By Ed Brubaker & Marc Andreyko (writers), Chris Samnee (artist), Bettie Breitweiser (color artist), VC’s Joe Caramagna (letters)

The Story: Back in Word War II, Bucky tries hard to fit in as the only non-super powered member of the Invaders.

What’s Good: Remember all that irritated bellyaching I did about Bucky back when he was in charge of The Shield? While I still don’t love him as Cap, and while I still find that particular storyline not to my liking, I hearby take back everything bad I ever said about him as a character. THIS is a Bucky I care for, and want to learn more about! The brilliant convention in this arc is not simply telling a WW II flashback story, but in having Bucky tell us the story with the benefit of his older and more mature hindsight. This gives us the benefit of a good WW II story and learning a bit more about Bucky’s past and his relationship with Cap while still advancing his current character arc and giving us a direct idea of what meaning this story has for him now. The writing in general is just fantastic, as a matter of fact–THIS is the Brubaker I know and love. I particularly love Namor’s role as the cuttingly sarcastic voice of (quite reasonable, really) skepticism regarding Bucky’s place on a team of super heroes.

I’m really enjoying the artwork in this series as well. The gritty, sketchy look of Andreyko’s pencils and Breitweiser’s muted colors, combined with the very classic-1940s poses many of the characters strike at crucial moments, has the potential to be extremely jarring or annoying; fortunately it is handled very deftly by the art team and ends up providing a neat balance of WW II realism with the classic look of the actual comics from that era. It’s a trick I wouldn’t have expected to work, but Andreyko and Breitweiser pull it off to excellent effect here.

What’s Not So Good: Quite honestly, anything I could find to complain about at this point would feel like needless nitpicking. The story is excellent, the art is very fitting and well done, and the book is actually making me want to learn more about Bucky Barnes (and Namor for that matter.) I could complain about the lack of actual Cap in this issue, but it didn’t harm the story in any way, and I didn’t even feel his absence until after the fact. The whole thing is just well executed and a lot of fun.

Conclusion: If you’re a Cap fan, you’re going to want to be picking up this series until further notice. I know I will be. (If I had to choose, in fact, I’d keep this over Captain America in a heartbeat, and that’s saying a lot for me.)

Grade: B+