Or – “Featuring Gates McFadden As The Black Widow!”

I’m gonna be honest:  After Fear Itself #7.1, I wasn’t entirely sure that I wanted to follow this series, even though I had been excited about it in the beginning.  My trust in Ed Brubaker overcame my dislike of awkward retcons, and I found enough potential in #1 to come back this time around.  So, what if there weren’t only one?

Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Butch Guice
Cover Artist: Lee Bermejo
Colorist: Bettie Breitweiser
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Editor: Lauren Sankovitch
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $2.99

Previously, in Winter Soldier:  Bucky Barnes went from sidekick to the greatest hero of Dubya Dubya Two to casualty of war to pawn of the Soviet military complex before the age of 21.  Having lived the last several decades in and out of stasis, Barnes has little to hang on to other than his relationship with Natasha Romanova, aka The Black Widow, and his new status as ghost in the machine, and with the revelation that he wasn’t the ONLY sleeper in play, The Winter Soldier is now the only man who can shut down a conspiracy that has lain dormant for half a century.  Of course, that’s if he doesn’t get mown down by the gorilla with the minigun…


This issue opens with one of the most awesome things that comic books can do that other mediums can’t:  A splash page of a gorilla with an enormous automatic weapon, pinning Winter Soldier and the Widow down with an endless spray of fire.  (I also like the fact that they overtly acknowledge the fact that normal guns don’t work the way this one does, even though it’s being fired by an ape with near-human intelligence and super-strength.)  There’s a moment of additional awesome, as the creature flees the site of the ambush with a jet-pack (!!), leading to a concentrated moment of awesome that even Barney Stinson would have to admire.  Things get even more uncomfortable when the Red Ghost’s first target is revealed to be… VICTOR VON FREAKIN’ DOOM.  This comes as less of a surprise, when you recall that Red Ghost’s partner in crime is former Latverian head of state Lucia von Bardas, the main villain of Brian Bendis’ Secret War miniseries (not to be confused with Jim Shooter’s Secret Wars.)


Doom’s appearance in this issue is a surprise to me, especially as he becomes a driving force of the plot, as the man who tried (foolishly and ineffectively) to whack him is revealed as one of the Soviet moles.  Winter Soldier flashes back, allow Bru to add a sympathetic edge to the ugly truth that Cap’s best friend was a murderer for the USSR for decades.  Guice knocks it the hell out of the park with the art, continuing his amazing structural and technological renderings, giving us a stubbly/gritty Bucky alongside an incredibly gorgeous ice princess Black Widow.  The use of Marvel continuity (R.A.I.D., stolen H.A.M.M.E.R. technology, von Bardas) is brilliant in it’s execution, and the issue gives us a little bit of information without dragging out the mystery or destroying the suspense.  There’s a real Steranko-era ‘Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ edge to this book which I greatly enjoy, and it’s fascinating to see The Red Ghost played as a credibly and canny threat to humanity and the greater good of the Marvel U.  The cliffhanger is interesting, but the pacing of the issue makes the ending sort of jump out at you like Jason Voorhees, lessening the issue’s impact somewhat…


The simple fact is, Brubaker still has good stories to tell with this character, and his ascension to and hard fall from the role of Captain America has only added depth to Bucky’s fallen angel appeal.  The use of the Black Widow is probably going to get harder and harder to justify, what with the new movie making her ubiquitous, but right now having James and Natalia as seemingly the only stable couple in the Marvel Universe makes their partnership even more entertaining.  Winter Soldier #2 is a very strong follow-up to James Barnes’ extended run as Captain America, delivering action, thrills and spycraft with some fine visuals, earning 4 out of 5 stars overall.  I would say that, if you’re holding the awfulness of the end of Fear Itself against this book, you’re missing a pretty decent ride…

Rating: ★★★★☆



About Author

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture! And a nice red uniform.


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