There are several reasons I absolutely love Winter Soldier. First is that it’s written by Ed Brubaker, a man who seems unable to write a bad comic book. The second is that it reads less like a standard comic and more like a spy novel. The third is simply how Winter Soldier takes us out of the normal Marvel Universe. Even when guests show up, they’re presented differently than in any other series. Winter Soldier is its own little world and I revel in it.
Issue 10 is more about the psychological devastation being wreaked upon Bucky Barnes following the second betrayal by Black Widow. Let’s take a second to recap what’s happened. Leo Novokov, a former Russian assassin, has gone completely off the reservation. When Bucky was under the mind control of the KGB, he was responsible for training their greatest killers, and one of the best was Novokov. Left for years in cryogenic stasis, Novokov woke to find his former instructor to be an American hero, driving the already unstable assassin to vow revenge.
Using a former Dept. X scientist, Novokov managed to reawaken the Black Widow’s old cover identity as a ballerina and master assassin. Bucky and his team managed to rescue Widow and it looked as if everything was good. Then, without warning, Widow’s second layer of mind control was unleashed and she wiped out most of the SHIELD officers stationed around her, nearly killing Nick Fury. Issue 10 is mostly a recap of the massacre and a look at how torn apart Bucky is. In the end, the situation is so serious that Captain America reveals to the Avengers that Bucky is still alive, and they unite to go rescue her once again.
Unlike most recap issues, Brubaker doesn’t just catch us up on events, he uses the issue to show just how brutal all this has been on Bucky. It also sets up several questions. What will the fallout be for Black Widow if she’s returned to her normal mental state? Can Bucky take down Leo without killing him, and what does the future hold for the Winter Soldier? Brubaker packs this issue with so much emotional fallout that it makes the wait for issue eleven almost unbearable.
Helping to make issue ten a blockbuster is the art from Butch Guice. I won’t go into his interesting pencil style or how he uses shading so beautifully. Instead, I’ll just direct you to the pages where Guice graphically depicts how Black Widow took out SHIELD. The use of panel placement is incredible as is Guice’s sense of motion and carnage. Even if you don’t read Winter Soldier, go check out these pages and you will understand the genius of Butch Guice.
Winter Soldier is another flawless entry in a story that is deeper, more exciting and better written than pretty much anything in the Marvel Universe.