Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Captain America: Winter Soldier Review

Writer: Ed Brubaker
Artists: Steve Epting, Michael Lark, Mike Perkins & John Paul Leon

I've recently decided to go through as many of my graphic novels as I can, re-reading, and reviewing them. I'm planing on reviewing all the Marvel crossover events that I have whether in comic form, or graphic novel (reviewing in graphic novel form for all), and I'm wanting to review the other Marvel graphic novels, and series that fall in between them so now I've arrived at my first Captain America, for one of my favourite Captain America stories ever.

Plot


Whilst looking into the death of the Red Skull, Captain America, and S.H.I.E.L.D. find some disturbing news, and the re-emergence of a person they believed to be dead.

A secondary story, which features as an interlude shows the last days of Nomad's (Jack Monroe) life.

Review


This was an amazing story, and by far one of the best Captain America stories I've ever read. I have to admit before reading Ed Brubaker's Captain America Reborn I was never really a fan of Captain America, and actually saw him as a pompous character, who thought his country could do no wrong, but after reading Reborn, and the rest of Brubaker's run on Cap I've changed my mind, and Cap is now one of my favourite characters, with me even getting the series that precede Brubaker's run. Anyway, Brubaker did an amazing job on this story, and although my personal favourite story from him will still be Reborn (due to it being the first I read as well as being excellent) this is probably the most emotional story that Brubaker wrote, as it dealt with the changing of Cap's emotions brilliantly, as you could easily see the conflict in him. I also liked how even though I knew who the Winter Soldier was, that Brubaker managed to keep suspense, and mystery, and besides that part of the story, there was also plenty of other mysterious factors within. Brubaker also did an amazing job of adding action in the right places, as it gave some excitement, as although the emotion was brilliant, and really dramatic, without action it would've still felt a bit dull. I also loved how Brubaker handled all the characters, whether new or old, as although the Winter Soldier himself was the most interesting part, he also did a brilliant job of writing Sharon Carter, and Nick Fury, with their relationships with Cap being shown perfectly, as well as introducing the new character Aleksander Lukin brilliantly, making him very interesting.

The art in this book was brilliant, and Steve Epting, Michael Lark, and Mike Perkins all did outstanding work. What I think helped having these three artists working on this story was that they all have similar styles, as most of the time when you have different artists working on the same book it's obvious, but unless you're very observant, or know before hand that many people worked on the story, it'd be easy enough to think that one artist did the whole thing. Anyway, Epting did the main art in the current time, with Perkins helping out in the later issues, and Lark drew the flashback sequences. All the artwork was excellent, and brilliantly detailed, with everything looking amazing. The detail in the backgrounds, and scenery was also fantastic, as everything looked very realistic. Epting however wasn't as good as Lark with the facial expressions, as he didn't really show a lot of emotion, but when he did it was good. Besides this I still preferred Epting's art overall, as although Lark's art in the flashback's were also brilliant, I just felt that Epting's was a little smoother, and not quite as rough (even though the rougher style of Lark's suited the flashbacks). The secondary story that was in the middle of this book was drawn by John Paul Leon. I wasn't really that fond of Leon's art as it's a bit too rough, and unrealistic for my liking, and although some people may like it I just felt that it let the book down a bit, and could only be grateful that this wasn't part of the main story. The colouring from Frank D'Armata throughout was also brilliant, as he really knew what type of colours to use when, and the faded style in the flashbacks was amazing.

This story started with the death of the Red Skull. I wasn't too sure whether I wanted to go outright and spoil this, but due to it happening in the first issue, as well as the fact that it's the main starting point for the story, I felt that it'd be wrong not to mention it. When I noticed that the Red Skull was going to be in this story I was expecting him to have a big part, so his sudden death at the end of the first issue was a shock, as although I knew certain things about this story before my first read through, this was not one of them. Anyway, his death was the perfect catalyst for the following events, and the mystery behind it was even more interesting. The thing I liked the most about Skull's death was how Cap reacted to it, as he knowing the Red Skull very well expected this to be some kind of trick, and that he wasn't actually dead, which was interesting, and shows that Cap isn't easily persuaded, even when he sees a dead body. I also liked how Skull's death affected Crossbones, and the way he acted in throughout the background of this story was interesting, and the things that it's going to set-up look even more interesting.

Although Red Skull died a bit prematurely in this story there was however another villain in the form of Aleksander Lukin. What I found interesting about Lukin was that he wasn't your typical villain, and he appeared to have honour, and compassion, which was a nice change to see in a villain. I also found Lukin's background interesting, and although I won't go into any details as to avoid spoilers, it showed how he became the type of character he is, and why he's motivated to do what he's doing. I also found the fact that Lukin appeared to resent Cap, and it's obvious that they have some form of history.

This story also showed the relationship between Cap, and his former girlfriend Sharon Carter. I felt that Brubaker handled this perfectly, and in a way that introduces the pair as a couple, even though they're not together. If the series had started with the two in a relationship it wouldn't give new readers time to understand it, as although there are relationships like the one between Spider-Man and Mary Jane, there are others like this that wouldn't be as obvious unless you were already a huge fan of the characters. Anyway, Brubaker wrote the dialogue between the two perfectly, as it showed that they are no longer together, whilst also showing that they have feelings for each other. I also loved the tone in the way Brubaker wrote the dialogue between the pair, as it gave the right kind of setting, and mood, which made the entire subject more dramatic, and realistic.

The flashbacks that featured in this story were brilliant, and although they gave insight into aspects of the story, it also showed some of Cap's history, which was nice. As I said prior to reading Reborn I wasn't much of a Cap fan, and didn't really know much about him besides the basics, and although I know nearly every important thing that's happened to him in comics, especially since the 90's, when I originally read this I still didn't know much, so seeing the history of this character, as well as the things he'd been through both physically and emotionally was nice, and really added ton's of perspective on the characters thought patterns. There were also parts of his past that were mysterious, as some of it he remembers in a different way that he usually does, and this added another layer to the mystery, as well as showing that there's more to the background of this story.

There was also an interlude that showed the last days of Jack Monroe's life. When I originally read this story I didn't really know who Jack Monroe was, and although I'd heard of his superhero persona Nomad, it also wasn't more than a name, so it was nice to learn a bit about this character in this story, and it gave me the incentive to find out more (which I have since). The story itself was very emotional, and I loved how it showed what type of person Jack was, and that despite the fact that he'd been all over the place mentally, it also showed that deep down he was a good person. I also found the way he saw himself compared to Cap interesting, and that although he knew he was dying that he didn't want to put any burden on Cap.

WARNING: SPOILER AHEAD! (IDENTITY OF WINTER SOLDIER REVEALED)

I decided from the start that I wasn't going to avoid this spoiler, as one everyone probably knows it already (especially if you've read the review title), and it'd be wrong to review this story without discussing this character. The character I'm talking about is obviously the Winter Soldier, who's revealed to be Cap's former sidekick, Bucky Barnes. Now when I started reading Cap with Reborn Bucky was himself Captain America then, but I've always felt that he's been better suited as the Winter Soldier, as not only was he a much more deeper, and overall cooler character than he was as simple Bucky, he was also his own man, not having anything to live up to. I personally felt that Brubaker's best Cap stories came with Bucky, as when the series was relaunched later with Steve Rogers returning as Cap, the Winter Soldier title that Brubaker also wrote at the time was much better. I already knew coming into this story that Buck was the Winter Soldier (as I'd read later stories prior), but the way Brubaker handled the mystery was brilliant, and not only dramatic, but also suspenseful. I also loved how Brubaker handled the emotional side of this, as you had the absent minded Bucky who didn't know who he was, and you also had Cap who wanted to help his former partner, and best friend, and this made for some emotional dialogue, as well as dramatic sequences. I also liked the look of the Winter Soldier, and Epting did a brilliant job designing him, and the concepts that featured as a bonus in this book were brilliant, and I felt he chose the right look in the end.

Final Verdict


This was a brilliant start to what would be the best run from a writer on Captain America that I've ever read. The story itself was also very dramatic, and mysterious, as well has being very emotional. It was also the perfect re-introduction for Bucky Barnes, and is one of the best Captain America stories in recent history, if not overall. I'd highly recommend this, as it's the perfect introduction to Captain America for new readers, and the perfect insight into what to expect from the upcoming Captain America: The Winter Soldier film.

Rating: 5/5


The next Captain America book I'll be reviewing will be Captain America: Red Menace.