As a fan of Ed Brubaker’s take on the Winter Soldier, I was pretty pumped to see where Winter Soldier: The Bitter March, the new series by ongoing Captain America writer Rick Remender and artist Roland Boschi would take the lead character. I don’t tend to read up a lot on plot before jumping into a new #1 if I already follow the character or the creative team, as I prefer to go in completely blind. I had no idea that this was a tale set in the sixties – I mean, granted, the retro cover and the title could have tipped me off, but again. Going in blind.
So I was surprised to be reading a Winter Soldier comic set during the days where the eponymous character was a mindless villain, used by the Russians as a weapon that they’d utilize and then subsequently mindwipe. Brubaker’s run with Bucky as the evil Winter Soldier during his Captain America run had the pathos of Steve Rogers finding out his fallen comrades fate, as well as the shock value of seeing this hero turned into a weapon of mass destruction. Bucky’s redemption from that is what interested me in the character beyond that initial arc, so I was admittedly looking for more of that here – what I found, though, was a solid spy story with an excellent end that will likely bring readers back for the second issue.
The first issue is almost purely set-up. It’s 1966 and Nick Fury and Ran Shen are infiltrating Castle Hydra in order to save Peter and Mila Hitzig, two Nazis who have the “fate of the entire cold war in their Nazi noodles.” Fury and Ran place a bet to see whom of the two will break in more successfully, and their banter carries the scene nicely. From then on out, we’re seeing the story from Ran’s POV, so we follow him as he seduces a woman that turns out to be Madam Worm. The dialogue is fast-paced and natural throughout, for the most part, but the extreme sexual nature of the exchange between Ran and Worm seemed excessive and forced. Virtually every line of dialogue for three pages is an innuendo – even when Worm reveals her power. The scene remains horrifying, though, thanks to Boschi’s dynamic art.
The rest of it plays out as an engaging but very standard Nick Fury op, until the Winter Soldier comes in and jacks the mission up. The issue ends with Fury missing and Ran stuck in the frozen woods with the Winter Soldier and the Nazi couple. This is a premise I can dig, and I sort of wish the build toward this had been two pages instead of a whole issue, despite how fun most of the issue was. The final page of the comic is foreboding, scary, and excellent in both writing and art, leading me to believe that #2 will pack the punch that I found lacking in this one.
Despite not quite starting off on the best foot it could’ve, I do recommend this issue. I wasn’t interested in seeing the Winter Soldier’s past exploits as a villain prior to reading this, but the final scene here has gotten my attention. It’s definitely a way to whet your whistle in the days leading up to the release of the flick (ahhh, don’t read the reviews, ahhh!), and #2 is also out now, which is sure to have some more page time dedicated to the Winter Soldier himself.
PAT SHAND is a writer and editor for Zenescope Entertainment. If you post anything about the new Cap movie on social media before he sees it next week, he will also be a felon.