This past week saw the release of Winter Soldier #1, as Ed Brubaker once again brings Bucky back with the help of Butch Guice, Bettie Breitweiser and Joe Caramagna. The ongoing series stars the former Captain America and Black Widow in kind of a Mr. and Mrs. Smith-like team-up book. An espionage thriller, the comic launches out of the revelation that the Russians created other Winter Soldier-like sleeper agents and features something I never thought would be a divisive plot point among readers--a gorilla with a machine gun. Isn't that one of the universal truths in comics, that gorillas = awesome, and gorillas with machine guns = super awesome? Here are a few opinions on that, as well as the overall book itself ...
Jesse Schedeen, IGN: "Darkness, espionage, and spycraft are all elements that essentially drained out of Brubaker's Captain America series with the relaunch, to the detriment of that series. Luckily, these elements are all the prime focus of Winter Soldier. If you miss the grittier Captain America stories of 2005-2010, this book has exactly what you're looking for."
Greg McElhatton, Read About Comics: "...Winter Soldier is taking a mostly more-serious, grounded tone… but still reveling in all of the craziness that the Marvel Universe offers, like talking Communist gorillas, or cyborg Prime Ministers. I like that he’s taking established Marvel villains like the Red Ghost and his Super Apes and keeping their same spirit alive, but at the same time making them feel a bit more dangerous, for lack of a better word. The overall grounded feel for Winter Soldier doesn’t exclude the fantastic, it just makes them fit better into the book’s particular world view."
Rob at Crisis on Infinite Midlives: "So regardless of my tone, this is a book that, story-wise, hits everything that you’d want it to…
"…and then we get to the gorilla with a machine gun.
"Oh, I wasn’t kidding: after finally chasing down one of the Winter Soldier stasis tubes in Minnesota, and following a well-paced and suspenseful stealth infiltration and firefight scene… we’re shown a gorilla. Firing a machine gun. While screaming 'Death to America!' In Russian. So, y’know, he’s a commie gorilla. Because a capitalist gorilla would be screaming, 'Of course you can shock my testicles to test consumer electronics!'
"Now, this isn’t my first trip to the rodeo; I understand the long and distinguished role of killer, intelligent apes in comic books. But it’s one thing to see one trading punches with The Flash in the middle of a hidden, hyper-evolved hidden city… it’s quite another to turn the page on a fairly straight Cold War action story (Yeah, I know that Bucky has a bionic arm, but it’s not like he got it from Galactus or anything) and see a talking monkey. In Minnesota."
Jason Bowles, Sciencefiction.com: "One sticking point some readers may have is the reference to both Bucky and Black Widow’s involvement in the Cold War. They are very clearly described as having been active agents during that time period, she as having been active during the entire era, which spanned from the 1940s-early 90s! Now Bucky’s stasis pod might account for him staying youthful all that time, but how do they explain Natasha’s eternal youth? They honestly don’t. I get that the character was created during that time period, originating as a Russian spy before defecting to the U.S. It’s not a huge problem for me, as the story overall is excellent, and I understand that comic book time works differently than real time. I just rolled with it, but others may have bigger issue with that."
Jim Mroczkowski, iFanboy: "As for the art, Butch Guice and colorist Bettie Breitweiser appear to have quite a few new tricks up their sleeves. The art seems to have a more painterly quality than in years past, and Guice appears to have gone to the Alex Maleev School for Photoreferencing since the last time we saw him. Black Widow in particular always looks like a posed model, while Bucky always looks drawn 'from scratch,' giving the whole thing a kind of mash-up quality. I found it to be a pleasant surprise, but it is well known that this style has its detractors; if you’re one of them, consider yourself forewarned."
David Uzumeri, ComicsAlliance: "Butch Guice and Bettie Breitweiser have been working with Ed Brubaker on Captain America for a while, but this is a dramatic step up for them both. The best description I can come up with for the art in this series is that it's like watching ghosts of smoke act a scene behind a cracked windowpane in the rain. For all of Guice's shadows and blacks, Breitweiser enhances every panel of the book with an otherworldly hue, creating paranoid scenes that look and feel pallid and grim -- and that's just the present-day sequences. Haunting images of the past are just that, distorted, monochromatic, and bleeding together in pale blues and spot reds. It's the long winter of Bucky's memory between 1945 and 2005."