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Longbox Junk Winter Soldier part 1 Issues 1 9

February 2017
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I'm not a real fan of "Mainstream" superhero comics, with their constant "events" and crossovers, especially Marvel superheroes, who seem to have an event or crossover every couple months or so where you have to buy 10 books if you want to keep track.  No thanks, I like more self-contained stories.  But I DO like Captain America, and I liked the Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier/Bucky-Cap saga.  I didn't really remember THIS series, though.  Not sure why I didn't recall much about it, but I was pleasantly surprised to become re-acquainted with the post Bucky-Cap adventures of the Winter Soldier. . .

WINTER SOLDIER

ISSUE 1

I didn't remember much about this run except that Black Widow was in it until I started reading this first issue and was like "Oh yeah. This is some good stuff. I remember now." after the first couple of pages.

I like that this is the same writer that brought Bucky back in Captain America, and he brings that same "grounded" feel to this series as well. I wish Epting could have done the art, but Butch Guice does a damn fine job bringing that gritty, more realistic feel that Epting brought to Captain America. So no complaints about the art

I liked that there was plenty of introduction in this first issue and that it wasn't really intrusive, but part of the story. I know these characters, but I'm not real big on Marvel continuity. I had forgotten that at this point, Bucky was thought dead from some crossover or other, so the light memory refresher without resorting to the internet was greatly appreciated. 

All in all, I thought that this was pretty close to the perfect first issue of a series. It introduces the characters, lets you know what the bigger continuity picture is, and starts off on its own path. . .what more can you ask for?

The only thing I DIDN'T like was the Russian speaking gorilla with a machine gun at the end of the issue. With the gritty espionage tale at hand, I had forgotten that this was a book in regular Marvel continuity. I hope it doesn't get TOO silly with these things and sticks closer to the spy games in future issues.

ISSUE 2

The story continues off on a strong start. Unfortunately, the first part of the book is a battle against machine gun toting gorillas. . .but hey, Marvel, right? 

The good news is that Guice makes even gorilla gunfights look great! His art is really the start of the show here, considering that the majority of the book is basically taken up by two fight sequences with a bit of superspy information-gathering and infiltration in between.

I really like the unusual panel layouts, shapes, sizes, overlap. His art is extremely dynamic even when it's just people in a room full of computers talking about who's on the screen.

The colorist (Brietweiser) also deserves mention for the muted colors that bring a dark and gritty feel to a comic book where the heroes are fighting armed apes.

Still strong, but hopefully the gorilla nonsense will come to an end soon, before I remember why I don't really read too many mainstream Marvel books. . .

ISSUE 3

Thank God there is a lack of gorillas in this issue. . .a lack that is taken up by Winter Soldier and Black Widow teaming up with Doctor DOOM!

I love Doctor Doom as a character. He's a villain who doesn't think he's a villain, and he chews up scenery in every scene he's in, so I'm happy they decided to throw him into the mix this time. . .not as a egomaniac with a plan to take over this or that, but ALMOST as another hero trying to stop the real villain from her nefarious plans.

Speaking of the real villain, I had no idea who Lucia Von Bardas was, but in this issue there's a very nice double-page info dump on her and I was like "Oh yeah. . .Secret War. Now I remember" I really like how Brubaker slides continuity information into the story for those of us who might not be rabid Marvel fans. . .so well done on that.

I'm also really liking the idea of Doctor Doom as hero. . .as much in the grey zone as that might be in this story. And those outstanding Berjermo covers! 

I'm starting to remember why I had this book on pull for over a year.

ISSUE 4

Now THAT'S a cover! 

This issue has no gorilla action, thank God. . .but plenty of Doctor Doom, which is a good thing. There's a lot of action in this issue with Winter Soldier, Black Widow, and Doom confronting their enemies and stopping part of Von Barda's plot, only to discover that they only know the half of it.

So with a lot of fighting, once again the art does the heavy lifting. In particular is a very nice panel of Winter Soldier and Doom flying off in a jet while Black Widow takes the low road on a motorcycle. Very nicely done! 

That said. . .because most of this issue is taken up by fight scenes, I didn't like it as much, but that's not to say it wasn't good. This is still some top-quality comics.

ISSUE 5

Unfortunately, there are gun-toting gorillas in this issue. . .even one on the cover. On the bright side, Bermejo can even make ridiculous things look sweet.

The first story arc comes to a conclusion, with Doom chewing up the scenery and getting all the best lines. . .verbally sparring with Nick Fury, insulting Reed Richard's work, and dispatching Von Bardas with sneering style. I really like Brubaker's version of Doctor Doom!

But it looks like his time in this book is done. At the end of it all, the loose ends are all neatly tied up. . .except for one. It looks like the next arc will have less gorillas and more superspy action. That's a good thing.

All in all, despite the gorillas, this first arc was a great introduction, even if you aren't familiar with Winter Soldier or Black Widow. It was fast-paced and fun, with Doctor Doom as an unexpected, but great, co-star.

ISSUE 6

Now we've got some Epting! A fantastic cover to start off the new story arc. . .

Inside, Brubaker teams up with his old Gotham Central art partner, Michael Lark to remind us what a great team they were. The art maintains the same gritty, realistic style, but Lark uses a more traditional panel layout than Guice's crazy all over the place (in a good way) panel style. . .but that's not a bad thing, as most of this story is flashback info dump on the new villain. . .a missing Soviet-era assassin trained by Bucky when he was still the brainwashed and definitely unheroic Winter Soldier who woke up without the regular procedures and went a bit crazy in the process.

I'm liking the different direction this arc seems to be taking toward more focus on the characters and less focus on stopping nuclear holocaust with Doctor Doom, Nick Fury and talking gorillas.

ISSUE 7

Winter Soldier and Black Widow go on the hunt for Leo Novokov. . .who leads them along a murder-tastic trail of bodies before springing a trap to separate them and show his hand. His target is Black Widow. 

I think the writing is slipping a bit on this arc and a bit too much time is spent in this issue trying to justify why Novokov thinks Bucky is a traitor to the Soviet Union and why he feels he must take away everything Bucky cares for. Still not entirely sure. . .crazy. . .reasons? Sure, why not.

And even though Steve Epting is one of my favorite artists out there, why does he make Black Widow look like a conehead on the cover? 

Not quite halfway through the run and I think I see signs of decline. . .not much, just a little.

ISSUE 8

First off. . .disappointing cover by Epting. Why?

And don't let the cover fool you. Bucky and Black Widow are nowhere near to each other in this issue. 

The story is focused on Bucky taking to the streets in a day filled with good old fashioned thug beatdowns as he searches for leads on where the missing Black Widow is. It's a very nicely done set of panels, showing his desperation and frustration as he gets nowhere and just starts beating dudes even though they don't give him any information. Definitely some anger issues in play here.

In the meantime, Leo Novokov is busy brainwashing Black Widow to remove her personality and replace it with another for reasons. At the end is a series of very nicely done panels of Black Widow dancing ballet under the name of Natalia.

I'm not thrilled with this issue. Not that it's bad. . .the parts with Winter Soldier were excellent. . .but Leo Novokov is turning into a bit of a joke.

Please, God. . .let this end without gorillas.

ISSUE 9

After a couple of somewhat disappointing issues, Brubaker steadies his hand on the wheel and gives us a very nicely done issue where Winter Soldier finally tracks down the brainwashed Black Widow, who is posing as a ballerina and set to assassinate the First Lady in Leo Novokov's insane plan to start a new cold war. There are some nice scenes here where Bucky breaks through Black Widow's brainwashing, and the art throughout is fantastic. At the end of it all, they find out the assassination plot was a ruse and the real game is afoot. . .

A nicely done issue all around. Things are beginning to tighten back up.

And there you have it.  The first 9 issues of Marvel's 19 issue Winter Soldier run.
All in all, despite a few stumbles involving gun-toting gorillas in the first arc and a moustache-twirling cliche villain in the second, so far this has been a very nicely done series with fantastic art, great (for the most part) covers, and excellent (for the most part) writing.

That said. . .there have been a few signs of decline toward the end of these 9 issues.  Hopefully those signs won't degrade into a full slide off the tracks like I've seen on quite a few series.  I stuck with this one for the whole run, so hopefully Brubaker can steer it home without things going bad. . .

Issues 10 - 19 coming right up!

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