Review: Winter Solider (2018-2019) #4

Previously- Winter Soldier #3|Coming soon- Winter Soldier #5

This limited run of Winter Soldier (2018-2019) is 5 issues and was written by Kyle Higgins, with art by Rod Reis, and letters by VC’s Clayton Cowles. 

What do you need to know?

Just when Bucky thinks he’s gotten through to RJ, the ex-HYDRA kid assassin, there’s a new player on the block. With his dad back RJ

What do you need to have read?

You know the drill, it’s a short enough series to get started at #1. If you feel the need for more background then Captain America and Bucky: The Life Story of Bucky Barnes does a pretty good job at covering Bucky’s story, from WWII right the way through to the Winter Soldier. If you like Bucky then you ought to read with Captain America: Winter Soldier, vol. 1 and vol. 2, just because they’re amazingAs I’ve said before, this is a new story so these completely optional and you should be fine to jump into this series. 

Cover for #4. Close up of Bucky with a gun in his hand. Image of RJ in the gun's scope

Before anything else I feel like we have to talk about this cover. On its own it’s pretty nice, showing Bucky with RJ in the sight of his pistol. If I haven’t mentioned it already, I love Rob Reis’ depiction of Bucky, and will come back to that in a little bit What makes this cover spectacular is when you hold it up against the cover of #2. I love seeing the parallels between Bucky and RJ visually represented live this, particularly with their roles reversed. As RJ bears so many similarities to Bucky, it doesn’t just represent the two of them, but he’s also a reflection of Bucky’s own youth. I would love to have both covers side by side on my wall, that’s how much I love them. 

Since we’re already on the subject of art there was one more panel that I wanted to bring up. Towards the end of the issue there’s a bit of an unfortunate incident, with a whole page of close-up panels like this one, all tinted with red. Then we get this one of Bucky. 

Close up of Bucky's face. His eyes betray his utter devastation about what he had done.

I want to draw your attention to the level of detail in the panel. Reis maintains his artistic style, we’re not looking at a super realistic drawing, but there’s so much emotional depth in those eyes, that as a reader you have to pause for a moment. It’s a small, but gorgeous panel. There’s no dialogue on this page but those eyes tell you everything you need to know. Bucky’s life has changed, he has changed, and he knows that there’s no undoing what’s happened. It’s as though he’s thinking of his past, how this is something that has happened a lot to him, but also of his future, and of RJ’s future. This panel alone makes me want more of Reis, particularly if he can keep giving me Bucky like this. 

The book continues to develop some of its central themes, one of which is family. The snapshots of RJ’s childhood are impossible not to compare to Bucky’s in Captain America and Bucky #620. Bucky’s mother dies when he was just a kid, so he raised his sister as his dad, who was in the army, was working. I know this doesn’t sound like an idyllic childhood, especially as there’s more tragedy to come, but that issue does show you the good times. By the looks of things, he has, or had, plenty of good memories of his family, not something RJ can relate to. The book also draws parallels between all of RJ’s father figures, in this issue its most notable between his real father and Mr. Colt, the HYDRA handler from #2. 

Two panels showing RJ and his father eating at a diner. Their conversation betrays the fact that they are strangers to one another .

As with all Bucky stories, identity is also a big theme and it’s interesting to see how RJ is handling it. He’s obviously changed, and he’s very aware of the fact that his father doesn’t know who he is. RJ doesn’t know who he is, what kid does, even without all the HYDRA manipulation, so it really feels as though he is struggling to find his place in the world, without HYDRA. This is also something Bucky struggles with after Captain America: The Winter Soldier, vol.2 as he finds it difficult to marry his past with his future, along with his fractured memories. This moment in the diner between RJ and his father really consolidated the idea that you can’t go back to the person you were, all you can do is keep moving forward.

Bucky, looking very Winter Solider, intimidating RJ's dad.

My favourite thing about this issue was that we got to say goodbye to Dalmatian Man, and hello to a really human story of change, and how it doesn’t always go the way you think, of hope it will. This humanity is what gives the story a strong emotional crux that leads to a killer conclusion, and maybe my favourite issue so far

Winter Soldier #4 is available from Comixology or your local comic book store. Alternatively, it’s also available as a trade paperback, Winter Soldier: Second Chances from Comixology, Amazon, or your local comic book store. 

Coming Soon… Winter Soldier (2018-2019) #5

In the meantime, why not check out… Winter Soldier #1, Winter Soldier #2 and Winter Soldier #3.

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