Shocking right? With how much Rocket was lusting after Bucky’s arm in the MCU (along with other prosthetics for disabled people), you’d think he’d personally “borrow” it at some point in Guardians of the Galaxy. However, the honor went to Nebula first instead, leaving a lot of viewers to question how did Nebula get Bucky’s Arm in Guardians of the Galaxy.
And there’s no need to be paranoid thinking you missed that bit in the three films. This piece of information was only available in The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special.
The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special notably delivered a festive romp through an alien Christmas party. The highlight of the special was Nebula’s surprising gift to Rocket Raccoon—Bucky Barnes’ Vibranium arm. This unexpected moment left many scratching their heads, prompting a flurry of fan theories and speculations as to how Nebula acquired Bucky’s arm.
The somewhat “official” James Gunn explanation
Here’s the most concrete answer straight from James Gunn‘s playful mind, though like many fans, you might find it too tongue-in-cheek or unsatisfactory:
“Nebula thinks of Bucky as wet crepe paper. That said, she couldn’t help tearing off the arm because she was just feeling so freaking Christmasy!” according to James Gunn in a tweet (or an X).
James Gunn’s tweet about Nebula’s motives for gifting Bucky’s arm added another layer of complexity to the mystery. This explanation didn’t sit well with fans, especially those who held Bucky’s character in high regard. They found it hard to accept that such a valuable possession could be taken so casually.
Gunn’s tweet may not necessarily be the final word on the matter. It’s worth noting that Gunn is no longer directing Marvel projects, and the responsibility for explaining this event may fall on the shoulders of the next Marvel director. This leaves room for a more canonical explanation in the future.
Questions still linger: how did Nebula get Bucky’s arm? Did Nebula and Bucky fight? When did Nebula visit Earth after the events of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier? What is Bucky doing without his arm? These questions remain unanswered but provide fodder for future Marvel storytelling, and until then, the following theories and hypotheses should satiate you.
Maybe it’s a Class-A fake
One plausible explanation for Nebula’s possession of Bucky’s arm is that it may not be the genuine prosthetic.
Bucky Barnes received his Vibranium arm from the Wakandans at the beginning of Avengers: Infinity War and he still had it in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier series. However, during the Blip period, Bucky’s arm, like the rest of him, was dusted away.
In the five years that followed, Nebula spent her time on Earth. One theory suggests that Nebula, possibly in collaboration with Tony Stark, could have created a duplicate arm for Bucky. They might have been preparing backup equipment for the blipped Avengers while hoping for their return.
Alternatively, Nebula could have used parts from her twin, Gamora, to construct a false arm. This duplicate arm could have eventually found its way into the Collector’s collection on Knowhere, where Nebula retrieved it. It’s just that the initial reaction was to assume it’s Bucky’s arm given how Rocket kept drooling over it.
Maybe wingus and dingus stole it
Another intriguing theory revolves around the idea that Mantis, the empath member of the Guardians, played a role in acquiring Bucky’s arm for Nebula.
In the holiday special, Mantis and Drax ventured to Earth to kidnap Kevin Bacon in order to get Peter Quill an extraordinary Christmas gift. It’s thus possible that Nebula, realizing the opportunity, asked Mantis and Drax to fetch something special for Rocket while they were on Earth.
If Mantis approached Bucky instead of Nebula, she could have used her empathic abilities to persuade him to part with his arm willingly. Bucky’s arm has a quick-release mechanism, as seen when Okoye detached it in Infinity War. If Mantis could convince Bucky to give up his arm voluntarily, it would have been a straightforward transaction without any confrontation.
It’s not exactly what you would call a consensual exchange given Mantis’ capabilities but give the Guardians a break, would you? It was their first Christmas. Besides, Bucky’s used to losing an arm.
Bucky might have just upgraded
While the true story behind Nebula acquiring Bucky’s arm remains a tantalizing mystery, there are a few hypothetical scenarios for its resolution in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
It’s also possible that Bucky might have just received a new arm, especially considering his role in the upcoming Thunderbolts storyline. Alternatively, the explanation for this peculiar exchange might be saved for a later installment, such as the Guardians of the Galaxy series (unconfirmed) or Captain America: New World Order, which is set to release in 2024.
That way, he could have easily parted with the old arm if Nebula, Mantis, or Drax asked for it.
Marvel fans eagerly awaiting a more substantial and canonical explanation for this enigmatic (and hilarious) Christmas gift might still find their answers in future MCU ventures.
The speculations presented here offer potential insights into this puzzling event, but only time will tell how Marvel chooses to unravel this mystery. Until then, the enigma of Bucky’s arm remains a delightful topic of speculation and discussion among MCU fans. What matters most is the Rocket finally got that arm.