Winter Soldier: The Bitter March
Rick Remender & Roland Boschi, Marvel 2014
It’s no secret that I have lots of feelings when it comes to Bucky Barnes. So naturally I had to buy this trade paperback telling a story of the time when he was an asset for the Soviet’s, a brainwashed weapon following orders without question or conscience. Except that there’s this man, this “American with a shield”, whose voice the Winter Soldier hears at inopportune moments. Be still, my heart… 🙂
The story is pretty straightforward spy fare, following SHIELD agent Ran Shen as he tries to extract two Nazi scientists who have invented a dangerous formula from HYDRA’s clutches, while the Soviets try to do the same, using the Winter Soldier. It’s all very James Bond, including cool gadgets, a super-powered villain and a love story.
Although naturally I would have loved it if Bucky had actually been the main protagonist, I really enjoyed the whole thing. Shen, who has been undercover for ages, develops feelings for the scientist who developed the formula, which add to his existing doubts regarding SHIELD and the capitalist system it stands for. In a nice twist it’s the woman, Mila, who’s the really smart one, her mercenary husband simply taking advantage of her brains and people’s expectations. (I only wish she’d been dressed a bit more and not been damsel’d so much – but it fits with the retro vibe of the story, she’s pretty much a classic Bond Girl.) The main baddie, HYDRA’s Drain, is a psychic who gets people to kill themselves, but his interference actually reveals some truths – and breaks the Winter Soldier’s conditioning. This means that we actually get Bucky for part of the story, which I didn’t expect and which almost broke my heart. Like I said, all the feels!
Drain: I can see into your mind, poor brainwashed toy soldier. Oh, to see what they did to you. It would break your Captain’s heart.
Being a big Bucky Barnes fan, I simply had to get this book – and I didn’t regret it! It’s a well-told spy adventure, and while the Winter Soldier isn’t the main protagonist, his every appearance is utterly compelling. We follow the mission of SHIELD agent Ran Shen, who’s very James Bond in every way, with the addition of some doubts regarding his allegiance, making him more interesting to me. He has to rescue two Nazi scientists from HYDRA, but of course things go wrong… Lots of action ensues, and no emotional punches are pulled, especially when it comes to Bucky, of course.