(Marvel Comics, 2014)
Written by Rick Remender
Artwork by Roland Boschi
Color Artwork by Chris Chuckry
Lettering by Clayton Clowes
Rick Remender is one of the smartest writers working in comic books today. He tells stories that are steeped in nostalgia yet feel like nothing else we have ever read, it’s a perplexing thing. In Winter Soldier: The Bitter March #1 Remender melds all the elements of a super spy thriller circa 1960’s with the attitude and humor of a modern big action adventure, the result is a clever, fast paced and over the top foray into the realm of the best of the James Bond stories with a smattering of Riggs and Murtaugh-style buddy banter. This is a straight forward, honest to goodness cold war era espionage page turner that captures the essence of the original Nick Fury narratives complete with the menacing threat of Hydra and all their spooky, quasi-Nazi trappings, medieval castles and underground lairs. Throw in a sinister female villain or two, some razor sharp dialogue and you have all the makings for a fantastic first issue.
Remender and artist Roland Boschi do an admirable job of tapping into the soul of Steranko’s 1968 series while maintaining something of what Jack Kirby brought to the character. In fact, this first issue focuses much more on Nick Fury than on the Winter Soldier, but that is not to say that the titular character does not play a major albeit a relatively as yet under developed role in this narrative. His presence late in the third act of this issue is most certainly a game changer and sends the narrative off on its actual trajectory. Remender does a lot of set up in this issue but it is all enjoyable and relevant to the overall plot. The relationship between Fury and Agent Shen for instance, is meticulously fleshed out through some excellent character interaction and great dialogue. The two S.H.I.E.L.D. Agents share some witty banter all the while revealing the chemistry that drives their friendship and the dynamic at work between these two eminently likeable characters. The dialogue Remender writes is an amalgamation of period appropriate vernacular and contemporary colloquialisms adding to the timeless sense of the narrative. Although we know that the events take place in 1966, the story manages to transcend any sense or feeling of being dated while impeccably capturing the trivialities and particulars of the era. Remender has mastered the ability to render a specific era in a timeless manner, his brilliant Black Science series is another example of this melding of the nostalgic with the timeless.
Visually, Roland Boschi brings a cinematic feel to the book through his linear approach to page composition and panel progression. Boschi’s straight ahead storytelling brings a sense of magnitude to Remender’s script that seems to enhance his already brisk pace. He leaves lots of room for the narrative to spread organically over the pages without any bombastic splashes or spreads. That is not to say Boschi’s work lacks a dynamic look, quite to the contrary his rigorous use of structure in his panel layouts works extremely well with the material. His atmospheric rendering of the landscape and other environments that serve as settings for the narrative capture the feel of the early James Bond films spot on and provide a perfect background for the action. Boschi’s artwork packs one heck of a wallop in a deceptively simple package. I really love the way this book looks.
Overall this issue is an excellent set up for what promises to be another innovative, complex and utterly satisfying series from Rick Remender. The artwork is exciting and captures the feel of the narrative perfectly. Although this is a very different Winter Soldier than Ed Brubaker’s amazing work on the character, there is plenty of room in the 616 for another take on this engrossing and intriguing character. If you are on the fence about this series, I would say pick up the first issue now before the story gets too deep to jump in. (4/5)
Shawn is an aspiring writer/ artist who has been reading, collecting and living comic books for over 30 years. He lives in Baltimore with his wife, their son, lots of cats, dogs and other various finned and furry friends.