The sheer number of new characters being introduced in this title is staggering, but they all feel perfectly in place, as though they’d been pulled from a pulpy, 1950s James Bond-style spy novel in the hilariously-yet-somehow appropriately named Shocky Dan and the enigmatic, enervating Drain. Shocky Dan was specifically engineered to stop Winter Soldier, who has a far greater presence in this issue than he has in previous ones, and the electrical man seems ruthlessly effective, but has another, unexpected side effect, one that drives the narrative in an interesting way. Rick Remender delivers some truly amazing, period-appropriate dialog as well as making these new, twisted characters everything they need to be from disposable one-offs to villains I truly hope to see more of, the Drain is like Purple Man with class and an interesting twist on the “mind control” power.
Roland Boschi handles linework and does an incredible job at it. His panels are filled with jagged, kinetic viciousness, and while it may be channeling the spirit of James Bond, it’s certainly not the “stretch-and-fall” style of death you see in those movies. This is a bloody book, but it never feels gratuitous and the violence serves to either advance the plot or establish character. Chris Chuckry and Matt Wilson fill in the grimy, dark colors and, as ever, this is a great looking book. The use of minimalist colors and strong, deep shadows that communicate both savage intensity and grim terror in equal measures.
I’m actually really sorry we may not see more of some of the villains introduced throughout this series, and that says something that Remender is so amazing at coming up with characters that he invents wonders like these to be disposable (though the door is open for some of them). This is the most, by far, the Winter Soldier has been featured in the title that bears his name, and he is operating fully and brazenly in the open, but I think I liked him better as a kind of lurking menace. True the book has his name on it, but I still really liked him as this barely-seen force of absolute terror and death rather than a bullet-spewing murder machine. The action scenes look great, but I like my dark, fear-inducing assassins to have a touch more subtlety.
I might not agree entirely with the tonal shift of its titular character, but I can’t argue with the quality of the storytelling. I know this is listed as a limited series, but I am hoping that it kicks off a series of standalone vignettes centering around various encounters with Winter Soldier. Marvel could use an injection of pure pulp and this book seems well-positioned to deliver just that, and there are still plenty of stories to be told.