One of the big launches coming out of “Original Sin,” Ales Kot and Marco Rudy’s “Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier” #1 is a trippy, dreamlike journey from one end of the galaxy to the depths of Earth’s oceans showcasing Bucky Barnes’ new status as a space sniper, honoring Nick Fury’s legacy and keeping the world safe from threats from that no one yet knows are threats.
Barnes and Daisy Johnson are on the far edge of space to assassinate the ruler of Syro in order to stop an undetermined threat that the planet could pose to Earth. After showing off their prowess as a team, the issue flashes back to the establishment of their new relationship before traveling to the Marianas Trench to assist Namor in taking down underwater drug smugglers driving an underwater train.
Ales Kot uses this first issue to introduce a lot of ideas that will no doubt affect the series moving forward, using the story to really stretch the ideas of who and what operate in the Marvel Universe. Kot knows what he’s writing and injects a lot of self-aware humor into the proceedings that balances the dark nature of the tasks at hand. To the rest of the galaxy Barnes and Johnson are essentially space terrorists, sneaking in and wiping out targets to ensure humanity’s agenda. In fact, readers aren’t really given the reasons for their actions in the opening sequence, only that they have to do it. The act is also done to the ruler of a race of beings that are constantly speaking of peace. It’s a cool sequence but when unpacking it makes the motive seem unclear other than “Nick Fury was going to do it and we trust Nick Fury.” The two leads play well off of one another and seem to enjoy each others’ company. Putting them together makes sense since they both owe such huge debts to Fury for changing their lives. There are also very few people comfortable enough around Namor to say, when speaking of the king’s love life, “Imperius Sex.” It’s moments like that which allow the story a light touch, that helps balance the clandestine nature of the mission. To toil only in that bleak outlook would lead to some very depressed tales, and would waste the talents of artist Marco Rudy.
Rudy’s art throughout is unlike any Marvel book currently being published. The pages are laid out in fascinating configurations, circular pages, clinical subway stop designs then flowing tide-like layouts afterwards. No two pages are the same here. It’s reminiscent of J.H. Williams III or Frazier Irving. It is almost a fault as there is a lot of style that can get in the way of the story. Some of the panels themselves are zoomed in very tight, and character designs don’t stay incredibly consistent from panel to panel, which seems like a choice rather than an accident. With this being a first issue, I can only imagine this is a learning curve situation of Kot and Rudy learning what each others’ strengths are and how best to work together to compliment them. Rudy makes use of his own color to provide mood and tempo to the story as it’s being told.
It’s not surprising that Marvel has found a way to push together their two hot media ideas of the moment — the espionage of the “Captain America” films and the space-faring wonder of the blockbuster “Guardians of the Galaxy.” What is surprising is that the end result is something this offbeat. This is a book that even five years ago would have been impossible to imagine Marvel putting on their final order cutoff in Diamond. After a decade plus of focusing on straightforward superhero stories that hewed very close to Earth’s atmosphere the editorial staff at Marvel is really opening up the storytelling possibilities in their comic books. This was a pleasant surprise and worth the time and money.