Letting Ed Brubaker loose in the Marvel U to turn whatever leftover science he can find into espionage Macguffins has been one of the smartest things the House of Ideas ever allowed to occur. "Winter Soldier" is the ultimate super-spy book with an emphasis on the super. Watching the sun set on the superheroic days and the dark settle around what's left of the Marvel U is a delight in this title.
The centerpiece for this issue is the assault on the Latverian Embassy by Bucky and the Black Widow. With Brubaker deftly inserting character moments through captions and Butch Guice continuing to make the pretty on the pages, this sequence is exactly what you want it to be. This is like watching an old spy show in restored High-Def; you get the clarity but also the rush of nostalgia and glee. Bucky and the Widow make a hell of a team in character temperament, fighting styles, visual appeal and overall chemistry. It is a pleasure to watch them in action.
The only problem with this issue? The bombastic sequence is about all we get. There's a covert Russian prologue set of pages and some back story is handed down as only a S.H.I.E.L.D. debrief can allow, but then it's just a swing and a kick until the issue is over. If this were indeed an old show, then this issue would only comprise one section between a set of ads. While this is arguably exactly how comics are written these days, it still comes across as feeling mildly thin. You get to the last page hoping there would have been more. Perhaps it's too much to ask of comics today but it shouldn't be.
If you are worried about not getting enough out of "Winter Soldier" #3, you can get your money's worth by re-reading because it is so damn pretty. Guice puts on an amazing display of kinetic pages where the bouncing spies leap through pages in and out of danger. The tilted panels work spectacularly well for the aerial drop but feel overused and relatively superfluous in other areas. The colors from Bettie Breitweiser and Jordie Bellaire are sublime. Everything feels cloaked in mystery and danger but when the actual danger appears you certainly feel it through the contrast to brightness.
"Winter Soldier" continues to please, even if just as a bridging document this month making you crave more. Leaving a reader engaged and desiring is not a bad way to construct a cliffhanger. Make no mistake -- this issue is a good slice of action and character. Now we can only hope Brubaker will make the Doombot a part of the supporting cast. That step might just be what the doctor ordered.