Graphic Novel Review – Captain America: Winter Soldier

Graphic Novel Review – Captain America: Winter Soldier

Collecting: Captain America (vol 5) #1-9, 11-14

Original Release Date: 2005

Publisher: Marvel Comics

Character: Captain America, Nick Fury, Bucky Barnes, Black Widow, Agent 13 and Red Skull

Writer: Ed Brubaker (The Man Who LaughsFataleVelvet)

Art: Steve Epting (CruxVelvet)

SCORECARD (each category ranked on a 10-point scale):

Storyline – 8
Art – 8
Captivity and Length – 8
Identity – 9
Use of Medium – 8
Depth – 9
Fluidity – 9
Intrigue/Originality – 8
The Little Things – 9
Overall awesomeness – 9

When the second Captain America movie (check out our review of the movie Captain America: The Winter Soldier here) came out, you didn’t think we’d let you watch the film without getting an in-depth look at the graphic novel, too. The story of the Winter Soldier is a relatively new one, coming out just under a decade ago, but it’s one of Cap’s most iconic stories. The actual Winter Soldier story arc spans issues #8-14 (minus issue #10, which is a tie-in to House of M), but there is a lot of necessary back-story in the first volume that build up the suspense to Winter Soldier. Also, while the concept of the movie is the same, the meat of the book is far different from the film, so don’t come in with any preconceptions of what will happen – just enjoy the ride!

they call him bucky

By now I’m sure you all know that Bucky, who was Cap’s kid sidekick until his apparent death (in Avengers #56, but like all Marvel characters, Bucky has been ret-2conned multiple times), is the Winter Soldier. This soldier was a tool for the Soviet Union, and was literally “put on ice” to complete special assignments. This might be old hat to us, but ten years ago, this was jaw-dropping. The shock factor of a cheerful kid sidekick becoming the deadliest weapon in the world was unprecedented. Winter Soldier does a solid job of alluding to the shock factor; there are numerous flashbacks and dead drops to buildup what is, in essence, a stand-off between Captain America and the Winter Soldier.

bucky nooo

Like the movie portrays, this is not the same Captain America you recognize from the war days. He is no longer a gimmick, or war propaganda; he is a super-soldier with the feeling that he is being played with. It’s a demon that Cap struggles with throughout the book, and  What makes Brubaker’s writing so great is he is fully ready to let Cap fall into one of his darkest places (not too dark, but really dark for Steve Rogers). The theory that Bucky was chosen as a symbol to inspire young men to join the war effort was just a cover-up. Bucky was actually the most ruthless weapon the Allies had; he did the gruesome deeds that Cap couldn’t. It’s a brilliant rewriting of a character to fit not just the story, but the times that the story is released in. This fact also sheds new light on just who Captain America is – not just the guy who punched Hitler in the face, but the one who sanctioned the actions that a Bucky, a child, could take in the name of freedom.

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The issues are so well-paced. We begin with what looks to be the typical villain arc when Red Skull creeps around and secures a Cosmic Cube (an item capable of turning wish into reality – similar to Loki’s scepter, hmm…  However, we’re quickly in the middle of a murder/mystery and forced to play catch-up like the dunces we are. I mean, if Nick Fury can figure out the riddle, I know I can’t. Speaking of Fury, his role in Winter Soldier is significant. While Cap is definitely the one taking the lead during the mission, none of it would have been possible without Fury’s keen eye (pun intended) and S.H.I.E.L.D. resources. That being said, Steve Rogers isn’t inept in any way; he puts the hurt on everybody in his way – often. The characteristic way the shied bounces off of and into foes very enjoyable to look at on paper.

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Ed Brubaker’s Captain America: Winter Soldier is one of the best written books about Cap out there, and it’s almost ironic that a story that deviates from what was considered canon has the most identity with Steve Rogers. The ending fell a bit flat, but we do get some closure to the arc, and the aftermath of what happens here echoes through the series for years to come. The mirror image of Captain America and the Winter Soldier also creates dialogue among fans and casual readers alike (Note: Winter Soldier mentions and includes other figures like Falcon and the Invaders. If you want to dive deeper, those are good places to start). Any comic book fan should pick this up and read it – it’s simply the American thing to do.

All media credited to Marvel Comics

Written by Sherif Elkhatib

 

Captain America: The Winter Soldier Movie Review

Genre – Action, Comic Book, Superhero

Director – The Russo Brothers (You, Me and Dupree, Captain America 3)

Cast – Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson, Sebastian Stan, Emily VanCamp, Robert Redford

Alluring element – Captain America kicking asses, taking names, and then kicking those asses, too

Scorecard:
Plot – 8
Acting – 9
Representation of genre/Identity – 9
Cinematography – 9
Effects/Environment – 10
Captivity – 8
Logical consistency – 7
Originality/Creativity – 9
Soundtrack/Ambiance – 8
Overall awesomeness – 9
 

“I can do everything he does… only slower” – how we feel about big shot blog sites who get their movie reviews in a week early because of special privileges

Oh Captain, my Captain! Chris Evans returns as Steve Rogers in his first solo film since Captain America: The First Avenger in 2011. He is not alone, though, as S.H.IE.L.D. director Nick Fury and mistress of espionage, Black Widow, join him in his mission to take down the Winter Soldier. There is a lot of back-story in this movie found in the comic books (Captain America: Winter Soldier review coming soon), and some of them might be considered light spoilers for casual fans of Captain America’s character, but fans who don’t know might be a little confused without those spoilers. It is never actually mentioned that Natasha Romanoff (check out our article on her here) is the Black Widow, and there are a lot of other details that sort of don’t really make sense unless you’ve seen The First AvengerAvengers or read the associate comic books. While some might consider it poor story-telling, I look at it as not getting rewarded for doing your homework. Now that Marvel has hooked in the masses, it seems to be setting a new precedent by making viewers delve deeper to understand the whole story.

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From the get-go, we can see that this is not your father’s Captain America. The naive young man who stood for truth, justice and the American way has opened his eyes to how the world really works. He still holds a moral standard that makes his colleagues roll their eyes, but is definitely going to throw down in the line of duty. In the strictest sense of it, he is no longer a champion of the American government, but the spirit of America. I feel like a good majority of Avengers showed Rogers being poked fun at for not knowing the various pop culture and historical references and making fun of his theological ideals and sense of and morality. Thankfully, this has been laid to rest and Cap now has a little notepad in which he lists all the things he has to catch up on, most recently added being Marvin Gaye’s soundtrack to TroublemanNote: this list is actually different, depending on the country you see the film in. It’s a quick way to see how the character has grown, and to avoid beating a dead horse.

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What really piqued my interest was Captain America’s level of brutality. Sure, he killed a bunch of Nazis in WWII, but that was war. I expected Captain America to have the same sort of moral compass as a Spider-Man or a Batman, where every life is sacred and not even the most vile are to die. That theory’s thrown out the window here as Cap stabs, smashes and explodes his way to put the bad guys down – most notably in the first ten minutes of espionage-filled action. Have we just evolved our super-hero standards to fit the modern day, or is this a darker, jaded Captain America that we’re seeing here?

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While The First Avenger let people believe in the symbol, The Winter Soldier had more of an origin story identity than the actual origin story did. We get to see Steve Rogers become a super-soldier, take down Red Skull and find the courage to defeat an army – but Winter Soldier really embodies the hero that we associate the character Captain America as. A lot of it has to do with the acting; Chris Evans plays the perfect Captain America. Even with an all-star cast at his side, there was never a moment that it didn’t feel like it was his story. The “supporting cast” absolutely makes the movie. I haven’t seen Samuel L. Jackson this bad-ass since he was chopping off heads with a purple lightsaber. I mean, he’s no David Hasselhoff, thank God, but he’s as Nick Fury as you’re ever going to get; he’s the leading agent of a super-spy program for a reason, and Sam Jackson played it to a T. Note: Sadly, there are no exclamations of “Mother-f***er” in this film. Meanwhile, the talented ScarJo plays Black Widow extremely well. She’s sexy without being objectified – a role model for women and a poster model for men, truly the best of both worlds. However, it’s Anthony Mackie’s portrayal of Sam Wilson AKA Falcon that really stole the show. From Mackie’s acting to the way the his costume was designed, Falcon was bad-ass – and from the looks of it, this won’t be the only movie he will be in.

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What makes Winter Soldier so great is it’s reflection of current society. Much the way The Dark Knight showed us our fear of terrorism and the symbol of how that is dealt with, Captain America: The Winter Soldier showed us our addiction to using government enforcement. Ah, the plot thickens. Everything is not what it seems though, as the whole shebang has been a conspiracy, an infection that has swept the whole system. Iconic movies like V for Vendetta have portrayed similar messages, but not quite as plainly as Winter Soldier showed it, and especially not as relate-able as to U.S. drone strikes taking down its own citizens. Surprisingly to some, this isn’t the first time Steve Rogers has taken on the entire U.S. government in the name of its people, so who is really the enemy here? I’ve seen the movie and I still don’t know; these are the questions that keep a good movie in the minds of its viewers.

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So, we’ve spent a lot of time talking about Captain America, but what about the Winter Soldier? He is in half the title, after all. When the book that the film is based off of (review of that coming soon as well) was released almost a decade ago, the big reveal was that Bucky Barnes – friend and partner of Steve Rogers before his heroic and untimely death in The First Avenger – was actually the Winter Soldier, and it floored readers. Thanks to IMDb and the rest of the internet, we all knew this coming in. The reveal wasn’t quite as built-up as I would have liked, and I feel the whole portrayal of Bucky was really rushed; there was maybe 15-20 minutes devoted to him – and that is a shame because the Winter Soldier (both before and after the events of the movie) is one of the most ruthless killers in the Marvel universe. We do get some superb action sequences with Bucky and Captain America, each blow giving off waves of power, reminiscent of an epic anime fight. While on-screen, they do the Winter Soldier justice – but in the same way that Bucky was a pawn for the Russians, he is also just a pawn for the deeper storyline of the movie.

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Captain America: The Winter Soldier also did not shy away from fanboy moments. The Amazing Stan Lee made his usual cameo (honestly one of his funniest), but it was another guest star that made us gush aloud in the theater. I won’t spoil it, but the Russo Brothers, who direct the movie, also are executive producers for a television show we can’t seem to get enough of – we’ll let you guess. We also get a taste of other not so super villains too, with Baltroc and Crossbones getting some screen time (they’re not in their traditional costumes, so see if you can find them). The use of the vibranium shield was spot on and a clear ode to the books; every fight sequence begins or ends with Rogers bouncing this thing off walls, even at one point destroying a S.H.I.E.L.D. fighter plane with it. Captain America was also a monster in combat. Exponentially quicker and stronger than his opponents, he put the hurt on a lot of people in spectacular fashion. Every punch, grapple and shield bash looked just as one from a super-soldier should.

To bastardize a line from The Dark KnightCaptain America: The Winter Soldier is the movie that we deserve, and the one we need. In a time where we are getting dangerously close to superhero super-saturation, it’s great to see a comic book film that favors character development over plot development. There are, of course, the explosions, fight scenes and witty one-liners that set a high standard at Marvel Studios, but what really makes Captain America: The Winter Soldier worth your money is the front-row seat to watching one of the finest characters in comic books saving the world from itself. Although the actual Winter Soldier (or Agent 13, for that matter) wasn’t in it for very long, The Winter Soldier drove home it’s sociopolitical points while still looking like one of the best comic book movies to come out.

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Other Stuff:

Easter Eggs!

An explanation of the post-credit scene.

Review of Captain America (vol 5): Winter Soldier graphic novel

All media credited to Marvel Studios

Shut Up and Take My Money: Captain America Shield Replica

The money in our bank account is limited, so how unfair is it that there are endless gadgets, collectibles and toys out there that demand to be purchased? Let us help you sift through the crap, so you don’t can save that hard-earned cash for the things that deserve it. In other words, we give you the power to go to the counter and say, “Shut Up and Take My Money!”

shut-up-and-take-my-money

Item:

Captain America: Life-Sized Replica Shield

What it is:

I believe the name pretty much says it all, but for those with possible reading comprehension issues – it is a life-sized replica of the shield that Captain America uses in the new film. It comes in the standard color but a new color is available, as well. I would have preferred they went with something that fit with the comics a bit more like one that has the visible crack his shield got after breaking and being re-bonded together. The website states that this is constructed of fibre-reinforced polymer and metal with leather hand straps. It stands 27 inches tall and looks like it is pretty thick. Every aspiring hero or defender of justice should own one. Perhaps police can get one as standard issue?

How Much it Costs:

For $1500, this thing had better be made out of actual vibranium if they expect people to actually purchase it. That being said, I am a major Captain America fan and plan to dress up for the upcoming film. If I had an extra 1500 bucks lying around I would strongly consider purchasing something like this since all the other replicas I have seen on the market have been cheap knockoffs or kids toys with no heft. This does however appear to be expertly crafted and they have obviously spared no expense when it comes to material. I would like a little more information about this polymer but I am sure something that will be mounted on my wall or be used in the occasional dress up event should suffice from the current materials being used. Like the Nightwing Escrima Sticks this is really only for the serious collector or major fan of the Cap.

Is It Worth It?:

For $1500, this thing had better be made out of actual vibranium if they expect people to actually purchase it. That being said, I am a major Captain America fan and plan to dress up for Captain America: Winter Soldier, out this Friday (April 4th). If I had an extra 1500 bucks lying around I would strongly consider purchasing something like this since all the other replicas I have seen on the market have been cheap knockoffs or kids toys with no heft. This does, however, appear to be expertly-crafted and they have obviously spared no expense when it comes to material. I would like a little more information about this polymer but I am sure something that will be mounted on my wall or be used in the occasional dress up event should suffice from the current materials being used. Like the Nightwing Arsenal, this is really only for the serious collector or diehard Cap fan.

 

Nailed it.
Nailed it.

Bottom Line:

If you are a serious collector of high-end pieces, major fan of Captain America, or even planning to protect America from that Nazi bastard the Red Skull, then you should definitely own this. Otherwise, it’s safe to say that you can pass on this or buy a cheaper replica.