Winter Soldier #1
Art by Butch Guice & Bettie Breitweiser
Written by Ed Brubaker
Published by Marvel Comics
I'm actually going to talk about the art in this one first. That's weird for me, right? Maybe, but I don't think I have much of a choice: it's quite striking. There's something about this art that has me thinking I'm reading an "old school" comic book that's also totally new at the same time, in the same panels. The people, are drawn "normally", by which I mean realistic. Body parts are generally in proportion, facial features have naturalistic details. But there's an overall manner to the characters, a vibe that has me flashing back to 1960's & 70's era James Bond movies, with a bit of a Rockford Files vibe here and there as well. I love that the general palette is a washed out red, white and blue--it's very subtle, but very clever. You don't necessarily notice it while reading, but upon flipping back through the comic, it's evident throughout.
It's funny to me that I like the art, because the old 60's & 70's comic book style could probably be blamed in large part for turning me away from comic books. It's not that the style is bad, I hope that's clear. It's just the sort of thing that I saw in comic books when I was younger, and I think I associate that art style and comics with something that I didn't read or like that much. It's a sort of learned rejection, not always tied into actual evidence. But in this case, I was drawn in. Some of the things that drew me were the way the frames were played with - on the first page, our main characters are are in these great catalog poses, with The Black Widow depicted too large for the frame in which she's drawn (love that!), and there's a lot of fun being had with frame size, shape, insert and overlap, teasing out things that draw the eye in. It just made me want to find the flow of the page and see what else was going on. And, of course, I loved the romantic scenes between Bucky and Natasha. They're really intimate and sensual, and yet there's nothing X-rated (not even R-rated) about those drawings. I think that takes real artistic talent to be able to draw intimacy with such restraint.
So, anyhow, that's the art! And now, onto the story. Although it's clearly a storyline that's grown out of another story that must have been going on for a while, it's not at all difficult to catch up with. Everyone thinks Bucky is dead, but he is actually trying to save the world. He's teamed up with Natasha, the Black Widow, and they are trying to find and "catch" (I'm pretty sure they're just going to kill whoever they find) some sleeper agents (who are actually sleeping - Cold War agents of destruction who've been put to sleep in sleeper tube-things and kinda forgotten about after the Cold War ended and it looked like they weren't going to be needed) before the other side finds them and actually uses them in some kind of destructive way. There seems to be a couple of problems when they find the tubes, because they are empty. The big surprise of the issue is who shows up at the end. He's a gorilla warrior. No, I didn't spell it wrong. He's not a guerrilla warrior, he's an actual gorilla. And he's a gorilla that screams in Russian at that! Neato!
The only funny little problems I had with these parts of the comic were when some of the fight scenes occurred. I couldn't always follow the action. That might be on me, but half the time I saw all the bullets and legs flailing about, I kinda gave up trying to follow it. Instead, I skipped to the end of the scene to figure out what happened by looking at the end results. Then I went back and tried to map out what I was supposed to be seeing. I suppose if it were a little clearer, I'd look at it more. I can't figure out what I really need changed though, because the problems I had with the fight scenes seem to stem from the same experimentation that I liked so much in the more intimate, talky scenes.
The other thing that seemed kinda, um, unrealistic sandwiched within the realistic art is that neither Natasha or Bucky ever seem to get hit. I finally asked my husband if they had some kind of unspoken magical powers or something, because...seriously. Is there something I don't know? Because Natasha seems to just back flip over every bullet that ever comes her way, and Bucky never seems to get hit either. They seem to be completely invincible. Is that the case?
Apparently, its not true. I'm told that she doesn't age normally, and maybe that's what keeps her so agile, and I've read (and extensively analyzed) about Bucky's robotic arm before. But they are not magic.
All that aside? I found Winter Soldier to be an entertaining and somewhat thrilling read. It's got one heck of a cliffhanger, too! A maniacal machine gun toting Russian Gorilla screaming "DEATH TO AMERICA!!!" It definitely makes one wonder, "What happens next?"
-Nina Stone, 2012