Winter Soldier #1 – Untitled – Brubaker, Guice and Breitweiser
Story – Like pretty much everybody else on Planet Earth, I was a huge fan of Ed Brubaker’s initial run on Captain America. He did the unthinkable, twice, in that not only did he make Captain America seem relevant and cool again, but he managed to bring back a character that, according to the common consensus, was one of the few who should never, ever come back… and make it work. He also managed to kill his main character and make the that work too, so that’s really three times he did the unthinkable. But after I while, I think the book lost something, and I kind of lost interest.
Luckily for me, the launch of this new series brings me right back to what I loved about the first few years of Brubaker’s Cap and shows once again just how good an idea it was to bring Bucky back, because really, he kicks ass.
This issue picks up where Fear Itself #7.1 left off, with the revelation that Bucky wasn’t killed by the Red Skull, but, with the help of Nick Fury, faked his death in order to go back to working where he’s best, in the shadows. Working alongside Black Widow (SET TO STAR IN THE AVENGERS MOVIE! BOOK YOUR TICKETS NOW!) he will handle the kind of off-the-radar shit he couldn’t as Captain America.
What follows is a glorious blend of superheroics, crime noir and espionage thriller. Bucky and Black Widow make a great team, and the whole thing feels a lot more grounded than most Marvel Comics. Until a certain… something at the end.
This story arc emulates a lot of Brubaker’s previous Captain America ones, in that the threat is one that stems from the past. Bucky is forced to face up to his past as the USSR’s premier assassin and the remnants of the Cold War as some of the other soldiers he trained are stolen from Cold Storage. Not only does this ground the action in Bucky’s character and his guilt over what he did as Winter Soldier, but it also provides a serious threat to him, he’s fighting men who he himself trained. To some readers it may seem repetitive to have yet another secret from the past come back to haunt one of the Captain Americas, but when Bucky has such a large amount of history left unexplored, it makes perfect sense. And when it gives you scenes like the shocking way the Soviet Agents come out of deep cover, who’s complaining?
As I said, this issue maintained a sense of realism unusual to Marvel Comics, until a certain something, and that something is a talking Communist Gorilla with a machine gun. This surprising visual comes completely out of the blue and against the grain and really emphasises that the world of the Marvel Universe is one of infinite possibilities, and just when you think you know what you’re reading, writers as talented as Brubaker can still find a way to shock. It also widens the scope of the threat Bucky is facing and, with the last page inclusion of Doctor Doom and Red Ghost, hints at a much larger scale than I had thought.
This was a strong start to what looks like being a vintage series from Ed Brubaker. It’s clear that Bucky Barnes is one of his favourite characters, and that passion really shines through. I can’t wait to see what’s next, and what other talking animal curveballs Brubaker throws at us.
Art – Butch Guice has been a pinch-hitter on Captain America for a few years now, and he’s always done a good job but his work here is something else. He seems to be taking a more expressionistic style, murky and dangerous, which is totally fitting for the tone Brubaker establishes. The angles he uses are often not what you’d expect and that really adds to the unusual style. It’s not quite Steranko, but it’s as close as we’re probably gonna get.
Best Line – ‘We have no idea who we’re fighting’