With the arrival of The Avengers to the big screen Marvel changed the comic book movie game. Now they have to follow up their billion dollar franchise with more solo films to set up for the next great Avengers adventure. This means that Marvel has to raise the stakes for every member of its super hero team. In Iron Man 3 we saw Tony lose everything to finally find himself. Thor: The Dark World expanded the Marvel universe once again but brought Thor to earth for a more permanent residence and setup the idea of the Infinity Stones (Marvel’s most powerful artifacts). This leaves us with the star spangled hero himself Captain America.
Captain America: The Winter Soldier promises to change the Marvel Cinematic Universe as we know it. Captain America 2 is not only poised to change the status quo but is being revered as one of Marvel’s best movies to date. This comes as no surprise to us comic fans as Captain America: The Winter Soldier is based on one of the greatest Marvel comics of all time. Ed Brubakers’s Captain America run is, in this writer’s opinion, the definitive Captain America story. Spanning over 60 issues, Brubaker’s time on Captain America is unforgettable and irreplaceable. Brubaker turned a sometimes silly, overly moral Boy Scout dressed in an American Flag into a complete and utter bad ass lost within our modern society.
Brubaker’s long run on Captain America gave life to some of the character’s most memorable stories but none is more impactful or life changing for Steve Rogers and the comic book audience than The Winter Soldier (issues #1-9 & #11-14). This arch brings back a character that had long been written off in the pages of Marvel, the minds of fans, and Captain America himself. Bucky Barnes died in the pages of Captain America and after almost 40 years was brought back by the majesty of Ed Brubaker’s spy noir take on the superhero genre.
The Winter Soldier story line follows Captain America’s struggle to face his past and live in the present. Steve Rogers is a man out of time, always living in two worlds and trying to find the ground in-between. Always a soldier, Steve had very little to begin with but when everything is taken from him either by war and time, even a glimmer of something he once cared about is enough to break the strongest of warriors. Captain America must face his past in the worst ways possible and somehow save it from repeating itself.
This story is such a masterpiece and the corresponding movie looks to be well on the same track. I don’t want to give away too much of the plot. All you need to know is Captain America and SHIELD are in a race against time to stop a deadly assassin and his master’s plot to once again rise to power. That sounds like a very cliche description, but trust me this book does it right in every way. If you are in any way, shape, or form a fan of Captain America, spies, government conspiracy, uber-villains, sci-fi, or gritty action this is the Captain America story for you.
Brubaker’s story will captivate and intrigue you but its Steve Epting’s art that will be engraved into your memory forever. Epting brings the world of Captain America a gritty realism it so desperately needs. The dim lighting and dark coloring only further reinforce that this isn’t your Dad’s Captain America anymore. Epting brings Captain America into the modern age with a darker more realistic look to his world. In fact, this world is so devoid of color that the only brightness is from Captain America’s costume. An intentional move by the artist to show that in this changing world Captain America still stands-out as a beacon for good; a true hero among spies, thieves, and liars. The art is truly something to behold and really set’s this series apart from past and present Captain America story lines. Epting wants you to live in this world and with his pencils it’s possible.
I love this book for a multitude of reasons but the primary reason is probably because this story is a history lesson on Captain America. So much of his past is ingrained in this story. Anyone reading will get the full gambit of the Captain America mythos and why this character has become a household name and leader of his own movie franchise. The second reason has got to be The Winter Soldier himself. Such a ruthless and cool villain with an origin to match, The Winter Soldier would be a nightmare for any hero. He is so calculated, cold, and mysterious, a perfect bad guy for the modern blockbuster. I have no doubt that movie goers will walk out of Captain America 2 wanting more of The Winter Soldier.
Although Captain America 2 is loosely based off Brubaker’s story I think it’s more of a spiritual influence than a literal one. All the key players are there and the tone seems to be spot on but Captain America 2 looks to be pulling only the best elements from Brubaker’s Winter Soldier. It appears to be playing with the ideas of the book rather than following it panel for panel. Although I don’t think we will ever get the literal adaptation of any comic book that most fan-boys think they want, I actually prefer this method of adaptation. This way we get multiple versions of great stories, full of the same elements but each offering a unique perspective on the world. Here is hoping Marvel decides to adapt more movies based off famous story lines. Avenger 3: Infinity Gauntlet anyone?