By: Ed Brubaker (writer), Butch Guice (pencils), Brian Thies (inks), Bettie Breitweiser (colors), and Joe Caramagna (letters)

The Story: Bucky and Hawkeye close in on Black Widow as they discover that she and Novokov have started building weapons.

The Review: Man, this is one amazing looking book.  It’s easily among the very best looking of Marvel’s line-up.  Honestly, were it not for David Aja drawing Hawkeye, I might say that Winter Soldier is the best looking Marvel book, period.  Guice’s artwork is brilliant: both detailed and murky.  The guy is borne to draw an espionage comic like this, full of conspiratorial shadows and a constant sense of claustrophic paranoia.  His layouts this month are particularly outstanding:  Guice has a lot of fun in depicting the narrative and the action and how to lead the reader’s eye across the page.  He experiments with different ways of illustrating action sequences and the result is a fun, dynamic book.  I also cannot overstate just how good Bettie Breitweiser’s colors are: her unique shifts in color do a great job in playing off of Guice’s creative layouts, leading to an engaging, creative book dripping with atmosphere.

As far as Brubaker’s script goes, I really liked the “buddy cop” dynamic he’s got going between Bucky and Hawkeye.  The two bounce off of each other wonderfully and have a lot of chemistry.  The result is that this comic sort of had a Lethal Weapon vibe going on: two brash heroes, both with senses of humour, but one more carefree than the other.  The back and forth and oneupmanship between the two keeps the issue clicking away and makes it a breezy read for something that is otherwise pretty solemn.

Brubaker also continues to do a great job with Leo Novokov as well.  Without every doing anything utterly wacky or extraordinary, Novokov manages to be one creepy and generally frightening guy.  The guy just oozes menace and malevolence and, in that sense, he’s everything you want out of a villain.  I particularly like how understated his insanity is.  He’s clearly nuts and living in a Cold War that died years ago, and yet he’s hardly a frothing, over-the-top lunatic.  That’s really part of the menace: his madness isn’t constantly exploding.  Instead, it seethes.  Without screaming and yelling and giggling like a maniac, the man simply oozes a quiet sort of madness that makes him all the more threatening.

I also really liked the cliffhanger in the issue.  It was really clever and leaves Bucky in an unbelievably twisted situation.  “Twisted” is really the only word I can think of it.  It’s a devilish move by Brubaker and I can’t wait to see where he goes with it.

Conclusion: As is the usually the case with Winter Soldier, it’s really not a question of what’s good and what’s bad, but more one of simply “how good?”  While it may not be the loudest book in Marvel’s line-up, it’s been nothing less than solid for 11 issues now and once again, I find myself with nothing to really complain about.

Grade: B+

– Alex Evans