Eight years ago the world was a vastly different place. George W. Bush was just starting his second term, Pope John Paul II had passed away, and Ed Brubaker introduced a new villain in the pages of Captain America ominously known as The Winter Soldier. As time passed, the mystery behind this new threat unraveled and the Winter Soldier turned out to be James Buchanan ‘Bucky’ Barnes, Captain America’s long deceased partner. While comic character’s rise and fall so often, the impact of their supposed deaths have drastically lessened, yet Bucky’s resurrection not only sent shock waves through the Marvel Universe, it cemented Brubaker’s place in the comic writer’s hall of fame.
It seems fitting then, that Brubaker’s time with Marvel comes to an end with his run on ‘The Winter Soldier’, Bucky’s first solo series. Taking place following the events of 2011’s ‘Fear Itself’ event, the series follow’s Bucky and the always entertaining Black Widow as they work deep undercover for S.H.E.I.L.D. When Bucky learns that sleeper agent’s once trained by him during the Cold War are being awakened, it’s his duty to see that the sins of his past are cleaned up.
Without giving too much away, secrecy is the strength of all espionage tales after all, Brubaker has crafted the penultimate tale for his all-time favourite character. Bucky’s journey is one of redemption, revenge and even lost love, and it’s one that will be remembered for years to come. This is a near flawless tale that is unlike any other book that Marvel has on the stands right now. In fact, ‘The Winter Soldier’ seems so far removed from the rest of the Marvel Universe, that when characters like Wolverine or Hawkeye make appearances, they seem a little out of place. But they are merely ancillary characters, and their presence manages to keep things interesting.
The first story arc, The Longest Winter, was illustrated by Butch Guice and sets the tone for the rest of the series. Using an appropriate palette of winter tones, this makes for a very gritty and dark book. So dark at times that the action becomes a little jumbled and it’s hard to tell just how someone jumped from point a to point b. Yet, this is about spies who operate in the shadows after all. Michael Lark takes over for the second arc, Broken Arrow, and his style so mirrored that of Guice that it’s hard to notice the switch in talent even when the art switched back to Guice for the final arc, Widow Hunt.
While it will be sad to see Brubaker leave Marvel, he has certainly left his mark. Not only did he make Captain America relevant, but he showed that even the most obscure and forgotten characters can live again when handled with care. Brubaker’s run on ‘The Winter Soldier’ is a must have for any comic fan out there. An original book that flew under the radar of most readers upon its initial release, ‘The Winter Soldier’ will be fondly remembered by fans for years to come and will undoubtedly withstand the test of time as its trades will be passed on through the ages.