Brian West

The Comics Behind the Movies: Captain America: Winter Soldier Vol. 1 & 2

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Winter is coming… Actually, he’s already here..
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Are you ready for Captain America: The Winter Soldier? Of course you are, that was probably a silly question, who isn’t ready to see another great Marvel movie. I guess the better question would be “Are you prepared to see The Winter Soldier”? Now when I say prepared, I’m not talking about buying your ticket early (which judging from the great early reviews, you should definitely be doing), or making sure you have just the right Captain America t-shirt to wear to the big premiere. No, what I want to know is if you’ve given yourself the chance to have the ultimate Winter Soldier experience by also reading the great comic story that the new movie is inspired by. Written by Ed Brubaker, and illustrated by Steve Epting, Captain America: Winter Soldier Vol. 1 & 2 not only gives us the complete Winter Soldier introduction and back story, but it uses the past and present to tell a global and time spanning thriller. It’s also a very personal tale for Steve Rogers, one that will push America’s greatest hero to the breaking point, and ultimately force him to come face with his greatest failure. Sound exciting? That’s because it is.

Buy a physical copy to be delivered right to you: Captain America Winter Soldier HC Dm Epting Variant Ed

Buy a digital copy for your portable devices: Vol-1 and Vol-2

714-1Winter Soldier begins with a bang, literally. A single shot through the chest of Captain America’s greatest enemy, the Red Skull, puts into motion a plan born years earlier. When a meeting between the Red Skull and General Aleksander Lukin, a rogue Russian General, became about a Cosmic Cube and a secret Russian assassin. The Red Skull’s shocking death leads Captain America and S.H.I.E.L.D on a mission to stop the Red Skull’s final devastating plan already in motion, and to the realization that whoever killed him has also stolen his Cosmic Cube. A weapon capable of altering reality. They soon discover that this new player not only has their own terrible plan for the Cube, but that his assassin carrying out the missions is much more than anyone could possible imagine. As Captain America slowly uncovers the truth behind this new enemy, the shocking revelation of the Winter Soldier’s true identity will shake him to the core and force him to question everything he thought he knew about his past. Before it’s all done, Captain America will need the help of his ex-girlfriend Sharon Carter, Sam Wilson aka The Falcon, and the full resources of S.H.I.E.L.D, to stop the seemingly unstoppable Winter Soldier.

One of my favorite things about this book is the way Brubaker uses the past to help tell the present story and even more, uses Captain America’s past relationship to his old partner to make this a very personal tale for Steve Rogers. During the events of Winter Soldier Captain America starts to experience extreme flashbacks of his time in WW2, all surrounding his missions with Bucky Barnes. Bucky was always a little too corny of a sidekick for my taste, and honestly he always felt kind’ve useless. To me, Captain America was the hero and Bucky was the kid that just tagged along. Luckily, this comic book changes all that. Now for anyone who doesn’t know the whole story of Bucky Barnes I will try and not ruin any of the surprise, but The Winter Soldier storyline takes Bucky and turns him into one of the great comic sidekicks. The way Brubaker takes everything we think we know about the young sidekick, pulls it back like a hood, revealing his true abilities and value to Captain America is nothing short of fantastic. Rarely do we get to see a new side of a pre-established hero partnership that changes our view of that existing dynamic and gives us something much better than was there before. In a lot of ways, Winter Soldier is as much a story about Steve Rogers, Bucky Barnes, and the bond between them as it is about anything else. Their friendship is the heart of the story, and it infuses the final act with a serious emotional weight. Quite honestly, its the best part of the entire book.

As much as I loved the Winter Soldier himself, and the Steve Rogers/Bucky Barnes dynamic of the Winter Soldier story, this comic couldn’t completely overcome its one real flaw. It’s too long.

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Winter Soldier Vol. 1 & 2 collect thirteen issues of Captain America, and for the pace at which this story moved, that felt like just a few too many. At times the story would lose focus. Telling side stories that felt added onto the main plot in order to stretch out the whole story. I feel like Winter Soldier would’ve benefited from being a limited six or eight issue series instead of the year long event it was. Less issues would’ve kept the focus on Captain America, the Winter Soldier, Bucky Barnes (the best parts of the books) and told a tighter, more intense story. All while cutting out some of the parts that I just never became invested in, like Aleksander Lukin for example. I never really cared what happened to him, it seemed as if he was only there as a way to introduce the Winter Soldier, and by the end of the book I had completely lost interest in Lukin’s character. To be fair, this story does set up many future Captain America story lines so as with most comic series, the entire story can’t be about just one thing. Even so, I still would’ve liked just a bit more focus. With that said, the good news is that none of this ultimately stops Winter Soldier from being a good solid story, I just think it would’ve made a great limited series, or even better yet, a great movie.

The Marvel films might be the best movies you can watch in the cinema right now, but all to often the comics that inspired them get forgotten. Which is a shame, because they are usually some of the best stories, and this comic is no exception. Captain America: Winter Soldier Vol. 1 & 2 is a solid, thrilling story that will make you rethink what you thought you knew about Captain America and his sidekick Bucky Barnes. By the time the last page is read, you will remember why Steve Rogers is and always will be, our greatest hero. I highly recommend you give this a read before you see the new movie, and if you don’t read it before, than I still recommend you read it after, it’s just one of those stories everyone needs to read at least once. If you’re worried about having the movie spoiled don’t be, most of the surprises the comic could give away can be seen in the movie trailers, plus I find that the movies are usually changed just enough that the source material doesn’t spoil the picture. What I can say with certainty though, is that every time I’ve had the chance to read the comic that inspired a movie before I saw the actual movie, it’s always enhanced the experience for me, and made it that much better. In a few short weeks, everyone will be piling into the theaters to see Captain America: The Winter Soldier, so trust me, do yourself a favor, and give Winter Soldier a read. Be one of the lucky few who knows the entire story……You’ll thank me later.

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