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Captain America: Winter Soldier:
Format: HardcoverChange
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 23 June 2014
This book was such a satisfying experience, it's all gritty espionage, super hero fun with a mystery, then boom! ugly sobbing ensues (from me, not the story). It says a lot for the comic format that a bunch of pictures and speech baloons can elicit such a response. I don't know why I held off reading comics for so long because boy do I love them now.

The actual physical book is so beautifully bound that it took me a while to stop just looking at it and stroking it, and also smelling it because it has such a lovely strong book smell ;-) After removing the sleeve, the plain white cover with a partial shield is so simple and understated - it is very asthetically pleasing to my eye.

This is not an origin story for Captain America, so I was a little bit confused to start with but most of that confusion is cleared up with Cap's inner monologues and flashbacks. So, for someone like me this is a good starting point to get into Captain America comics. If, again like me, you are more interested in the Winter Soldier storyline then this is of course a perfect starting point - it being the Winter Soldier's origin story and all.

Brubaker has written a very realistic character with Steve, especially as a war veteran who is haunted by his past. Steve struggles with his guilt, not only over Bucky's death but also because he missed the end of the war and he feels less men would have died had he been there. It seems like he may be suffering with PTSD, as he acts recklessy and violently, and he also has trouble with his memories, not certain if they are real or not. It is uncertain if that he does have PTSD or if it is the cosmic cube that the bad guy Lukin has, that is messing with Cap's head, as it does to others who Lukin has an axe to grind with. Either way Cap's actions show a very human side to him.

As I said, this is an origin story for the Winter Soldier, so of course, we get flashbacks in which we see Cap's introduction to Bucky and their developing relationship. I was quite dissapointed that they weren't childhood friends as in the movies, but that in no way detracts from the depth of their friendship in the book. The Winter Soldier's story is a sad one and I see him as a victim and not a villain. This man hasn't been treated like a human being for fifty years, he is treated as a tool, as a weapon and that is terribly sad.

The relationship between these two is beautiful and I get teary whenever I think about them. I don't know why, but close male relationships really move me, it could be something to do with the fact that growing up you learn that men are not meant to have emotions or feelings, especially not towards other men. So, when close male friendships are explored in fiction, it is a breath of fresh air. They show that, yes, males do feel and experience emotions in the same way females do and that they do care deeply about others - even other men, in either plutonic or romantic ways. In this case though, Steve and Bucky's relationship is totally plutonic and they love each other more than anything and would die for each other - to me that is beautiful.

Most of the art in the book is stunning and really adds to the enjoyment of the story. When there is a change of artist I found it to be a bit jarring, but I quickly got used to it. I even think that the different art styles fit with the different parts of the story, adding depth.

Overall, this was an absolutely fantastic story with an ending that guarantees that I will be reading the next one. I totally recommend this book to not only those who enjoyed the film but to anyone who enjoys great character based stories.

So yeah, I loved it
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Ed Brubaker revisits Cap's past by writing an alternate history to his sidekick, Bucky, in The Winter Soldier. Originally dead from an explosion over the English Channel pursuing the evil Baron Zemo during WW2, Brubaker imagines Bucky surviving the blast and being turned into a cyborg assassin, brainwashed into fighting for the Russians. Steve Epting's art is ridiculous - it's just so good! And his character design of the Winter Soldier is brilliant, with the mechanical arm and neo-terrorist look being faithfully replicated in the upcoming movie.

Unlike the movie though, the plot centres around an evil Russian general and the cosmic cube taking over the world through purchasing American land, which works really well in the book but I don't see ANOTHER Cap movie centring around the cosmic cube so I expect that plot element to be jettisoned. From what I've seen of the movie so far though, they're using a lot of the book in the movie - Crossbones (one of Red Skull's lieutenants), the Falcon (one of Cap's old friends), certain scenes like Bucky punching Cap's shield with his mechanical arm - but it doesn't look like Hugo Weaving's returning as Red Skull so, even though he's in the book, he probably won't be in the film.

But enough talk of the movie! The book is awesome, so even if the film winds up sucking next year, at least we have Brubaker and Epting's great Cap story. And Brubaker should really be congratulated simply for writing a readable and fun Captain America book - off the top of my head, I don't think there are any great Cap books besides this! But it's more than that. We understand Cap's loss a lot more, seeing his friendship with Bucky in far more detail than in other books during the many flashbacks set during WW2, and understand how close they were and why it was so painful for Cap to lose him.

While it's recognisably a superhero book, Brubaker's written it in a very sophisticated way so that it reads like an espionage thriller with double agents, real historical events, unexpected emotional depth, and superhero action all thrown into the mix. Epting's accomplished art gives the book a gloriously realistic appearance while the muted colour palette perfectly suits the serious tone of the book. Cap might be looked at as an anachronistic, even outdated character, and dressed kinda silly, but Brubaker and Epting make him look like a tragic figure, which isn't something I usually respond to (miserable superheroes are DC's speciality, not Marvel's) but it's the right approach for this book. With Bucky's backstory that involves remaining youthful after decades, getting a robot arm, being brainwashed, and so on, it would be too easy to undermine if Brubaker was anything less than completely serious in his approach.

The only complaint I would give the book is that it feels overlong at times. The middle of the book sags a bit especially as Brubaker takes several tangents to explore every angle of Cap's long and varied history (taking in other Captain Americas who filled in for Steve Rogers while he was frozen in ice). But it's a minor complaint when so much of the book is so well done in every way.

With The Winter Soldier, Brubaker writes the best Captain America book ever while also resurrecting a forgotten character, giving Bucky a new lease on life and turning him from an easily mocked sidekick into a brilliantly realised and transformed new character, and a superhero in his own right. The Winter Soldier is a great read and anyone (and I used to fall in this category) who thinks Cap only works in team books, should pick this up to see him carry the story brilliantly.
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