Bucky Barnes turn as the Winter Soldier turned him into one of the most compelling characters in the Marvel Universe. Since that turn and becoming a superhero Winter Soldier has had a very good series based around his adventures. Now Marvel is trying their hands at giving Winter Soldier a new comic book. This new mini-series will be written by former Nightwing and Power Rangers writer Kyle Higgins. I’m a big fan of Higgins past work so I have high expectations for what he can do with Winter Soldier knowing he has five issues to tell a complete story. Can this mini-series turn into a hidden gem for Marvel? Let’s find out with Winter Soldier #1.
Writer: Kyle Higgins
Artist: Rod Reis
Story Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Art Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7 Night Girls out of 10
Synopsis: Outside a Chicago apartment complex a couple crooked cops talk about how they will be running their own operation during the drug raid so they can get rich.
Inside the apartment complex another cop, Arthur, goes to one of the apartment. There he is stunned to find Winter Soldier. Winter Soldier states he is there to have his back. He asks Arthur if he is ready to go through things even though there is no going back. Arthur says he wants a fresh start away from the gang that is controlling the cops.
Suddenly the cops from before bang on the apartment door. Winter Soldier says he will buy Arthur time to make a run for it.
Winter Soldier fights with the cops, who include one guy has energy-like powers. Winter Soldier is able to take the powered cop out. He then jumps out the window with Arthur.
As Winter Soldier drives Arthur out of town Arthur thanks him.
Sometime later, in Shelbyville, Indiana, Bucky talks with Tony Stark, who is repairing his arm, and Sharon Carter about how he previously lost decades of his life when he was turned into a weapon but was saved. Bucky goes on to say he is taking this rare second chance at life to be better.
Tony questions why Bucky is in Shelbyville. Bucky and Sharon talk about how being people that got a second chance made them decide to create a network where people looking for the same thing to be given that chance. Sharon mentions that she and Bucky look over the information and Bucky pulls the trigger on putting things in motion, starting with the midwest. Bucky mentions that he actually grew up in Shelbyville.
A little later, while meditating Bucky pictures the time when he was turned into a weapon by scientist and all the torture he went through.
Sharon enters the room and mentions that Tony left but said he would donate funds to their work if they needed it. Sharon asks how Bucky’s meditation is going. Bucky says he is slowly remembering things from his past but there is still a lot missing. They eventually get a call for Bucky’s next target.
While riding across the country Sharon talks with Bucky about his latest call from a previous person they helped relocate, who is named Terry. Sharon wonders if Hydra may have gotten to Terry. Bucky states he’ll let her know once he gets to Terry.
Somewhere in Wisconsin while at a bar Terry tells Bucky he is having a tough time adjusting to his new life and starts breaking down into tears over it. Bucky says Terry said he couldn’t take help Hydra torture others anymore. Terry understands but he misses the people he once knew, including his former girlfriend, Amy. Bucky thinks that maybe they should get Terry a therapist. Terry accidently reveals that Amy told him the same thing.
Suddenly someone starts shooting up the bar and Terry is killed by the bullets being fired. Bucky charges at the shooter but is hit with several bullets in the chest.
Bucky is saved by his vest. While recovering the shooter reveals himself to be a big fan of Bucky. When Bucky looks at the guy he sees someone wearing a version of his old uniform when he was Captain America’s sidekick during the war. End of issue.
The Good: For as much as Marvel has distanced themselves from the events of Secret Empire both Captain America and The Winter Soldier are tackling the aftermath head on. What makes this decision strange is that it is happening well over a year after Secret Empire wrapped up. But as Ta-Nehisi Coates has shown with his work Captain America it is not a bad thing to follow up on those events. Kyle Higgins follows suite with The Winter Soldier #1 that is largely successful in what it is setting up for.
With how things have shaped out in the Marvel Universe the lines have been blurred a lot more in recent years. Many major characters have been on opposite sides of various conflicts. What we have not seen is how that has affected those on the ground level who do choose sides. Specifically what happens with those who sided with Hydra and other evil organizations but decided that that is not the lives they want. What happens to those people?
That is something that Higgins looks to answer starting with the Winter Soldier #1. Given Bucky Barnes life, as we see glimpses of in Winter Soldier #1, he is the best character to explore this. Bucky is someone that is defined by living out a life where he did get a second chance after committing one horrible act after another. Luckily he had someone like Steve Rogers to help him remember who he was and get back on a path where he could be a superhero.
Bucky now taking on that role for regular people is a good way to use his skills in a unique way. Afterall he is one of the best in getting in and out of a situation, even when those situations turn south quickly. The opening scene of Winter Soldier #1 shows just that as things quickly fell apart with the cop that wanted to escape the corruption he found himself in. Seeing that flexibility put over Bucky’s skills.
At the same time, while Bucky’s physical skills were not in question his personable skills were. It has been very rare to see Bucky interact with anyone outside the Avengers circle. Putting him in that situation as Higgins had Bucky check in on one of the former Hydra agents get a second life was a good way to show the long term effects of his new mission. While Bucky is giving these people a second chance at life it won’t be an easy transition. Showing that fact gives greater weight towards what Bucky is doing.
The ending of Winter Soldier #1 was a very interesting way to hook the reader in for what is next. Seeing the shooter of the bar be someone that is dressed in a Bucky Barnes WWII costume brings up many questions. Is this person part of Hydra? Just a Winter Soldier fanatic? Or something else? How Higgins goes about answering that will be very interesting.
Having Sharon Carter as a partner works well into the story as well. Bucky and Sharon already have a strong dynamic given their history with each other. Given this new status quo it allows Higgins to explore what Bucky and Sharon’s relationship is when Steve isn’t around. Higgins did a good job in presenting Sharon as both a caring and understanding friend that can separate that with the bigger picture. As presented Sharon will definitely be someone that Bucky will need as things did take a turn.
Rod Reis did a good job proving Winter Soldier #1 with the grounded art style that is expected from this type of series. Reis put over how Winter Soldier is a very methodical character. At the same time Bucky is someone with a dark past that cannot be forgotten. That comes across well with how Reis layed out the flashback scenes that showed flashes of what Bucky’s life as Winter Soldier was before.
The Bad: The one thing that did not work with Winter Soldier #1 was Tony Stark’s involvement. Tony’s appearance was merely used to provide a bunch of exposition for what Bucky and Sharon are doing. He didn’t really add anything to the issue. It would’ve been more effective if Bucky and Sharon just recapped the mission involving Arthur to put over what they are doing. Having Tony just disappear after his brief appearance solidified the replaceable nature of his guest spot as it could’ve been filled by any other Marvel character.
Overall: The Winter Soldier #1 is a very good start to this new mini-series. Kyle Higgins showed his strong understanding of who Bucky Barnes is. The mission Higgins gives to Bucky has plenty of potential for what it means to the character and general outlook of the Marvel Universe. Having Rod Reis on board will ensure Winter Soldier will also be a very good looking mini-series as well.