Winter Soldier #7
Written by Ed Brubaker
by Michael Lark
Colors & Inks by Bettie Breitweiser, Brian Thies, & Stefano Gaudiano
Last month’s Winter Soldier ended with (SPOILERS!) the shocking death of Fred Davis, the first teen patriot to take up the “Bucky” mantle after the original Captain America and Bucky went MIA in WWII. Davis’ murder was especially shocking and tragic considering his recent turn as lead character and narrator for the final arc of the Captain America & Bucky series. Compound that tragedy with the fact that the Winter Soldier himself shot and killed Jack Monroe, another former “Bucky” replacement, early on in Ed Brubaker’s Captain America series, and I’m sure you can see why I was incredibly excited to see the fallout in this week’s issue.
As is often the case, Ed Brubaker delivers, but not in the way that readers expect. While I was hoping this issue would see Bucky reflecting on Davis’ murder and what it means to have yet another person die in his name, Brubaker opts to jump ahead two months, leaving any remorse or meditation off-panel, and instead focuses entirely on Bucky’s attempt at retaliation. Brubaker’s noir-tinged voice seeps into the writing, as Bucky’s internal narration drips with guilt while his external dialogue is terse and pointed. Bucky isn’t only struggling over Davis’ death, but also the mounting number of victims murdered by his former student and this arc’s antagonist, rogue Soviet sleeper super agent Leo Novokov. Once Agent Sitwell locates Novokov, Bucky and Black Widow suit up and get to work. Essentially, Brubaker sees what I was hoping for with issue 7, and raises it tenfold by weaving all of this guilt in with Bucky’s very high capacity for espionage and shooting things.
There are also some more Cold War Red Room/Department X flashbacks that fill out Black Widow’s history and her relationship with Bucky. I’d just like to add here that I am a total Bucky/Natasha ‘shipper (Natucky? Butashy?), and I sincerely hope that other writers acknowledge their relationship across the Marvel U.
Michael Lark juggles Cold War flashbacks, talking heads, and an extended highway chase sequence with his usual precision. While the action sequence in the last half of the book is filled with kinetic energy and crisp line work, I was especially impressed by Lark’s layout choices during the flashback sequences. In the midst of the action, Lark sets the flashbacks flush right, leaving a wide left margin in which the narration box floats. The result is reminiscent of still images on a film reel, flashing one by one. Needless to say, this choice fits perfectly within the spy-thriller ethos that Winter Soldier captures.
I made a point to list colorist Bettie Breitweiser above because The Winter Soldier series as a whole owes much of its visual efficacy to her work. The mixture of deep reds and blues with Thies and Gaudiano’s heavy inks gives weight to Lark’s fine-point penciling. Black Widow in particular simply glows under Breitweiser’s colors. She’s one of the best in the business, and I don’t think she gets the props she deserves often enough.
Bucky has become one of the most fascinating characters of the 21st century. The thematic and stylistic connections between this series and Brubaker’s early work on Captain America is becoming more apparent in this second arc. If you’re not reading this series, the good news is that we’re only on issue 7! Check out your local comic shop and pick up the back issues. An extra plus: Winter Soldier is one of the few Marvel books still at $2.99.