Bucky's adventures in space continue in the pages of "Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier" #3 as the double-top secret agent and his partner, Daisy "Quake" Johnson, encounter the Pao'Ree in this issue written by Ales Kot with art from Marco Rudy and Michael Walsh. The Great Reznor makes an appearance along the way, providing Kot with opportunity for humor and a character study of the Winter Soldier as readers learn about the next assignment in the Bucky's ledger.
Kot's creativity in names and locales involves a healthy dose of apostrophes that become reading speedbumps, but he makes up for those intrusions by keeping the dialogue lively and the story flowing. Rather than put Bucky and Quake in the shadows of the Pao'Ree homeworld, Kot makes their initial interaction as public as can be but fills that scene with believable dialogue, both between species as well as in the under-their-breath commentary between Bucky and Quake. Using captions boxes only to set scenes and fuel transitions, Kot lets the plot drive "Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier" #3; though that is mostly exposition and establishment in this issue, it is entertaining exposition and establishment nonetheless.
Artist Marco Rudy fills this comic with work that deserves to remain pure and unspoiled by lettering. Rather than add noise to the visuals, letterer Clayton Cowles keeps the bubbles sharp and crisp, with clean word balloons and caption boxes appointed throughout the adventure. That said, some of Rudy's layouts require more than a cursory glance to follow the flow of the story, but that winds up paying off nicely as readers are able to absorb more of the detail and nuance Rudy paints into every panel. In this manner, Rudy makes each page a piece of art, engaging the reader much the same way museum pieces engage art enthusiasts. The story and flow are still present, but the experience is more mutual as Rudy invites the reader into the artwork itself.
Slightly over midway, Rudy gets a few pages off as a character within the tale activates a perception bomb and shifts the visuals of the narrative. At that point, Michael Walsh gives readers a series of four pages that appear more traditional in their construction, with rules around the panels and a more linear flow between panels. Walsh's minimal use of color and his application of those colors as washes give those four pages an independent vibe, which adds fuel to the story. The big payoff on that fourth panel reminds readers that this comic book is most definitely not an independent book but part of the grander Marvel Universe.
"Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier" #3 is a trippy comic that gives readers a straightforward thriller assassination plot, albeit one that is set in space. Someday, comic book readers might look back on the adventures of Bucky in space with fondness, not unlike the general attitude towards Jim Steranko's "Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D." today. This is an offbeat book with innovative artwork, fun characters, wild settings and an entertaining story. What more does it really need?