If during 2011 you followed Fear Itself then you will know that one of the epilogues revolved around Captain America and the realisation that Bucky didn’t really die. This revelation, although emotionally tortuous for Cap, meant that Bucky had now found a purpose which took him back into his comfort zone of the shadows.
The premise that has been created is one of espionage, secrets and complete deniability as now the world thinks that Bucky is dead meaning he can start to address some of his former issues with only Captain America, Nick Fury and the Black Widow knowing he is alive. So Bucky is using the window of opportunity to begin his own personal quest for redemption.
The story opens with Natasha and Bucky infiltrating a Department X establishment only to discover the stasis tube they were looking for is now vacant. Ed Brubaker is writing this new title and has built upon his previous work including when Captain America, in a climactic moment, gave Bucky his memories back. With more flooding back, Bucky has remembered that the Russian program that was used to create his Winter Soldier persona wasn’t limited to simply himself - there are more sleeper agents out there. Although it is a short fracas it does very quickly set the tone of the comic. This isn’t a nice soft friendly title filled with morals and ethics. There is the occasional lighthearted moment, for instance where they pass a joke about whoever alerts the guards is buying breakfast but underneath it all this is still a combination of soul searching and finding the truth.
What does slowly dawn on them is that there is a lot more to this than they know and in a moment of instinct their whole world gets turned upside down, introducing an enemy they know little about and a bigger situation for them to deal with. “Comrades” of Bucky are also at work and targeting the self-proclaimed ruler of Latveria...
Although there is a lot of narrative used in this issue, Brubaker has still written an incredibly strong opener. For anyone new reading the comic with a limited knowledge of Captain America and Bucky (like myself) it gives enough information to take you in without overloading or overwhelming you either. At the same time it doesn’t leave you feeling like you’re missing something or have to read decades of back issues to understand all the minute details. It’s easy to pick up and easier to grasp.
Another nice point to make is that it doesn’t waste time and throws you straight into action without it being gratuitous or simply for the sake of being exciting. There is a genuine hook to this title with a healthy pace to keep the reader involved and interested.
The artwork is something that may win or lose people though. Butch Guice has given it a finely detailed look with character. There is a lot of the story given to you by the look and feel of it all, its style even changes throughout depending on the context it is showing, a soft unrestricted imagery used for when Bucky and Natasha are in bed for example. It’s a nice touch but must be so labour intensive.
If I know I was a Cap and Bucky fan I know I would love this title. Part of me is attracted to it in the same way I enjoy X-Force with the whole black ops/wetwork scenario that it's painting. You also get a feeling of longevity as well. The story potential behind this set up is huge seeing as it is all off of the radar.
People will enjoy this comic and I can see it doing well so I would suggest getting in on it at the beginning, even if just to try it, as I’m sure that most (if not all) will enjoy it.
Matt Puddy is gearing up for a trip to the Hyborian Age next week.