James Buchanan ‘Bucky’ Barnes has been many things in his life. From Captain America’s kid sidekick in World War 2, to a brainwashed Soviet operative in the Cold War, and even filling in as The Cap after the death of Steve Rogers in the aftermath of the Marvel Civil. Bucky has certainly been in his fair share of conflicts, all of them someone else’s.
With that in mind it’s refreshing to see Bucky taking centre stage in his own series as he attempts to fix the damage he did as the Winter Soldier and reclaim the mantle as his own. Teaming up with the Black Widow, Bucky’s on a mission to tie up some loose ends, kill a whole bunch of old Soviet operatives and even take on the occasional machine gun toting gorilla.
Penned by Eisner Award-winning writer, Ed Brubaker with pencils by Jackson ‘Butch’ Guice, Winter Soldier: The Longest Winter collects the first 5 issues of the series as well as Fear Itself 7.1. Following the events of Fear Itself, Bucky fakes his own death in order to work from the shadows and right the wrongs he committed whilst under Soviet mind control. His first task: to track down and pacify the three other Soviet sleeper agents he trained as the Winter Soldier. In true Brubaker fashion this straight forward mission suddenly becomes complicated when none other than Victor Von Doom is thrown into the fray.
As expected, Brubaker is in fine form delivering a well thought out story arc that felt a bit like a James Bond film crossed with a John Le Carre novel. Guice’s art is equal parts suave, vivid and brooding. The page layout is also worth mention – it’s cinematic and erratic, with panels often overlapping, helping to give a pace and cadence to the book.
My only issue with the volume is its overall predictability. Don’t get me wrong I think Brubaker is an insanely talented writer who has made a remarkable contribution to the Captain America universe. However while reading Winter Soldier I really did feel like he was running out of ideas, and as he has been working on the book for over 7 years it might be expected.
The book plays heavily on Bucky trying to move forward by dealing with the sins of his past, and it does it well, the only problem is it’s pretty much the same as what Brubaker wrote for him as Captain America over the last couple of years. As I said it’s not a bad thing, just confirmation to me that he’s doing a smart thing by leaving Marvel and moving on to his creator owned stuff.
This aside, Winter Soldier is a must read for any Captain America fan. Other Marvel fans should enjoy this too but it probably won’t resonate as much with them.