Comic Reviews: The Winter Solider and Venom!
Winter Soldier #1
Winter Soldier is Ed Brubaker’s return to a character that he breathed new life into, literally and figuratively: James “Bucky” Buchanan Barnes. The former(ly dead) sidekick of Captain America returned in the pages of Brubaker’s first run on Captain America, and the impossible was proved possible: Bucky could be brought back, and he could be a bad ass. After a meteoric rise that saw him take over for his mentor as Captain America, Bucky sacrificed himself during Fear Itself. Or did he?
Nope, he didn’t. Bucky faked his death, and is now working in secret, cleaning up the messes he made as the Winter Soldier, a brainwashed Russian operative from the Cold War. Along with Black Widow, the opening issue of the Bucky’s new series finds him investigating a possible Department X facility that houses a stasis tube. A stasis tube that is very much like the ones the Russians used to use on Bucky…
Winter Soldier is exactly like Brubaker’s post- “Death Of Captain America” run on Captain America. If you were a fan of the series during that period, you owe it to yourself to pick this up. There’s a ton of awesome espionage action in this issue, and the information we get regarding the who’s and why’s of Bucky and Widow’s mission is presented in an informative way that also allows the story to breathe. Brubaker can write Bucky Barnes in his sleep at this point, and Butch Guice’s artwork is perfect for the shadowy nature of this title. Couple this with Bettie Breitweiser’s stunning colors, and you’ve got an absolute blast of a first issue.
Ed Brubaker’s run on Captain America was the perfect balance between espionage and superhero action. Now that we’ve got a new volume of Captain America (also written by Brubaker), I think it’s safe to say that this will be the home for fans of black ops missions and shadowy governments. Winter Soldier was everything I was hoping for and more, and a must buy for fans of the character.
I’ve already gone to great lengths explaining my strange love of the “New” Fantastic Four, consisting of the 90’s dream team of Hulk, Spider-man, Wolverine, and Ghost Rider. Now, nearly twenty years later, we get the “Circle Of Four” mini-event in the pages of Marvel’s Venom, and the introduction of the NEW New Fantastic Four.
Serving as both a jumping on point and continuation of Rick Remender’s Venom series, this issue finds Flash Thompson still in Vegas, grappling with his demons. He’s already drunk, yelling at his girlfriend, and on the run from the government that employed him (and gave him the Venom symbiote), so what could go wrong? How about the Red Hulk jumping through his wall, on assignment to bring him in for going A.W.O.L. Seeing Flash use the symbiote to distract him was awesome, as well as hearing how the symbiote can sober him when he’s drunk too. However, their fight is cut short when the Las Vegas starts turning into a hell on Earth, thanks to the machinations of Blackheart, the son of Mephisto. The two “heroes” meet X-23 and the girl Ghost Rider (ugh) on the way, and we’re left with a cliffhanger for Marvel’s mini event for the month, which unfortunately involves more dumb .1 issues.
Remender did a phenomenal job of setting the stakes with this issue, giving us legitimate reasons for the characters all being in the same place as Venom is. Hulk’s obviously hunting him down, X-23 is trying to find the persons responsible for stealing a vial of her blood, and the girl Ghost Rider is with Johnny Blaze on the outside of town learning new tricks of the hellfire trade. No one just shows up, and I commend Remender for not falling into the old “let’s fight then team-up” trope that many crossovers do. Plus, he writes a GREAT Johnny Blaze. This is the guy Marvel should’ve given the latest Ghost Rider series to.
Tony Moore also returns to art duties with this issue, and man, did I miss him. His Red Hulk was towering and intimidating, and seeing his version of hell was very cool. His art style isn’t for everyone, but fans of his (like me) will no doubt be thrilled with his work in this issue. Unfortunately he won’t be handling the art in the upcoming .1, .2., or .3 issues (don’t get me started on those), but he’ll be back for the conclusion of the storyline.
I had pretty low expectations for this story, mainly because of my disdain for girl Ghost Rider and apathy towards X-23. But I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this issue, even the parts with GGR. This looks to be the start of a really fun story that won’t require too much background knowledge on the other players, and probably won’t have too big of a lasting effect on them either. If you’re looking for something fun this week, you should give Venom #13 a shot.