If you've seen Captain America: Civil War and the first trailer for Avengers: Infinity War, you know that at some point between the two films, the Winter Soldier gets back into fighting shape just in time to join forces with the Avengers and Wakanda's Dora Milaje to take on Thanos. A new Marvel comic gives us some connective tissue between the Black Panther film and the big team-up.
While it was pretty much always a given that Bucky would end up becoming one of the Official Good Guys of the Franchise™, what's been unclear is how Bucky would be rehabilitated both physically and psychologically after the events of Civil War. Though they aren't always an exact blueprint for how the events in Marvel's movies play out, the official prelude comics do provide some useful context from between the films worth bearing in mind.
Avengers: Infinity War Prelude, written by Will Corona Pilgrim with illustrations from Tigh Walker and Chris O'Halloran, doesn't reveal anything about what ultimately brings the Wakandans to clash with Thanos, but it does explain how one important ally might end up making his way to the battlefield.
Set after the events of Civil War and presumably just before (or perhaps during) Black Panther, the Infinity War Prelude largely focuses on Captain America, Black Widow and Falcon as they track down terrorists dealing in illegal alien weaponry. Back at the Avengers compound, Tony Stark toils away on Spider-Man's new suit from the Infinity War trailer as he obsessively worries about the cosmic threat he knows is headed toward Earth. But the comic's most interesting revelation takes place in Wakanda, where Captain America left the Winter Soldier under the care of the Black Panther and his team of scientists, who vowed to find a cure for Bucky's Hydra brainwashing at the end of Civil War.
It's Shuri, head of the Wakandan Design Group and T'Challa's genius teenaged sister, who's actually behind the experimental treatment being developed to heal Bucky, and the comic establishes just how much of a technological powerhouse the Wakandan princess is. Shuri explains that because Hydra's trigger-word brainwashing is so deeply rooted in his mind, there's no safe way to selectively deprogram him physically without the risk of further damaging his psyche.
While there may not be a physical way to wipe Bucky's mind clean, Shuri goes on to reveal that she's developed an adaptive algorithm somewhat similar (though more advanced, she points out) to some of the core code Tony Stark used to create Ultron.
But unlike Stark, Shuri doesn't use an Infinity Stone to cut corners. In addition to organically "flushing" Bucky's mind of his trigger word programming, the algorithm can be repurposed for future applications in Wakandan artificial intelligence.
It's worth noting that Shuri's careful to only say that the algorithm can successfully deprogram Bucky's verbal triggers, leaving the possibility that he may still have to deal with other forms of emotional trauma he endured. But hey, that's what Steve's there for - to help him get through it.
Black Panther hits theatres February 15 and Infinity War drops on April 25.