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 Laughs, Fatale, Velvet)
Art: Steve Epting (Crux, Velvet)
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!
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.
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.
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.
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