name.
Seeking revenge for his father’s death (and his own facial scarring) at Captain America’s hands, Helmut Zemo organizes over a dozen super-villains into an army to invade Avengers Mansion.
They beat Hercules into a coma, torture butler Jarvis, and Zemo personally destroys some of Captain America’s few personal mementos of his mother.
It’s a hard battle by the Avengers to take their home back and establishes Zemo as one of Cap’s more dangerous foes.
The Captain (Captain America #337-350)
The highlight of Mark Gruenwald’s legendary run on Captain America is now one of the series’ key inspirations.
Rather than compromise his morals by obeying a government agency, Steve Rogers gives up the Captain America costume and shield.
John Walker is chosen as his replacement but lacks both Steve’s skills and his moral fiber. Steve takes on a new role of the Captain as circumstances (including fighting Flag-Smasher) place the two on a collision course.
It would lead to Walker becoming U.S. Agent while also showing how, in so many ways, Steve is the only man who can be the true Captain America.
Man Without A Country (Captain America #444-454)
MCU fans were surprised that Sharon Carter’s return in Falcon and the Winter Soldier had her as a bitter woman.
But the show was drawing on how Mark Waid and Ron Garney reintroduced Sharon during their seminal 1995 Cap run.
Having long believed Sharon dead, Steve is shocked to discover she’s alive but with a hardened attitude.
While aiding him against the Red Skull and later when Steve is framed for treason, Sharon shows her skills while her sardonic edge gives the character more life than she’d had in years for a terrific comeback.
Kurt Busiek elevated Zemo from a second-rater to one of the Marvel Universe’s top villains in this fantastic series.
When the Avengers and Fantastic Four appear to “die” fighting Onslaught, Zemo is struck by inspiration: He and the Masters of Evil pose as the “heroic” Thunderbolts to win public and government trust as part of Zemo’s plan to take over the world.
As Citizen V, Zemo is brilliant, acting as a noble public hero while being a scheming mastermind behind the scenes.
That he comes so close to actually winning forever erased the image of Zemo as a “loser” villain giving him a cunning nature, not unlike the TV show.
Truth: Red, White, and Black
This powerful story by Robert Morales and Kyle Baker shed light on the dark side of the Captain America legacy.
It reveals the U.S. military tested the Super-Soldier Serum on black soldiers, uncaring of the horrible effects it would have.
Isaiah Bradley was the only one to survive but faced the harsh realities of his own country’s racism when he tried to be a hero.
Steve himself is shaken to learn the story of the first Captain America and what it cost Isaiah. With the series using Bradley, this story becomes more important than ever.
The Winter Soldier (Captain America vol 5 #1-15)
For decades, Bucky was seen as the one “sure-fire” lasting death in comics. Then came Ed Brubaker.
In his fantastic run on Captain America, Brubaker revealed the former “gee-whiz” sidekick was actually a hardened commando who had survived his seeming death in WWII.
Now the brainwashed Winter Soldier, Bucky does battle with Cap before having his memories restored.
The Winter Soldier movie recreated several moments of the story almost beat-for-beat, proving how Brubaker’s tale changed the world of Captain America forever.
Cap Bucky (Captain America vol 5 #31-50)
It was a shocking moment for Marvel fans when Steve Rogers was seemingly assassinated.
As the hunt to find his killer goes on, Bucky is soon pressed to take up Steve’s legacy as a new Captain America.
This includes clashing with the Red Skull, Hydra, and William Burnside, the twisted pseudo-Cap of the 1950s.
While the name and uniform are different, Bucky showed he had what it took to be Cap to the point that even when he returned to life, Steve was willing to let his former partner carry the shield proudly.
Trial of Bucky (Captain America #606-619)
Just as Bucky was settling into the role of Captain America, Baron Zemo had to ruin it.
Outraged that his father’s “glory” of killing Bucky didn’t happen, Zemo starts a series of terrorist attacks on him. While Bucky survived those, he was unprepared for Zemo’s true goal of revealing the truth behind the Winter Soldier to the public.
The idea of Captain America once being a Soviet spy creates outrage, and Bucky faced trial for all his crimes.
It’s a great tale of Bucky facing up to his dark actions with a surprising outcome.
Falcon Cap (All-New Captain America #1-6, Sam Wilson: Captain America #1-24)
After years in the background, Sam stepped into the role of Cap when Steve briefly retired due to physical problems.
At first, Sam did well but soon faced a backlash over racial issues, being more political, and others just not liking anyone but Steve in the role.
Not helping was the fact a Cosmic Cube altered Steve into thinking he was a lifelong Hydra agent and secretly working against Sam.
That culminated in the Secret Empire storyline with Sam leading a rebellion against Steve.
While Steve was restored as a heroic Cap, Sam proved he could more than live up to the legacy.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier streaming new episodes Fridays on Disney+.