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‘Winter Soldier’ #1 Deploys Marvel’s Super Spies In Super Style [Spoiler-Free Review]

In 2004, writer Ed Brubaker began a run on Marvel’s Captain America (that continues to this day) with a 13-issue epic reintroducing the long-dead Bucky Barnes, former partner of Captain America, as the Winter Soldier, a brainwashed Soviet agent brought in and out of stasis all throughout the Cold War to participate in all forms of assassination, espionage and other skullduggery. Following his own brief career as the Sentinel of Liberty, Bucky is back in his Winter Soldier guise with an aim to atone for all the nasty things he did during his days as a Soviet assassin. On sale this week, Winter Soldier #1 features the work of Brubaker and artists Butch Guice and Bettie Breitweiser, and you can read what we thought of it after the cut.When Steve Rogers died in the aftermath of Civil War, Bucky took up the shield and flag from 2007 to 2011, until he perished at the hands of the Red Skull in last summer’s Fear Itself event. Of course, that didn’t last very long, and a few short weeks after the book’s conclusion came Fear Itself #7.1 by Ed Brubaker and Butch Guice, which revealed that Bucky requested to appear dead in the eyes of the world. He was secretly resuscitated before going back on the road with his girlfriend Natasha Romanoff, the Black Widow, in the interest of finding a bunch of dirty commies and shooting them all in the face for liberty.

That brings us to this week’s Winter Soldier #1. If you’re one of the many fans who’ve been following Ed Brubaker’s Bucky Barnes saga for the past seven years, then you’re unlikely to be disappointed in the story. Brubaker continues to write Bucky and Natasha as the Nick and Nora Charles of nerve-pinching-you-into-paralysis-before-blowing-up-your-house, and it’s definitely going to be fun to see Bucky mix it up as himself, as opposed to as Cap, with the Marvel Universe at large.

This first issue of Winter Soldier invokes the familiar Marvel Universe-inflected super-espionage that’s made up the vast majority of Brubaker’s very good-to-excellent work with the character, but what’s completely new and different in this first issue is the artwork.

Butch Guice and Bettie Breitweiser have been working with Ed Brubaker on Captain America for a while, but this is a dramatic step up for them both. The best description I can come up with for the art in this series is that it’s like watching ghosts of smoke act a scene behind a cracked windowpane in the rain. For all of Guice’s shadows and blacks, Breitweiser enhances every panel of the book with an otherworldly hue, creating paranoid scenes that look and feel pallid and grim — and that’s just the present-day sequences. Haunting images of the past are just that, distorted, monochromatic, and bleeding together in pale blues and spot reds. It’s the long winter of Bucky’s memory between 1945 and 2005.

Guice’s linework is excellent too, and he’s clearly developed a full partnership with Breitweiser, creating a world photorealistic enough to be recognizable but also skewed and distorted through funhouse-mirror perspectives, jagged panel layouts, dream sequences, computer screens and HUDs so that it feels like trying to play Metal Gear Solid on a TV screen that’s frosted over, while somehow remaining completely clear. This an absolutely beautiful comic.

Winter Soldier #1, by Ed Brubaker, Butch Guice and Bettie Breitweiser, is in stores and comiXology this Wednesday from Marvel Comics.

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