Spinning directly out of the convoluted and character-packed Original Sin event comes Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier #1, a focused solo-title about a man with a simple mission: to defend the Earth from any and all intergalactic and extradimensional threats. Despite some questionable storytelling choices, it’s clear that Ales Kot is ready to take Bucky and readers on a crazy ride and Marco Rudy is just the artist to make sure that ride is as crazy as possible.
Considering his recent popularity stems from his grounded portrayal as a Cold War assassin, some may think having Bucky flying a spaceship and battling aliens is an odd step but considering the character’s overall history and World War II beginnings, he’s the perfect fit for some throwback pulp comic adventuring. There were many surprises by the end of Original Sin but Bucky Barnes taking the place of Nick Fury as the “Man on the Wall,” Earth’s secret protector, was not one of them. The “Man on the Wall” is a new creation that was retconned into existence by Jason Aaron who left the concept pretty straightforward but instilled two establishing factors. Primarily, the missions the “Man on the Wall” goes on are pretty strange. Kot treats us to two of Bucky’s initial adventures, one extraterrestrial and one terrestrial, but both very unusual as far as typical superhero duties go. Kot uses these offbeat assignments to input some of Bucky’s dry wit, bringing plenty of humor and a sense of fun to the issue.
Additionally, Aaron indicated that the activities of the “Man on the Wall” were beyond top secret. After all, Nick Fury’s actions went unnoticed for as long as he was operating which, as far as the Marvel Universe is concerned, is forever. Kot seems to take this with a grain of salt as this issue brings two established Marvel heroes in on the secret, one of which is Daisy Johnson, a.k.a. Quake. Not the most interesting of potential partners for Bucky and her presence in this first issue doesn’t justify the watering down of the concept that the book is based around. It’s too early to say but, as of now, she seems to be there to give Bucky someone to talk to. Not only does it weaken one of the book’s central themes of secrecy but it also unintentionally shows a certain weakness in Bucky; asking for help where his predecessor didn’t.
Without dismissing Kot’s script, I’m confident in saying that it’s Marco Rudy’s art that people will be talking about most. Digital readers, this is not a book to read using guided view! Rudy crafts the interior art by page not panel and each page is a psychedelic ocean of color and shape that looks like no other Marvel book on the shelves. Rudy is an artist that definitely chooses beauty over clarity as even a direct conversation between Bucky and Daisy is depicted abstractly with their faces half-obscured in circles. At times, you will have to dig in a bit to grasp what exactly is going on but with artwork so detailed and committed, it never feels like a chore. If a more complex plot ever befalls the book, Rudy might want to show some restraint because certain sections of pages are impossible to decipher but, make no mistake, the artwork is the star of the book and it would be tragic if it fell victim to Marvel’s trend of rotating artists.
The final page of the issue introduces what will most likely be a recurring threat and it’s an idea that’s intriguing if not very original. However, it’s not the cliffhanger but the surreal concepts and dreamlike art that will have readers coming back for more. This is a unique and downright trippy book, get lost in it.
The Verdict: 8.0/10