One of the best things Marvel Comics did this year was let Bucky Barnes’ Winter Soldier get his own title. Writer Ed Brubaker and artist Butch Guice are taking an old-school approach to making this one of Marvel’s best series.
Issue 5 concludes the five-part story The Longest Winter by dropping the biggest bag of hammers possible. There’s Dr. Doom, Nick Fury, Black Widow, a bunch of machine-gun toting gorilla’s, a KGB sleeper agent, Lucia Von Bardas, and the Red Ghost rounding out the players Bucky Barnes’ Winter Solider must work with or against.
Brubaker does a great job making all of these players work with the plot of the story. Not once does he allow the story to become convoluted. Each one of the characters makes their presence felt without overdoing it.
That’s a mean feat considering less-able writers could make a story like this turn into a bad soap opera really fast trying to figure out how each character serves the plot. Dr. Doom does a nasty turn as the Winter Soldier takes the enemy of my enemy is my friend approach in helping stop a nuclear threat instigated by Lucia and The Red Ghost.
Having stolen Dr. Doom’s Doombot for its nuclear launch codes, the action takes place in a Latverian missile silo after Dr. Doom helps teleport himself, Winter Soldier and the Black Widow there. Brubaker does a great job with the dialogue, helping each character keep the rhythm and flow of the scene moving forward like a train on some slick rails.
Part of what helps propel the storyline forward can also be credited to artist Butch Guice’s fantastic pencils. Next to Frank Miller, nobody stages action sequences better than Guice.
With the assistance of Dr. Doom, the group fights their way through machine-gun toting gorillas and Lucia Von Bardas, allowing the Winter Soldier to confront KGB sleeper agent Dmitri – one of his star pupils from his days as a brainwashed Soviet agent. Brubaker shows a complex characterization of the Winter Soldier as he finds bittersweet satisfaction at having to take down Dmitri.
What makes Brubaker’s work so compelling on this title is his no-nonsense approach to writing. He’s not given to hyperbole; he’s a hard-boiled writer in the vein of Dashiell Hammett. Brubaker gives readers a lean, gritty story that focuses on the important elements of the story – all meat and no filler.
The ending works great too as the reader is left to consider a few questions like what happened to the Red Ghost and the third sleeper agent. Of course, Brubaker will explain that, starting in issue 6.
Something worth mentioning in this review is the incredible coloring talents of Bettie Breitweiser. Her coloring work evokes a particular mood that suits Brubaker’s storytelling style and supports Guice’s excellent artwork. She deserves a lot of credit for being the glue that holds Brubaker and Guice together so well.
Overall, I grade Winter Soldier #5 a solid A on all fronts. If you’re not reading it, go back to your local mom and pop and get started, or if your into digital, head over to comiXology and brush up on the series.