Winter Soldier #19
Jason Latour: Writer
Nic Klein: Art/Colors
Joey Braccino: Review
“I just needed a moment.”
And with that, Winter Soldier reaches the end.
After being reintroduced into the Marvel Universe as a sleeper Soviet assassin back in Ed Brubaker’s Eisner award-winning Captain America, Bucky Barnes has spent the last 8 years worth of stories working to overcome and replace a legacy of violence, pain, and brainwashed trauma with a new identify founded in heroism of the super- variety. Bucky “wielded the shield” as Captain America after Steve Rogers fell in the line of duty and served as an Avenger during some of the most trying times in the Marvel U. While Brian Michael Bendis was integrating Bucky-Cap into the mainstream Avengers line, Ed Brubaker continued to build what ultimately became a passion project of redemption and redefinition in Captain America and the newly launched Winter Soldier.
When Brubaker announced he would be leaving both Captain America and Winter Soldier, Bucky’s prospects grew quite bleak. Steve Rogers had long-since returned and took up the Red, White, and Blue mantle once again, leaving Bucky to run Black Ops missions with his lover and partner, the Black Widow, over in Winter Soldier. With Brubaker out, would Winter Soldier continue? Bendis had done an admirable job over in New Avengers, but could (would?) any other writer be able to continue the misadventures of James Buchanan Barnes after the man who reintroduced and redefined the character over 8 years of storytelling left?
Well, about five months ago, writer Jason Latour and artist Nic Klein took up the challenge. And now, five months later, Winter Soldier #19 has hit the stands, wrapping up not only Latour and Klein’s first arc on the series, but also ending the entire series as a whole. Yes, Winter Soldier ended today, and Latour and Klein deliver an emotionally satisfying conclusion to Bucky’s arc of redemption that started much earlier than just five months ago. Though the elements in this issue—the Electric Ghost, the SHIELD space station, the Tesla Tesseract, Father Hammer, Agend Robards—are relatively-recent creations, the heart and soul of this book and the ultimate resolution were set in place nearly a decade ago.
From his very first issue earlier this year, Jason Latour imbued Bucky’s in-the-shadows, espionage-tinged zeitgeist with just enough sci-fi and hard-boiled pulp to distinguish this story from those that came before. And yet, underneath the scenes in space and the teletransporting, Latour held onto the guilt and anguish and torment that Brubaker explored on a monthly basis way back when. The relationship with Black Widow (and the loss thereof back in Brubaker’s finale issue on the series) is at the core of Latour’s story, and the final page of this final issue is like a hammer to the heart of all those Bucky/Tasha ‘Shippers out there.
While Latour managed to maintain (and expand) the atmosphere previously established, Nic Klein’s gritty pulp style succeeded in separating the visual aesthetic of this run from the shadowy espionage-tinged feel of Butch Guice and Bettie Breitweiser’s work earlier in the series. Klein continues to do an exceptional job on both colors and lines with issue #19, which is especially impressive considering the variations in the framing and style in the content of this single book. I won’t go too much into the plot here, but I will say that Klein matches jumps in time and space with jumps in artistic style. He’s done this in previous issues over the last five months, but it’s still shocking to see his name alone in the arts credits considering the spectrum of stellar artwork in this issue alone. His Bucky Barnes in particular is appropriately rugged and worn, showing the wear and tear of the last five issues on this physical characterization of our eponymous hero in a way that few artists have in the past.
Buy. Buy it, read it, and then go back and get the trades or the omnibi or the single issues. Winter Soldier has been one of the real gems in between the cracks in the Marvel line, particularly because of the talent involved. While Brubaker and Epting may have reintroduced this character back in 2005, Jason Latour and Nic Klein have successfully told a true-to-form Bucky Barnes story over the last five months. That’s a testament to both the character’s vitality and importance to the genre as well as the vision of this final team. With the Captain America: Winter Soldier film coming out next year, I’m sure we’ll see more of Bucky in the future. In the meantime, pick up this book and all of the books that came before. One of the best of the 21st century.