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Winter Soldier: Winter Kills

Posted: Friday, December 29, 2006
By: Kevin Powers



Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Lee Weeks, Steven Gaudiano and Rick Hoberg

Publisher: Marvel Comics


Over the past year or so we have seen two major taboos violated in the comic book world. One of them started as a huge success but has since faltered and the other has become one of the most interesting and important moves in its respective universe. Of course, I am referring to the resurrections of Jason Todd and Bucky Barnes. Their deaths were each one of the most significant events in the lives of Batman and Captain America, respectively. While Jason Todd’s return started strong, it sort of fizzled away into insignificance whereas the return of Bucky Barnes as the Winter Soldier has been one of the best things to happen in the Marvel Universe and to Captain America. Ed “Mr. Marvel” Brubaker is a genius when it comes to the Marvel Universe. He has done fantastic work on both Captain America and Daredevil and does not show any signs of slowing down.

Winter Soldier: Winter Kills is the first comic to focus directly on Bucky since his return. For those who don’t read Captain America, Bucky was picked up from the ocean by the Soviet Union, brainwashed and turned into the Winter Soldier, an efficient killing machine who was constantly frozen and re-frozen over the years to keep him from aging. When he first locked fists with Cap, Cap tried to do everything he could to make Bucky remember who he was. When Bucky finally regained his memory he went from evil killing machine to good guy killing machine working for Nick Fury.

This book is my pick of the week. It is easily one of the most genuine, character driven stories I have read in a while. Starting with the genuine good old days of Tom Brokaw’s “greatest generation,” Bucky reminisces of Christmas 1944, the last Christmas of World War II and the last Christmas before he and Cap “die.” In London, he and Toro (the original Human Torch’s sidekick) prepare for a dance. After failing to convince Cap to go and learning that even Namor is going to a Christmas party, the boys depart.

Fast forward 57 years, Bucky stares at an antique poster of him and Cap that has been vandalized to read “Traitor” above Cap’s head. Bucky/Brubaker makes a compelling commentary about Christmas and how during times of uncertainty and seemingly meaningless war, Christmas feels more like a routine than it does the holiday that it is. Not only is Bucky commenting on the Marvel Civil War, but Brubaker seems to be commenting on the "War on Terror" and the current state of America. After all, Civil War is almost a direct correlation to the "War on Terror."

Bucky has his own peaceful and private agenda for the evening and judging by the narrative, it is truly a night of reflection on his life. However, duty calls and Nick Fury calls in a favor from his new number 1 man. Bucky accepts the mission: to keep the Young Avengers from invading a suspected Stark Lab that is really a secret Hydra base.

After a brief battle with the Young Avengers, Bucky introduces himself, and as he tries to tell the kids to leave the scene, their cover is blown as a Hydra agent bursts through the door. Without hesitation, Bucky’s instincts take over as he grabs one of Hawkeye’s arrows and flings it through the Hydra soldier’s neck. Now that they have been compromised, Fury orders them to burn down the building. A Marvel Team-Up commences between Bucky and the group he undoubtedly would have once been leader of. Teaming Bucky up with the Young Avengers is the most appropriate move for Brubaker to have made. After all, Bucky originally was a “Young Invader.” He studies each one of the Young Avengers, noticing Captain America’s training and admiring how they all fight like him.

When all is said and done, Hydra is taken down and Bucky goes about his earlier agenda: visitng the grave of Jack Monroe a.k.a. Nomad a.k.a. Bucky II, a man who Bucky murdered before regaining his memory. In a solemn moment, Bucky acknowledges he has no idea who Jack Monroe was, only that Jack wanted to be just like Bucky and he apologizes for killing him.

The issue ends with another flashback to the earlier dance and Toro and Bucky, two best friends who are just trying to be young and carefree during a time of global turmoil. There is even a fantastic and classic moment between Cap and Bucky at the dance, where Cap decides to be young and carefree as well. Finally, we come back to the cemetery where Bucky meets with Namor. They are at Toro’s grave and Bucky asks Namor to tell him about Toro’s death.

This comic is phenomenal. Not only does Brubaker expertly capture narrative and transition between two different time periods, but he includes all the suspense, humor, action and drama anyone could ask for in a comic book. The art is also a high point of this comic book. Lee Weeks, Steven Gaudiano and Rick Hoberg capture three different styles in this one sole comic. Not only is there an original style that conveys the darkness and edginess of the character, but there’s a great mix of Kirby and Romita that is really enjoyable and fits very well with the overall story.

This is an excellent read, definitely my pick of the week.



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