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Captain America Vol. 1: Winter Soldier
Review by James W. Powell

Review: Captain America Vol. 1: Winter Soldier
Captain America Vol. 1: Winter Soldier

Ed Brubaker
Steve Epting with
Michael Lark and John Paul Leon & Tom Palmer
Frank D'Armata
Randy Gentile

Marvel Comics
Hardcover Collection
Publish Date
July 20, 2005
Cover Price

Now that's a Captain America story! Captain America Vol. 1: Winter Soldier is the first written by Ed Brubaker, but I hope it's not the last. Brubaker breathes new life into the Steve Rogers character by giving him something emotional to deal with along with his endless battles with terrorists and other enemies of justice.

In Winter Soldier, Red Skull is killed and loses possession of a cosmic cube. S.H.I.E.L.D and Captain America take control of the investigation. And while our heroes are hunting down clues to the Skull's final plot and the man who killed him, the mysterious Winter Soldier, Rogers is having difficulty with his memory as it relates to the death of his old partner, Bucky. But how does his past tie into the present? Only time will tell.

What Brubaker does so expertly is called perfect pacing. He gives the reader just enough information to turn the page to find out what happens next. There's a great mystery here, and we uncover the hints and clues right along with Captain America. And the flashbacks into Cap's history in the war are perfectly placed in this story. They not only give the reader background information on the characters, but they also play a key role in the events currently transpiring.

Where the suspense really comes into play, however, is knowing what Captain America doesn't know. Brubaker allows the reader to see that Nick Fury's investigation goes deeper than he's letting on. And whatever it is, it has to do with Bucky; and believe me, it's going to spell trouble for our hero when all the cards are on the table. While I personally don't care for bringing back 'dead' characters, the way Brubaker teases us with clues and hints, I can't help but like where this is going.

As if dealing with the emotion of mentally reliving Bucky's death wasn't enough, Steve's old girlfriend, Sharon, is along for the ride as the liaison between the superhero and S.H.I.E.L.D. While she's there to help move the plot along, Agent 13 also tugs a bit at Captain America's emotions, which are already in turmoil. Imagine going through a troubling time in life and having an ex-significant other right there with you, every step of the way. There's trouble in that scenario.

Perhaps the only fault I can find in the seven issues collected in this book (Captain America 1-7) is that it's not a complete story. The final panel is a cliffhanger that leads into another six issues, most likely to be collected in early 2006. While I certainly like a good cliffhanger, this story is built on detail and a nicely paced plot. It's a bit jarring to halt that right in the middle and wait half a year to get to the conclusion.


Steve Epting's art is magnificent for the most part. He manages to capture the danger of any given moment and to give the action scenes a healthy dose of testosterone. Epting's art really shines when flipping through the pages of this fast-paced story as his attention to detail really places the reader firmly in the story. But upon closer inspection, that detail begins to break down and becomes problematic. Some of the softer, more quiet scenes don't stand up to scrutiny. For example, Agent 13 sometimes looks a little too puffy in the face, which somehow gives her the look of some unintelligent couch potato. Steve Rogers, on the other hand, looks a bit too brutish in some panels to be the front man in any detective story.

I think the overly dark imagery is partially to blame for my need to nitpick the otherwise nice art. Most of this book is in shadows, which amplifies anything that's even slightly off with the art. Frank D'Armata's colors do bring a nice vibrancy to key scenes, but the overall dark tone hurts Epting's pencils.

Michael Lark supplies the flashback imagery in this collection, and it is spot on throughout. His black and white art is like watching an old war newsreel. These scenes certainly make me feel like I'm in the war with Captain America and Bucky. It's almost as if I can feel the adrenaline of battle.

It should be noted that John Paul Leon and Tom Palmer supply the art for chapter 7 in this collection. And while the story serves as an interlude in the overall tale, the art seems out of place in this collection. The art is less detailed then that of Epting and Lark, and seems flat in comparison.

Bonus Features
I was hoping for more for a $22 book. But alas, it seems Marvel hasn't officially jumped on the bonus feature bandwagon just yet. But at least you get reproductions of the series covers as chapter breaks, one piece of promotional art used to sell the book, and a page of concept art for the storyarc.
Final Words

Ed Brubaker has given Captain America new life in Captain America Vol. 1: Winter Soldier.This volume has great action, plenty of mystery, and can easily be enjoyed by fans of political suspense thrillers. The art is also top of the line, even though it doesn't stand up perfectly to close inspection. If you can find this book at a discount, I can't help but recommend that fans pick it up.


James has written for such fine web sites as DVDtalk, Broken Frontier, and Paperback Reader. He lives in Denver with his lovely wife and two cats who wake him up at 3 a.m.
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