If there’s one thing that can be said about my experience with Marvel comics, it’s that mine is spotty. I once said that I had limited exposure to the Marvel universe, but spotty is a better term, simply because I daresay I haven’t read all that much more of DC than Marvel. I just haven’t read a lot consistantly.
When I say consistantly, I mean my readings have bounced around without rhyme or reason, to the point where I have more in common with small aspects of it while ignoring other parts.
Take Captain America for example. By all accounts, I should really like Captain America. He more than other Marvel heroes embodies the spirit of American values, like a less powerful Superman. And he literally comes from the forties, so he’s got a JSA thing going on that I should enjoy. Yet I’ve read almost no comics starring Captain America. Yet on the other hand, his was the only movie in the present series of Avengers tie-in films that I’ve seen so far (a problem I intend to remedy eventually). And finally, in lieu of picking up a Captain America ongoing, I’ve read the first issue of a spin-off title that stars his former sidekick, James “Bucky” Barnes.
This is basically how I go into every Marvel property by and large. Bits and pieces that would baffle someone who loves the particular properties and would know what should be read, in what order. Maybe I just enjoy skirting around the big guns in favor of more obscure stuff.
For those with less experience than I, “Bucky” was the classic boy sidekick to Captain America. Around since the very beginning, Bucky served as the perspective character for an entire generation of young readers, and did what any sidekick during the Golden and Silver ages of comics would do. He constantly fell prey to kidnappings, only to be saved by his adult counterpart, and generally acting as the fall guy so Captain America could look good.
I make fun, but Bucky has a pretty important place in the Cap’s history, like Kid Flash to the Flash. The Silver Flash that is; Jay Garrick had a Three Stooges-esque trio as his sidekicks, who are dead as of the loathsome Cry For Justice. Thank you very much James Robinson.
Also like Kid Flash, Bucky would have a tenure as his adult counterpart for a time, though more recently than Wally West in publication history. But between the time when he was Captain America’s sidekick and his replacement, Bucky was the Winter Soldier.
According to WINTER SOLDIER, Bucky spent the years following WWII under Soviet control as a brainwashed assassin, the titular Winter Soldier. While the Cap lay in cryogenic stasis (and replaced by an imposter, don’t ask), Bucky served as covert ops specialist, until resurfacing in comics in 2005. Broken from his brainwashing, he spent time as Captain America for a few years, before finally faking his own death and taking his place as the Winter Soldier, this time as his own boss.
Which is where we come in at WINTER SOLDIER #1, with him working with partner, former soviet ally, and current lover Natasha Romanoff, alias The Black Widow. They’ve learned that the activation codes for three soviet sleepers were sold on the black market, and must now try to prevent the brainwashed individuals from being released and put to work for nefarious purposes.
My description seems sorely lacking when it comes to how intriguing this premise is. Two former Soviet agents working to tie up loose ends in a world full of both organizations seeking world domination/destruction, and the super science that can be a means to achieving those goals. This book is called Winter Soldier, and it certainly feels like a cold conflict over the remnants of a Cold War. And in the middle of it all is a man tortured by memories of the past.
Plus, it also has an intelligent gorilla wielding a machine gun and shouting “Death to America!” in Russian. It hardly gets more awesome than that. It could get more awesome, but any more out-there and it might strain the tone.
I love the tone of this book, hence why I recommend it to people. I’ll certainly pick up the second issue when it comes out. And since books like Men of War and Blackhawks over at DC are getting the ax, this might at least be a good replacement for war and/or super spy action.