Page 45 Review by Stephen
"Your memorial starts in an hour. You planning on attending?"
Just do me justice
And make sure all the girls are cryin'."
Shadows and light. Like the weather itself - rain, sleet and snow at midnight - the colouring by Bettie Breitweiser is beautifully bleak: an erosion of Butch Guice's phenomenal form and action so frantic that it's like being tossed into the firefight yourself. Rarely do I rave so vocally about the colouring in a Marvel comic but it's both brave and bold and works perfectly in what is essentially another espionage thriller by Brubaker who's going out with a bang at Marvel, on his fiercest form there since the first three years of CAPTAIN AMERICA itself. And as an espionage action-thriller co-starring Nick Fury, there are apposite explosions of Jim Steranko throughout - you really can't miss them. A joy.
Following the catastrophic events in FEAR ITSELF, what's left of the world is mourning for Bucky Barnes who fell on the frontline. For many years Steve Rogers' best friend was thought dead, lost after a plane disaster in WWII, although in truth Barnes had been captured by the Russians, cryogenically frozen and brainwashed into becoming the Winter Soldier, their occasional stealth assassin during the Cold War. Thankfully he broke his conditioning and went on to sub for Steve Rogers as Captain America until being set up and exposed by Zemo for his Cold War crimes then sold out by elements in the US government to Russia. When he died on the battlefield of FEAR ITSELF, Bucky Barnes was still a wanted man.
Now: the report of Bucky's death was an exaggeration. Nick Fury and Natasha Romanov, the Russian superspy codenamed Black Widow, conspired to save Bucky using an almost depleted source only at Nick's disposal whilst covering up his survival. What did they use for a corpse? Oh, come on, you know your S.H.I.E.L.D. history! So that takes care of the international hunt for Bucky as fugitive. Only question is
who's going to tell Steve?
Barnes and Romanov are now free to embark on a series of necessarily covert stealth missions to track down the three other Russian Sleepers that have since been shipped in stasis tubes to US soil. So far they've arrived just in time to be too late, finding the stasis tubes empty. And so desperate have they been to prevent the acquisition then activation of the Sleeper Agents, they've charged in too fast to take in the details: who they're up against and the true identity of their opponents' target.
The target is Victor Von Doom Esq, but the assassins have so far only used enough firepower to make Doom angry. To what end
? All will become a great deal clearer when you discover what else was bought alongside the acquisition codes. Oh yes, and who bought them.
This is slick as slick can be, with beautifully balanced banter between Barnes and Romanov. That they are lovers and equals makes for a different dynamic both in the field and in bed. Add in Natasha's permanently arched eyebrow and you're in for a treat. Doom too is the source of much mirth, and there was one panel in which he masked a certain degree of fretful guilt which I swear looks like it was drawn by SCOTT PILGRIM's Bryan Lee O'Malley.
Of the second slice here, I wrote:
More exceptional, high-octane espionage action with one hell of a cliffhanger I never saw coming. I never see anything coming, do I? I shouldn't be allowed to drive. Or cross the street.
Previously in WINTER SOLDIER VOL 1: two ex-Soviet sleeper agents, trained during the Cold War by a brainwashed Bucky Barnes then bought and brought to America, came close to starting World War Three. Two of them - and there were supposed to be three. Why didn't the third one show?
The answer lies buried under San Francisco in an underground bunker where our Winter Soldier finds the shattered remains of that third sleeper agent's cryogenic stasis tube. The whole place has been crushed. It's as if a bomb went off or
when was the last time the San Andreas Belt shifted? Twelve years ago there was an earthquake and, as the saying goes, it woke the giant up. Unfortunately there was no one on hand to administer the reorientating drugs necessary for a successful resurrection or help acclimatise the walking, talking weapon of mass destruction as to where, when or who he was. He staggered naked to the surface, a lethal blank slate. So what's he been doing for twelve years?
The central cast of S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Sitwell, Natasha Romanov (the Black Widow) and Bucky Barnes himself are so well played. And I mean that in both senses of the word for, without giving the game away, the Winter Soldier isn't the only one who's spent many years in Russia. Natasha comes with her own insider knowledge, set of skills and experience. And they're very much in demand.
Of the third and final chapter:
"I like the rain
The way it sounds on the umbrella
The way the air feels."
With which Ed Brubaker's triumphant, epic stint on the world of CAPTAIN AMERICA which began with CAPTAIN AMERICA: WINTER SOLDIER comes to a devastating end. There are things worse than death, you know, and this is one of worst I can imagine. It is not what you think, no.
Butch Guice has been on blistering form with the mood-esque atmosphere enhanced no end by colour artist Bettie Breiweiser who made some very brave choices in volume one which paid off to perfection. Here they are better than ever, with rain that will soak you to your tear-stained skin and, boy, there are some neat Gene Colan riffs! Perfectly apposite as you will see, but I will not tell you why.
I have to be very careful what I type here so as not to spoil those books - particularly the second one - however
"Here's the thing about being under mind-control, the part nobody talks about
That you're still in there
Some small piece'a you is awake
watching. Like bein' a passenger in your own body. You struggle to break free
but you lose
Over and over again
And it makes whatever you're forced to do that much worse