Written by Ed Brubaker
Art by Butch Guice
32 pages, color
Published by Marvel
Call it heresy, but I think I enjoyed Ed Brubaker’s issues of Captain America that starred Cap-replacement Bucky Barnes in the outfit more than when Steve Rogers was in the suit. And with Rogers helming Captain America once more an inevitability, I’m glad that us Bucky Barnes fans are getting our fix in the new series Winter Soldier. And so far, it’s exactly what I want from such a series: a mixture of black ops and crazy Marvel mayhem.
Brubaker’s origin for the Winter Soldier, when first introduced a few years ago, was that Bucky Barnes had not only been brainwashed by the Soviets, but put on ice and then thawed whenever they had a mission for him. It makes perfect sense, then, for Bucky to not have been the only killer on ice, and Winter Soldier #1 opens with him trying to track down three recently discovered sleepers. From there we’ve got casinos, Soviet agents in America’s heartland… oh, and a gorilla armed with heavy artillery that shouts anti-American phrases in Russian.
And to me, that sums up everything that works with the whole idea of Winter Soldier #1. Similar to Greg Rucka and Marco Checchetto’s revival of The Punisher, Winter Soldier is taking a mostly more-serious, grounded tone… but still reveling in all of the craziness that the Marvel Universe offers, like talking Communist gorillas, or cyborg Prime Ministers. I like that he’s taking established Marvel villains like the Red Ghost and his Super Apes and keeping their same spirit alive, but at the same time making them feel a bit more dangerous, for lack of a better word. The overall grounded feel for Winter Soldier doesn’t exclude the fantastic, it just makes them fit better into the book’s particular world view.
Speaking of views, the view of the world through Butch Guice’s pencils is a lovely one. Guice penciled some issues of Captain America starring Bucky as the main character, so he and Brubaker already had a history of working together. The art here looks just fantastic; carefully crafted, fine-detailed portraits of characters that look like they’re ready to step right off of the page. He and colorist Bettie Breitweiser work well together on some of the trickier moments, like the slightly granulated look for a video projection, only to shift back to a more subdued, gentler look in the next panel as we snap back into reality. Even some of the smaller moments, like the establishing images of the casino on the first page, come across classy and slick thanks to Guice; who knew a playing card and a few poker chips could look so intriguing?
Winter Soldier has only just begun, but considering it’s spun directly out of multiple years of Captain America, it’s not like we don’t already have somewhat of a good idea what we’re in store for. If you’ve never read stories with the character before, though, this is a solid entry point. Winter Soldier continues to remind us that what had sounded laughable (Bucky Barnes is alive and a Soviet assassin!) could be top-notch story material in the right hands. I’m along for the ride, absolutely.