I have to comment on the fact that when it comes to the serum, Bucky is souped UP on that stuff. Steve probably tones back how much he’s hitting normal humans, but GOOD LANDS. Bucky’s not just knocking someone down, he’s getting them air borne. With a kick. We know the cyborg arm is really strong, but BUCKY is insanely strong. Reminds me of the comic where he throws an arrow through someone’s face with his good arm, not even the cyborg one. Bucky is scary ramped up in the strength department.
This is why when people talk about Bucky having received an “inferior” version of the serum, I kind of raise my eyebrows. The overall effects of Zola’s serum might have differed from Erskine’s, but it certainly doesn’t seem to have left Bucky physically weaker. There are a lot of fics that assume Bucky would not be a match for Steve if Steve were actually willing to fight him, but Bucky more than proves his strength in Winter Soldier.
This should also make people realize that he isn’t some lost puppy. He can take care of hisself, even if he doesn’t have memories. He got the Smithsonian by himself right? He got those clothes himself right? He can take care of himself.
He was manipulated to be a predator. He is strong enough, swift enough to take down prey. He is intuitive enough to find who or what he wants. Even before The Soldier, Bucky was smart as a whip and could hold his own in a fight. But now? Now he is the perfect weapon, whether or not he wishes to be. He adapts, he fights, he wins.
You know what else bugs me? When people act in fics like he’s just going to snap and kill everyone around him. Bucky is not a violent person. I don’t think the Winter Soldier is a violent person either. He killed because he was ordered to, but if he wasn’t ordered to? TBH I think the Winter Soldier would probably be pretty chill and quiet. Like, you wouldn’t want to startle him or whatever, because yeah, scary ninja personification of death, but if you were just, like, sharing a train car? Or sitting in a waiting room? Not a randomly violent guy. No homicidal urges. Probably largely just wants to be left the fuck alone to, like, contemplate Dostoevsky or something.
I recently re-watched Cap2, and this scene — it’s basically Bucky’s equivalent of what Steve did on the Lemurian Star — he takes out a whole squadron (???) of pilots single-handedly. And it’s … stunning how brutallly effective he is. No fancy Cap parkour. Just straight up killing machine.
Which I think gets at the above meta/commentary — WS is not just a soldier, he’s a highy trained Super Soldier. He can go toe-to-toe with Steve on basically everything — hand-to-hand combat, leading a team (he leads a team when he’s tracking Nat/Steve), and taking down a large # of machines/men single-handedly.
The difference, then, is the drive. Which is that WS has none. He is a ghost that simply follows orders (and when he doesn’t, he gets wiped.) Bucky has no direction, so he goes where he’s pointed. One thing I find so interesting about mcu!WS is how neutral he is. There’s no Soviet brainwashing (we see Pierce giving him The Talk, but he doesn’t seem to actually care), no misguided sense of right or wrong. Just … nothing.
Of course, Steve was like that, too, at the beginning of the film — just following orders and muddling through life. But Steve knew enough to be dissatisfied by that, to Want Out. Which is why he’s Steve.
And this is one of the larger themes of CA:TWS — it’s about a bunch of highly skilled people who no longer find satisfaction in following orders, and want to find meaning outside of their jobs. Sam did it, Nat and Steve are looking, and Bucky is just starting.