With Captain America: The Winter Soldier arriving in theaters soon, there's no time like the present to get acquainted – or reacquainted – with the Star-Spangled Avenger's history and supporting cast. From his early comic book adventures that inspired Captain America: The First Avenger to some of the recent stories that helped shape The Winter Soldier, there's no shortage of supplemental material out there that's worth reading before (or after) you check out Cap's next big-screen battle.
Here are some of the notable – and most relevant – stories you should look for that feature the major players in the movie or some extra adventures in Marvel's cinematic universe.
Captain America, Vol. 1: Winter Soldier Ultimate Collection
This book is probably the most important piece of supplemental reading you can pick up for The Winter Soldier, as it collects the bulk of writer Ed Brubaker's long-running story that – along with introducing the character of Winter Soldier – served to establish much of the tone, backstory, and narrative elements that inspired the big-screen version of Captain America. This 304-page collection is also the perfect jumping-on point for anyone interested in diving into the comics, as it collects the first 13 issues of the modern series and tells a fantastic adventure that pits Cap against both familiar adversaries and brand new villains. The story in the book is almost completely different than what plays out on the screen in The Winter Soldier, too – so you don't need to worry about spoiling too much of the film by doing some prescreening reading.
Captain America: Homecoming
This recently published story is set within Marvel's cinematic universe and unfolds between the events of The Avengers and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. The single-issue adventure follows Steve Rogers as he returns to his old neighborhood in Brooklyn accompanied by Black Widow, only to become the target of a deadly attack while he's taking a trip down memory lane. Marvel hasn't published many comics set in the unified universe of its movies and television series, so you'll want to track this one down once it hits shelves.
Along with introducing Winter Soldier to audiences, the sequel to Captain America: The First Avenger will also serve as the big-screen debut for Sam Wilson, the superhero known as Falcon (played by Anthony Mackie in the film). The first African-American superhero in mainstream comics, Falcon was a longtime partner (not sidekick) to Captain America ever since his introduction in 1969, and the stories collected in the recently published Avengers: Falcon offer a nice introduction to the character. The book features republished stories from both the character's early years and a few more modern tales, so it's a nice read for anyone who might be unfamiliar with the winged superhero.
Marvel's Captain America: The Winter Soldier Prelude
Like Captain America: Homecoming, this comic is set within the cinematic universe and also unfolds in the time between The Avengers and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. A more direct lead-in to the new film, the story follows Captain America, Black Widow and S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Brock Rumlow (played by Frank Grillo in the upcoming film) as they attempt to retrieve a mysterious weapon known as “Zodiac” from enemy hands. Anyone who's seen the Marvel's Agent Carter short film – which appeared in the special features on the Iron Man 3 Blu-ray – will likely recall that Zodiac was the weapon Peggy Carter raided an enemy base to collect while working for S.H.I.E.L.D.'s predecessor, the Strategic Scientific Reserve. The prelude comic lays the groundwork for some of the themes that feature prominently in The Winter Soldier, so it's well worth picking up.
Secret Warriors Omnibus
While this 2009 miniseries might be mired a little deeply in the convoluted storylines that were unfolding around the Marvel universe at the time, there are two good reasons why you might want to make it part of your prep for The Winter Soldier. First, the series follows S.H.I.E.L.D. chief Nick Fury as he attempts to root out corruption of the international security agency that threatens everything the agency was created to protect. This should sound familiar to anyone who's seen the trailers for The Winter Soldier, as Captain America appears to be dealing with a similar concern in the new film. Second, the powerful criminal organization known as HYDRA – and its leader, Baron Strucker – also play a major role in the 28-issue Secret Warriors series. HYDRA was first introduced to Marvel's cinematic universe in Captain America: The First Avenger and actor Thomas Kretschmann was recently cast in the upcoming Avengers sequel, Age of Ultron, as Strucker – so there's a good chance you'll want to get familiar with all of these characters and themes as soon as possible. Basically, this series is one-stop shopping for study material in Captain America's corner of the cinematic universe.
Oh, and one last suggestion: Make sure to keep an eye on the calendar as you're making your way through all of these stories. The premiere of Captain America: The Winter Soldier on April 4 is coming up fast!
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