And So It Ends...With A Kiss
Issue 19 brings us the final chapter of Jason Latour and Nic Klein's Winter Soldier. The two were tasked with filling the big shoes of Ed Brubaker and the artistic talents of Steve Epting, Michael Lark and Butch Guice. Many Winter Soldier readers felt the book should have been cancelled with Brubaker's departure from Marvel's offices as he was the chief shepherd of the character. Thankfully, Marvel had the faith to give the book one last hurrah, and what a send off it has been.
Prior to this arc, I had only read a few scattered appearances of the revived James "Bucky" Barnes. At the end of the day, I was more taken with the idea of the character rather than the character himself. This story was the first one starring the character that I read from beginning to end, and that's in no small part due to the skill and care which Latour and Klein approached the project.
In this issue, we're presented with Bucky's final showdown against brand new character Tesla Tarasova, a woman raised under the same harsh methodology that produced the Black Widow. She finally reveals her plan of using the cosmic energies of the Tesla Tesseract (a super-Cosmic Cube) to traverse through time and excise every individual who made her the terrorist she came to be, offering Bucky the opportunity to be romantically reunited with the Widow.
What we get in this issue, and really this arc, is a story about identity, accepting who you are with your faults and mistakes and becoming a better, stronger person able to mold a brighter tomorrow. It's rare that I finish a "superhero" comic and dwell on the themes the creators are expressing, the questions they ask. This is mature storytelling without being gratuitous or vulgar. I'm not going to hail this the best comic ever or even of the year, but Winter Soldier by Latour and Klein has been an extremely well-crafted book from front to back.
Latour as mentioned above does a good job of making this more than the typical action-packed blockbuster that we've come to associate readily with superhero comics. Latour took a road not frequently traveled with parallel stories of self-acceptance for not just our lead Bucky but also Tesla and former SHIELD agent Joe Robards, how saving the world was only a matter of letting go of the pain of the past. It's a very personal and character-driven affair amidst a cosmic superhero setting.
Klein cannot be praised enough. He is a massive talent although it may not be so readily apparent looking at his pencils here which use a very simplified style. That said his page and panel composition is consistently strong, his storytelling always clear. I loved that he gave the opening page that old-school flair going so far as to ape Kirby's style. The coloring is sublime throughout. If he ever became a full-time colorist I would have zero complaints. The guy's just that good.
Kudos should also go to Joe Caramanga for his lettering. It's an often-overlooked component to the comic book, but it always stands out especially in the opening sequences just what he brings to the book. In addition, Shalvey and Bellaire give us an awesome cover. Latour, an artist himself, also turns in a great variant.
Winter Soldier has consistently demonstrated itself to be a quality book, first under the hand of Brubaker and up through Latour and Klein. If you've been reading the book thus far, this issue is an easy recommendation. If you've never read it before at least give this final arc a look.