Review: Winter Soldier #1 by Ed Brubaker and Ed Guice

I think most comic book discussions (i.e., flame topics) stem from the inability to separate something that is a “personal favorite” from that which is “the best.” The distinction is easy when you like something that is not as good, almost by design, like B-Movies, Pop Art, or the Ramones. 1 It gets a little more complicated when your favorite is really good.

For example, my favorite movie is The Sting. I think it’s a very tight, enjoyable, watchable movie. 2 But I wouldn’t put it ahead of The Godfather, Casablanca, or Citizen Kane, even though I like it better than those films.

What does this have to do with Winter Soldier. Well, just that Ed Brubaker is probably my favorite comic book writer. I mean, if we’re talking years of service, then I may have to give the nod to Peter David who has been consistently entertaining me for over 20 years, whereas Brubaker chimes in at a measly 12 years.3 For me, I put him higher than Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Grant Morisson, Warren Ellis, and Brian Michael Bendis.

Winter Soldier is an interesting series. Ed Brubaker started his Captain America run by reviving the unrevivable… The last permanently dead character in comic books.4 Bucky. When a permanently dead character is revived usually, you hear an internet uproar. When James “Bucky” Barnes was revived, you didn’t hear a peep, because Captain America hadn’t been written this well in ages.5

Now, Brubaker has written Captain America for 6-7 years, he’s revived Bucky, killed Steve Rogers, made Bucky the new Captain America, brought back classic Captain America villains, Rebirthed Steve Rogers, and killed (but secretly saved) Bucky who returns to work as The Winter Soldier. It’s been a great run, and I hope he has no plans on ceasing anytime soon.

Winter Soldier #1

Publisher: Marvel Comics
Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Ed Guice
Release Date: 02/01/2012
Cover Price: $2.99
Review: Digital Copy (From Comixology)

I can’t speak too much of what happened to Bucky recently, as I’m still catching up in the trade paperbacks. 6 But I do know that basically in the last year or so, Steve Rogers came back, Bucky continued as Captain America, went on trial for his crimes as the Winter Soldier, and then seemingly died during the Fear Itself event. Turns out he was just mostly dead, but not all dead. So he decided to hit the road with the Black Widow and be a more espionage-oriented superhero.

Synopsis

  • James and Natasha infiltrate a base underneath a Russian casino where one of the sleepers, like the Winter Soldier, were kept. The Project Zephyr Sleepers.
  • James and Natasha reminisce and remember his life as a Russian operative, and he remembers that an ex-KGB general sold the sleeper operatives on the black market.
  • They work with Jasper Sitwell locates an operative, Nico Stanovich, who killed his fake American family.
  • They infiltrate a farm in Minnesota, where Mikel Bulgakov informs them under duress, that the sleepers were sold to R.A.I.D. and offshoot of the A.I.M. terrorist group and the location of one of the sleepers.
  • James and Natasha stealthily infiltrate the R.A.I.D. base to rescue a sleeper, when they are attacked by a Gorilla with a machine gun that allows R.A.I.D. to escape with the sleeper.
  • The Red Ghost and Madame Lucia Von Bardas use one of the sleepers to try and assasinate Doctor Doom.
  • Analysis

    Sometimes introduction issues are really great, and other times you have to do so much table setting that you don’t quite get enough story. For me, this was the latter. The story was an effective story, and a personal story for Bucky, but it seemed very standard. More specifically, that any action hero could star in this story.

    The best part of the story is definitely the interplay between Natasha and James. A modern day John Steed and Emma Peel 7 or even Sydney Bristow and Michael Vaughan 8. It’s a great feel between the two characters, where there is both love and confidence between the two characters. Part of me wants this to be the whole series, and the other part of me is nervous. The series is not called The Soldier and the Widow, it’s called the Winter Soldier. So is Natasha going to get pulled into Avengers business and leave Bucky on his own? Doesn’t make a lot of sense. Especially as Natasha is well-known due to the Iron Man movie.

    I really don’t care for the “Winter Soldier” name, as the title of the book. I mean “Winter Soldier” is a great name for a spy operative, but not a superhero title. Don’t get me wrong, “Bucky” would be even worse, but you’d think they could come up with something better. I just don’t see “Winter Soldier” being a title that lasts for years and years, at least with its current name.

    And look, I know with Captain America starring in a movie last summer and being a featured player in The Avengers movie this upcoming summer, that it’s impossible to have someone other than Steve Rogers be Captain America. But somehow, I enjoyed Bucky as Captain America and Steve Rogers as *well* Steve Rogers Super Soldier who would lead the Secret Avengers group without costume. But I’m the same guy who thought that DC couldn’t (or at least shouldn’t) give Nightwing the cowl for a second time and then take it away a second time.

    How many acronym groups are there in the Marvel universe? AIM, AID, RAID, AGM, SHIELD, MODOK, SODAM, HAMMER, SWORD. I think they keep someone chained in the basement coming up with funky acronyms.

    I like Ed Guice’s art in general, but figuring out certain action in this book was somewhat difficult. I could not figure out how the hidden base was hidden in a hotel, or how Bucky and Widow got detected in the warehouse. And I stared at the last panel where Doctor Doom was standing, thinking that it was a picture of Doom and not the real person. I love stylized art, and I don’t need photo-realism all of the time, but when the action is hard to follow, then I don’t like the book as much as I normally would.

    Look, KGB and Nazis are great old standbys, but someday soon, can’t we have new nationality of terrorists. Sure it’s fun to bring back the Red Ghost and all, but it still seems like nothing has changed in 30 years of comic book villains.

    One of the strengths of the Captain America book is the strong supporting cast: Steve, Bucky, Natasha, Sharon, Falcon, Fury, and any other SHIELD or Avengers you care to add. And I really enjoy that aspect of the book. To come into this book, and it is nothing but James and Natasha for 22 pages, it feels like something is missing. I’ll give Jasper Sitwell time to grow on me, but we need some more allies.

    Verdict

    Sometimes a comic book is a true introduction. Just like the current Nightwing book, you have to introduce new readers to the character and the current path that the character is going to take. It is a solid start, and I look forward to more exciting stuff. But I must admit, I expected better, especially given my love for the Captain America series, even when Bucky was the main character.

    Overall Grade: 8.0

    Footnotes

    1 – Had a long discussion with someone years ago about the Ramones. He got very confused when I said, “The Ramones suck! I love them. Love their songs. Would love to go see them in concert. Doesn’t take away from the fact that they suck.” Yes, they used simple chords and lyrics to remove all pretentiousness from rock & roll. They basically turned being average into an art form. It’s genius and I love them for it, but they still suck.

    2 – I had an amateur movie critic say to me, that he thinks The Sting may be one of the most watchable movie of all time.

    3 – My first Ed Brubaker series is the very underrated Vertigo limited series: Scene of the Crime.

    4 – Okay, yes Uncle Ben technically is still dead.

    5 – Slight apologies to Mark Waid, but truthfully your run wasn’t as universally loved.

    6 – Currently reading The Trial of Captain American trade paperback. Having a mortgage really affects your ability to keep up with comic book series.

    7 – The Avengers television show from the United Kingdon.

    8 – The Alias television show from JJ Abrams.

     

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