Roughly three months ago, Marvel announced that the Winter Soldier would be appearing in a brand new limited series called ‘Winter Soldier: The Bitter March’ from ‘Captain America’ and ‘Uncanny Avengers’ scribe Rick Remender and artist Roland Boschi. And unlike his appearance in ‘All-New Invaders’, this story would be set in the past and would examine the character’s darker side. This really comes as no surprise since his origin will be featured in the upcoming Phase Two film ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’, but it’s certainly a welcome addition to the pull list nonetheless.
In this story, we learn of an untold mission from Bucky’s time as the deadly Soviet operative that finds him at odds with S.H.I.E.L.D., specifically Nick Fury and Ran Shen. The year is 1966 and HYDRA has captured a pair of Nazi scientists who were colleagues of Arnim Zola that finally cracked the Alchemy Formula. But before the terrorist organization could use it to tip the scales in their favor during the Cold War, Agents Shen and Fury are sent to retrieve the scientists, or at least keep HYDRA from using the valuable information they hold. However, the global peacekeeping group isn’t the only one with a horse in this race. They soon find out the hard way that the mythical Winter Soldier, a brainwashed former super sidekick that was turned into the ultimate assassin, is after the same bounty.
When it comes to Remender and characters associated with Cap, I’m not too fond of what he’s had to offer so far. The whole Dimension Z storyline in Marvel NOW’s ‘Captain America’ just seemed too drawn out for my liking and it lost me about halfway through the arc. But despite my preconceived dislike to the writer’s approach to the Star-Spangled Avenger, he has done the complete opposite with the former Bucky. Right from the first page of this book, we’re instantly in the action. The plot is very tight and concise while still delivering some lighter moments. There was no wasted action here, so I was onboard the whole time as we followed the agents attempt to infiltrate Castle Hydra.How adorable is the animal variant cover?
The thing that kept me so hooked was probably the very cinematic feel of it all. There were many obvious throwbacks to old school spy movies. It seems like Remender did his homework because I got a lot of James Bond and Ethan Hunt, but at the same time there was a hint of Archer in that one episode with the naked, under-aged Russian girl and the snowmobiles. Basically, the writer knocked the spy thriller vibe out of the park.
My favorite part of the book was definitely Agent Shen’s attempt at being smooth with Madam Worm. That whole scene was a great combination of funny and exciting. Plus, color artist Chris Chuckry’s use of reds and oranges really made it feel like Shen was in big trouble. Great use of colors to affect the readers’ emotions.
Finally, with the stage being set throughout the book, the payoff of Shen discovering who he was dealing with was a great introduction to the Winter Soldier in this part of his life. It might have helped too that the Winter Soldier is one of my favorite characters in the Marvel Universe and I’m always down to read more stories featuring him, but he didn’t even really show up until closer to the end. It was all build with a satisfying end that left the lead character looking strong. Now that we got a taste of what he’s capable of, it’s exciting to think about what cool spy movie stuff is going to pop up next. Hopefully the rest of ‘The Bitter March’ continues with this caliber of storytelling because if it does, it has the potential to become a defining book for the character of the Winter Soldier.
Winter Soldier: The Bitter March #1
Written by Rick Remender
Art by Roland Boschi & Chris Chuckry
Cover by Andrew Robinson