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A midnight call to duty brings Captain America aboard the S.H.I.E.L.D Heli-carrier to identify the corpse of his most feared adversary: the Red Skull! The shocking murder of Cap's oldest enemy may not be the end of the Skull's plans, however, because whoever shot the Skull has stolen his final project: an unfinished Cosmic Cube with the potential power to alter reality itself. Adding to the imminent danger, a cadre of the Skull's followers has already set in motion a plan to ignite bombs in the hearts of Paris, London and Manhattan - causing untold death and destruction. Racing against these bombs' rapidly ticking clocks, the Star-Spangled Avenger must not only solve the mystery of his nemesis' murder, but find the Cube before it can be used in the Red Skull's malevolent plot against the United States! Then, the questions plaguing Captain America's dreams and memories have been answered in the most brutal way possible. And in the wake of this brutality, General Lukin makes his first...
With the movie coming out, I thought I'd revisit the Winter Soldier storyline. And I was surprised by what I found.
First, that I'd only read volume one. So I decided to go whole hog (where does that saying even come from anyway?), and get two volumes in one shot with the Ultimate Collection.
Second, that at the time I originally read it, I had no idea how awesome it really was. Maybe I just hadn't read enough crappy graphic novels yet?
Whatever the reason, I don't remember being blown away by the storytelling like I was this time around. And I was. Blown. Away.
Now, I honestly can't imagine that anyone would consider this a spoiler, since this title is over ten years old, but there's always some whiny bitch who complains...
You know who you are!
If you don't know who the Winter Soldier is, and don't want me to spoil the BIG SECRET for you?
Stop reading this review.
If you want to find a good Captain America story, find Brubaker's stuff. He's the best when it comes to this character, in my opinion. The first time I really noticed his awesomeness was after I read The Death of Captain America story arc. I remember getting all misty-eyed at the end. That's admittedly embarrassing, especially over a comic book character that you know isn't going to stay dead.
Dear God, when Tony gave his speech at the end?
Shit. I'm getting all choked up...
This starts off with a flashback to Red Skull and General Lukin meeting up to buy/trade WMD's with each other, and then switches over to present day where Red Skull's newest plan to Take Over The World! is in full swing.
And that's a running theme in this book. Flashbacks, I mean. Which can be pretty distracting if they're not done right, but Brubaker does an excellent job here. Everything flows together in a way that makes sense.
So Red Skull has a cosmic cube, and with it he intends to...do evil things, of course. So he's the villain for this story.
Big upset, right off the bat! Man, totally forgot about that thing that happened!
So, Red Skull, not a player in this story anymore.
Or is he?
Moving on to the main event!
Bucky is back! And not only is he back, but he's evidently been a major player for decades without anyone realizing who he was. He's a ghost, a myth, the bogeyman of covert ops world.
Bringing Bucky Barnes back isn't something super-special in itself, only because almost every dead comic book character comes back from the grave at one time or another.
No, it's the way Brubaker brings him back to life that shows off his talent. I mean, how the hell do you explain why a 16 year old kid is fighting in a war alongside Captain America? With the government's stamp of approval, no less! He also makes it clear that Bucky was not simply there to look cute in his mask while posing next to Cap. He was, in reality, the business end of the team when it came to wetworks on their missions.
In fact, he was so good at his job that the Russians who found his body, originally thought his DNA might hold the key to the super-serum. But, no. He was just a naturally gifted fighter, who had already been trained to be an assassin.
Bucky the Assassin!
Ok. So the bad guys (in this case, a shadow agency of the KGB) pulled a one-armed (mostly) dead Barnes out of freezing water, shortly following an explosion that left everyone thinking he was (totally) dead. He was successfully revived, but without any memories of his former self. Thus, making it easy for the villains to reprogram him as...Winter Soldier.
So for years he would be sent out on missions to assassinate targets, and then promptly get stuffed back into one of those stasis containers. You know, with the glass front, the bubbling liquid, and the wires sticking off of the person inside?
Which I can't help but giggle over, because I always think of a frozen Austin Powers when I see one of those things now.
Putting Bucky in stasis over the years helps with two things, at least from a reader's perspective.
First, and most importantly, it explains why he is still young.
Second, it gives you a reason to hope that the real Bucky is still in there somewhere.
Apparently, if he was awake too long he started showing signs that his memory might be resurfacing.
Maybe. Sort of.
They weren't really sure, but why take chances, right?
Go on...hop on in the glass cylinder big guy...that's it...watch your head now...
Anyway, there's more to the story than just the return of another cool sidekick.
You've also got Steve and Sharon working together again.They're over each other, but not over-over each other. So let's stick 'em together in an intense situation and see what shakes out of that tree!
Then there's the cosmic cube itself. What does it do, and how is it going to affect the outcome of everything?
Finally, we get to Lukin. He's an awesome bad guy, mostly because he isn't over in a corner somewhere cackling to himself. Sure, he's evil. But he's not evil just for the sake of being evil. He considers himself a patriot, and his goal is to restore Mother Russia to her former glory...not bring about the zombie apocalypse.
This was great.
Seriously, if you haven't read it? Go get it!
And if you have read it before, it might be time for a re-read. Just sayin'.