The Winter Soldier is a character who lives and breathes redemption. He’s a character that can be sympathetic, but also an unhinged wild card nobody can trust. In Kyle Higgins’ take on the character, Winter Soldier becomes a father figure of sorts, attempts to redeem himself through others, and ultimately fights a war he can’t win within himself. It’s good spy drama and Higgins is one of the best at it in the game.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
Bucky Barnes believes in second chances. Having survived death, manipulation, loss of identity and a lifetime of murder, the man known as the Winter Soldier has worked hard to atone for his many sins. But now…he’s going to go one step further. What do you do after you’ve found redemption? You help others do the same! Bucky is becoming a “fixer,” working to help others leave behind their lives of crime. It’s his way of channeling his own pain in a productive, personal way…by helping others find the salvation that he has found. But not all paths are the same – and not everyone can be saved…
Why does this matter?
Kyle Higgins has been writing some of the coolest espionage stories in comics. Just read his work on The Dead Hand. This story also features the great Rod Reis who does it all, painting lots of striking imagery in this collection.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
This is a good new direction for Winter Soldier who now works to yank criminals out of organizations who are willing to change their lives. He’s giving people second chances with the aid of Tony Stark and Sharon Carter who are strong supporting characters that act as the voice of reason in his life. All the while he’s journaling and trying to forgive himself for the terrible things he did in his past. He’s not completely healed, but he’s doing good things to help heal others. The first issue ends with a cliffhanger that brings Winter Soldier face to face with a boy who very much looks like Bucky did back in World War II. It’s a striking moment as Reis draws this boy with a mad smile, as if he loves killing.
Much of the narrative is about this boy and Winter Soldier bonding. The kid tries to kill Winter Soldier and almost does it, but he won’t let up knowing full well most folks aren’t killers at heart, especially a kid. As the story unfolds we learn new details about the kid, the man who manipulated him, and at what lengths Winter Soldier is willing to go to give this kid a second chance. Higgins does a good job firmly establishing Winter Soldier’s own inner turmoil and how it affects his choices, steering the kid away from danger and ultimately forcing him to make mistakes of his own. The story also ends in a place where it’s a satisfying conclusion, but the story still goes on from here.
Reis’ art is spectacular and jaw-droppingly good at times. The use of color helps bring the violence to a frightening level of grotesque madness. Contrary to that there’s a fabulous flashback scene nearly devoid of color save for sound effects meant to irritate and blood that ends up spilling into the shot. It’s unnerving and well done, doing everything to capture how a boy became a murderer. The domestic drama is well done too, with good renderings of faces and deep emotion. Oh, and don’t miss the Spot, an often underused villain who pops.
It can’t be perfect, can it?
My biggest gripe is how quickly Winter Soldier is at forgiving the boy. The kid is introduced by murdering a man who Winter Soldier was trying to save. A man who has done bad things, but was on the mend. You’d think Winter Soldier would be a bit angry with the kid, or at the very least want him to feel bad about what he’s done, but they’re off on a mission before you know it. There’s a brief scene with Doc Sampson which suggests the kid is getting professional help, so maybe more time passes than is expressed here, but it’s way too quick and seems unlikely the kid would go from murderer to sidekick without more time passing. Plus, is it really prudent to bring a kid into a dangerous situation after he lived a life of murdering whoever his master wanted?
Is it good?
A good collection that has a clever premise and a solid story for Winter Soldier to overcome and grow from. I could easily see this being a great miniseries or movie as it’s quite good at showing the Winter Soldier’s faults but also how he has some lessons to learn too.