Written by Ed Brubaker
Art by Luke Ross
Wow, I can't believe how much I enjoyed this issue. While the Bucky and Black Widow relationship rings false to me, everything else was spot on. Hell, I actually like Batroc the Leaper now. I didn't think that was even possible.
As I had hoped, there was some nice meshing of flashbacks to WWII intermingled with the present day story. These are excellent additions to the story and I loved Brubaker's use of them in the earlier parts of the series, as well as over in his Immortal Iron Fist run. The way he weaves them into the tapestry of each character's history is seamless and, as I read them, it feels like these new additions / retcons are fact and happened and he is merely retelling them when it couldn't be further from the truth. To me, that's a sign of flawless writing and I look forward to seeing more of these in the future.
As I mentioned, this issue also saw Bucky and Black Widow in an overly playful relationship that rang hollow to me. I just don't see Black Widow prancing around the apartment in nothing but a blanket and dotting over Bucky in this manner. Especially when you consider how little interaction, of which we've seen Bucky fighting her over Cap's shield more than actually conversing with her. I'm not opposed to these two characters getting together, but it feels like we've skipped a few steps along the way.
After the extended scene with Black Widow, Bucky goes out to clear his head and picks up a report of a break-in at a United Nations Research Facility. Here, we are introduced to Batroc the Leaper, who Luke Ross somehow managed to look awesome, despite Batroc's orange and purple "costume", if that gaudy thing is what passes for a costume these days.
The entire fight between Bucky and Batroc just goes to show that there are no bad characters, only bad writers. I can't believe I'm saying this, but I'm looking forward to seeing more of Batroc the Leaper and the writing here actually made me believe that he's a credible threat to Captain America.
While there is no clear winner between the two combatants, Batroc and his goons manage to escape with whatever information they stole and we see him delivering it to a Chinese (I think it's supposed to be Japanese to go with the WWII flashback, but Batroc says he doesn't understand Chinese when the mystery man starts speaking another language) man, who, at first, seems disinterested in the Captain America fight until he sees an image of Bucky, sans costume, and realizes it is the Winter Soldier. At this, he states his boss will be most pleased with the new information and we're still left wondering if this will be a new villain or someone from the past we should know.
Verdict - Must Read. While most Captain America issues come away with a Must Read verdict, I think I enjoyed this issue more than any other in recent months, just on the strength of the Batroc portrayal and the fact Brubaker did an excellent job setting up this new storyarc.