Saturday, 26 April 2014

Winter Soldier: Black Widow Hunt (#10-14)

Writers: Ed Brubaker and Butch Guice

Cover artists: Steve Epting (#10-13) and Dañiel Acuna (#14)
Collected in:
  • Winter Soldier: Black Widow Hunt (Marvel Comics, Apr 2nd 2013)
  • Winter Soldier by Ed Brubaker: The Complete Collection (Marvel Comics, Sep 23rd 2014)
  • The entire series is available on Marvel Unlimited and Comixology.

-        This arc carries directly on from the previous, and marks the end to Brubaker and Guice's tenure on the title - and for Brubaker, his time at Marvel - having been with the company since the 2004 Captain America relaunch, and worked on such titles as Daredevil and Immortal Iron Fist. In a CBR interview, he said that "sales weren't as good as we'd hoped they'd be," and planned out the end of the series accordingly. After a sales peak and the film of The Winter Soldier was announced, Brubaker had already found work on other projects (including the spy series Velvet with Captain America partner Steve Epting), and decided "[I] felt like I needed to let it go."


Continuity Notes

-        This issue picks up two hours after Broken Arrow. We see a flashback to the events which preceded the end of last issue, with the Black Widow lashing out to her revised programming when under examination by S.H.I.E.L.D. The logic is supposedly that 'we need to see a body' for the death of a character with a history to be 'official.' Well, here we see Sitwell in the S.H.I.E.L.D. morgue.

-        Bucky says that Rodchenko defected "a few years before the collapse" (of the Soviet Union,) which would have been in the early 90s. In light of Sitwell's statement in #7, Rodchenko would therefore have defected in the late 80s, around 1988.

-        Black Widow's outlash last issue has developed her into a "deeper level" of programming", past the "ballerina, the seductress [...] still married to the Red Guaridan." As Rodchenko explains:
"[It] was about you, Winter Soldier. [...] Most of her memories of you, the parts about your relationship... ...they have been erased... [...] She thinks she's been a double agent all this time. Everything she's done with S.H.I.E.L.D., with the Avengers...that it was all a mission..."
-        Captain America covertly introduces Bucky back to two Avengers: Hawkeye and Wolverine. Hawkeye jokes: "This doesn't mean I still owe you from the last poker game?" Wolverine already held his suspicions: "[I] knew yer coffin smelled like an L.M.D...." This is the first time Cap has met Bucky since Fear Itself #7.1, where he speaks with Fury, Black Widow and him on the day of Bucky's own memorial service.

-        Cap muses in Captain America #6:
"I feel bad lying to Hawkeye... ...but Bucky wants the world thinking he's dead. So it's not my decision."
-        He tells Hawkeye that Natasha is "on leave," meaning this story occurs within months of that arc (Powerless). Indeed, this quote suggests the entire series occurs within a brief space of time: which it indeed does, between December 2011 and February 2012: during which the Black Widow can only operate in a limited capacity.

-        Maria Hill says that the Black Widow will be seen as a "rogue agent": "the White House isn't going to make that distinction... not right before an election." Barack Obama was of course re-elected in 2012; voting began in September. The 2008 election formed a major part of the third part of Brubaker's Death of Captain America, The Man Who Bought America.

-        Whilst working out, Bucky recalls a scene of him and Natasha in central Paris during his tenure as Captain America. "One afternoon off in a whole month, and we get this [torrential rain]?", he says to Natasha.


Continuity Notes

-        The crew Black Widow is pursuing at the beginning of this story "attempted to break into the Baxter Building two nights ago." "Emphasis on attempted, I'm guessing," replies Hawkeye. Bucky theorises that "it went bad on purpose." One of their targets is Marvin Martin ("tried to call himself Marvelous Marv for a while, but it didn't stick," adds Maria), a "genius dwarf" who allied himself with the Tinkerer, first glimpsed briefly last issue.


Continuity Notes

-        This issue takes place over eighteen hours, flashing back  to Bucky maintaining that he needs a "assassination mission" memory implant in order to retrieve Natasha. "We're playing by his rules." Like with Natasha, both he and Rodchenko are returned to their "old Soviet programming."

-        After he shoots Wolverine, Bucky says of his time in the Avengers: "There we's like the good old days all over again... Wolverine bleeding out at my feet..."
-        Bucky pursues Daredevil.
DAREDEVIL: "You're supposed to be dead..." 
WINTER SOLDIER: "Yeah... I am... ...and so are you."
With this revelation, we are left with 6 heroes aware of Bucky's continued existence. At the beginning of the series, we started out with four: Natasha, Steve, Fury and Sitwell. Since Sitwell was shot fatally in #9, we are left with Natasha, Steve, Fury, and now Hawkeye, Wolverine and Daredevil. Given that Doom was seen through the façade of a Doombot in the first arc, it's questionable whether Doctor Doom is aware of him. (Obviously, Novokov and his allies are aware.)


Continuity Notes

-        Wolverine is surprised to learn that "Daredevil moved outta Hell's Kitchen?" Wolverine was briefly associated with Daredevil, when he aligned himself with the New Avengers following Fear Itself. Daredevil has lived in various areas following Shadowland: Mexico in Reborn; central New York in Mark Waid's first run on the title, and most recently San Francisco in his second run.

-        Essentially, we get the 'ex-boyfriends of Natasha' vs. the Winter Soldier - both Daredevil and Hawkeye (and Wolverine) engage in combat with him; the only one missing is the Red Guardian. Daredevil says "I don't know you, Barnes... ...but Natasha loves you, so I have to believe there's a good man in there somewhere."

-        In response to Daredevil's questioning over the fact Bucky is mysteriously still alive, Cap says "Matt Murdock isn't supposed to be Daredevil..." Presumably, this is a reference to the fact Daredevil has denied he is Matt Murdock for the past few years, since Civil War, despite all evidence to the contrary: something Mark Waid ridicules in his run on the title, before he is forced to finally 'come out' in #36 (2014.) Daredevil asks "is this why Natasha's been missing?", echoing Hawkeye's question in Captain America #6. Cap responds "I'm afraid that's classified, too."


Continuity Notes

-        This issue opens shortly at some point after last issue, with Bucky in pursuit of Novokov. The information they retrieve from Marvin is "the most we've had to go on in days."

-        Bucky recalls moments of training with the Black Widow, and their more recent relationship. "Her voice cuts right through me... Like I haven't heard it in years."

-        He fights Natasha in Arlington National Cemetery: the site of his (or, as Wolverine perhaps jokingly hinted at, an LMD's) burial.

-        In the issue's epilogue, S.H.I.E.L.D. "work on her [Natasha] for days," and most of her memories are restored: "Everything except me. That's the only strand of her memory that's been permanently severed." Maria Hill says "we're not giving up yet," but Bucky refuses further treatment.
"She's had her head messed up with enough for ten lifetimes already. I won't let it happen again on my account. All I've ever brought her is trouble... Nearly got her killed at the Red Room when we first me... She's better off without me."

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