Not too long after bidding a fond adieu in Captain America, now writer extraordinaire Ed Brubaker says another goodbye to Winter Soldier, the comic he jumpstarted fourteen issues ago. This hardly seems fair. I loved Brubaker’s Captain America and the current Rick Remender run sucks. I’ve loved every second of Brubaker’s Winter Soldier and I’m terrified of what the next creative team has in store for Bucky Barnes.
It’s no easy picnic to take a wooden sidekick like Bucky and make him a three dimensional character. Since the death of Captain America, Brubaker has been grooming the Barnes character for bigger things. First, he took over as Captain America, then Barnes’ past was broken wide open and the truth of the Winter Soldier was revealed. Since then, Bucky has faked his death, attempted to find and destroy the other Winter Soldiers he trained when under mind control, and, most recently, lost Black Widow, the love of his life. To make matters worse, he lost her to mind control under the influence of one of the soldiers Barnes trained.
Unlike the understated end of Brubaker’s Captain America run, the Winter Soldier bow out is a full-on action spy story. This is the final battle between Leo Novokov and Barnes, with the fate of Black Widow hanging in the balance. The final clash between teacher and student is tough and heartbreaking, and Winter Soldier #14 ends on a serious down note. The future has become very different and considerably darker for Captain America’s former sidekick. Whatever Barnes will face in the future, he will do it alone.
The end of Brubaker’s run on Winter Soldier is an important one because of what he’s accomplished. Much like with Captain America, Brubaker has humanized Bucky Barnes and breathed new life into a very stale character. With Captain America, Brubaker had a lot to work with, but with Barnes he had to rebuild the character almost from scratch. Using time, patience and his incredible gift for storytelling, Brubaker has elevated Bucky Barnes to a hero in his own right. No matter what, he will never live under the shadow of Captain America again. Hopefully the new creative team doesn’t screw this up.
Butch Guice is also jumping ship, which sucks. His art has been the backbone of Winter Soldier. Nobody pencils noir like Guice. There is always a mood set within the panel, there’s always a sense of natural movement to the characters. Guice’s so good with character forms and faces that he easily draws specific emotional reactions out of the reader. Graced with an ability for action movement, plus the style and control to make each beautiful pencil count. His presence on Winter Soldier will be sorely missed.
(4.5 Story, 4.5 Art)