It’s all over, for the Winter Soldier.
Two points to anybody who knows the reference. Moving on, let’s talk Winter Soldier #1, the first issue in the new life of Bucky Barnes. Much has happened to the prince of all sidekicks since he took the mantle of Captain America. He fought the Red Skull, saved the world, saw Steve Rogers return, found out about his awful past as the Winter Solider, was put on trial, died (well not really) and is now deep into a world of counter espionage. To make matters worse, our intrepid hero is riddled with guilt about all the deaths he caused while under Russian mind control. Phew, and this is only issue 1!
Bucky and Natasha (Black Widow) are on the track of some very bad sleeper agents. Winter Soldier opens with the two lovers/spies breaking into a hidden fortress where a stasis tube containing a sleeper solider is being held. After a bit of furious action they realize they’ve hit the target to late. After some necessary spy tech conversations the Widow and The Winter Soldier track their new sleeper to Wisconsin. What happens next? Well, I won’t give it away but it involves an armed gorilla with a Russian accent and Doctor Doom. Interested? I just bet you are.
Who out there could make such a book? What writer would dare step into the world of global action, espionage, spies and personal turmoil? Who amongst us has the nuggets to even dare try to pull it off? Ed Brubaker, that’s who. The man among men, the tower of power, the zip in your hip and the cut in your strut!! Brubaker, as always, knocks this issue right out of the park. Naturally, the dialog is first rate, this is Ed Brubaker we’re dealing with. What stands out about Winter Soldier #1 is two-fold. First, it’s the fact that Brubaker can initiate us into a series with a layered and difficult plot without missing a beat. At no point was I confused nor did any of it seem extraneous. Brubaker is a master of cutting the fat from his plot lines without making them trite or boring.
Secondly, there's the running emotional state of Bucky Barnes. Brubaker set this up beautifully from day one of Barnes becoming Captain America. We watched him take such pride in being the hero and love saving people that his reaction to the fall from grace is very powerful. Brubaker also weaves it into the story beautifully. Bucky’s emotional ups and downs never seem forced or eye rolling or as if they’re being used as some plot device. Instead, they serve a real purpose – they motivate Bucky to become so emotionally charged that he makes mistakes in a game where mistakes get you killed. That humanity raises Winter Soldier above just another comic. It’s the same use of humanity that has allowed Brubaker to raise Bucky Barnes to new levels of depth and interest.
My only trepidation is the art from Butch Guice. Don’t get me wrong, the man is a master artist and kicks ass at what he does, but it feels off in this issue. Too busy at times, a little too melodramatic at others but mostly way too dark. I understand the noir aspect of the story and the dark themes, but the abuse of shading and blue undertones detracts from the tale. I’m sure in a few issues I’ll get used to it but for this first jaunt into the world of Winter Soldier it didn’t work for me. My nitpicking aside, Winter Soldier is another gem from Ed Brubaker and another step in making Bucky Barnes just as interesting and iconic as his red, white and blue partner.
CRAVE ONLINE RATING 8/10 (5 Story, 3 Art)