Sunday, 27 April 2014

Winter Soldier: The Electric Ghost (#15-19)

Writers: Jason Latour and Nic Klein

Cover artists: Declan Shalvey and Nic Klein (#15-16), Declan Shalvey and Chris Brunner (#17), Nic Klein (#18), Declan Shalvey (#19)
Variant covers by Nic Klein (#15), Mike Deodata (#16), Chris Brunner (#17), Dave Johnson (#18) and Jason Latour (#19)
Collected in:
  • Winter Soldier: The Electric Ghost (Marvel Comics, Aug 20th 2013)
  • The entire series is available on Marvel Unlimited and Comixology.
Sketch by Latour

Sketch by Shalvey
Sketch by Klein
Art by Klein

#15 "Skin to Shed"

      Continuity Notes

-        Since Black Widow Hunt, Bucky's hair has grown out.

-        Throughout the run, Bucky refers to his "summer protocols" - in contrast to Brubaker's run, presumably placing this within the summer.

-        Bucky recalls a moment from his Soviet history:
      "One afternoon in 1977 [the Croatian] Colonel Rajko led his forces against the fascist Soviet occupation. All told I killed nearly 50 of his men that day. Three of his brothers among them."At the beginning of this story, he has returned to Croatia to atone for these actions."I had to tell him. His men came at me before I could think."
-        Fury meets with Bucky, presumably for the first time since the last story. "This little crusade of yours, runnin' 'round confessin' your sins? It's got the new S.H.I.E.L.D. brass more than a little jumpy." Fury has been underground since the end of Battle Scars, where his son, Nick Fury Jr., found a place in S.H.I.E.L.D. (literally) in his father's name.

-        Bucky says that "by the time" he and Steve first met, "the army had taught me to speak six languages. And twice as many ways to kill a man with my hands. The kid he remembers never even existed. No one's ever been able to see that. No one but Natasha." He maintains that "I don't belong at S.H.I.E.L.D. without her."

-        Fury tasks Bucky to go after Joe Robards, a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent at "the top of Fury's list": a man who went undercover into Hydra "30 years" ago, "in 1982." "The sole tether to his old life was his handler [and lover], an agent named Gina Autry." Bucky recalls:
      "That same year I was tasked with the recovery of a defecting Soviet physcist-- Dr. Linus Tarasova. Agent [16,] Autry[,] was my opposite number. Tasked with Tarasova's extraction to the west. Gina Autry died on a snowy hill in Latveria. She died defending Dr. Tarasova from me."
-        We flashback to the previous night, "18 hours ago," where Robards finally breaks his cover after "over 30 years," shooting almost all of the customers at a Hydra-run casino.

      #16 "Closer Than Enemies"

      Continuity Notes

-        This and the following three issues feature flashbacks to Bucky's mission with Gita in 1982, which he referred to last issue. Here, Bucky is working for one Colonel Conrad Petrov ('Father Hammer') - a man who "scurried from the wreckage" after the fall, and created 'The Orphanage', a top secret Hydra-run organisation which trained children - "[stolen] from their beds in the night" - into professional killers.

-        Bucky visits Natasha's Paris safe house, where Robards has been laying low. He says that she "hasn't been here in months." Unless I'm mistaken, Natasha last visited Paris in the one-shot Fear Itself: The Black Widow. He says that Robards has been "A.W.O.L. for weeks" since his outburst at Hydra last issue.

      Pop Culture

-        Maria Hill refers to a "Steranko class satellite" which vanished two days ago. This is clearly an
      homage to Jim Steranko, the artist who revolutionised comic book art, and S.H.I.E.L.D. as an entity in itself, through his work on Strange Tales/Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., working as both writer and artist in an unusual move. Indeed, if not for Steranko, S.H.I.E.L.D. may not have remained as powerful a concept as it is today. Steranko's entire work on Nick Fury is available in a Complete Collection, released in 2013.

-        Fury jokes "Used to be a fella would at least offer a glass of toilet wine before a prison hug. I guess bromance really is dead."

      #17 "A Dark and Heavy Star"

      Continuity Notes

-        Fury mentions that "the Van Allen [radiation] belts" is the "same place that created the Fantastic damned Four," i.e., the spatial place inundated with cosmic rays. Per Wikipedia, it is "one of at least two layers of plasma that is held in place around the planet Earth by the planet's magnetic field." So far as I'm aware, the Fantastic Four's (particularly unscientific) origin has not been referred to in such scientific detail before.

-        The Electric Ghost (Tesla Tarasova) is reunited with Bucky for the first time since her mission in 1982.

      Pop Culture

-        Amidst MOPOD is a rather amusing analogue to Monopoly: 'Monopolize' (or, according to Fury, "drinkin' Scrabble"), a game emblazoned with the billionaire Iron Man's likeness.

      #18 "The Phantom Limb Technique"

      Continuity Notes

-        In this issue and the next, we see several flashbacks to the Electric Ghost's history in the 1980s. This issue is largely a summation of that history. Following the mission to extract her father, Tesla had been "taken into the custody of the KGB" and sent to The Orphanage (#16). We open here with Tesla writing in her journal: 12th July 1984. She says "My first years at The Orphanage were spent in isolation." A few years later, "at 11 years old, she is "finally inserted into the student body": the age at which she murdered her dying friend, Alphonse, in the jungle, upon command: "That was the day Tesla Tarasova died her secret death." Having returned to The Orphanage, she pondered scientific questions: ""If" is at the core of "life." What, then, is the value of "if"?" She tried to escape, perhaps on numerous occasions, "but I didn't make it very far or last very long."  Following graduation, she was sold to one Van Owen and became his "chisel," working in a high position training children. Warren Van Owen's role as recruiter saw him as a covert, black level S.H.I.E.L.D. agent "funneling" members of The Orphanage into S.H.I.E.L.D. - a fact Tesla only discovered after his death on his own computer. By the late 90s, Tesla went rogue, pursued by sleeper agents and murdering Van Owen. She became driven by the Winter Soldier's visit in 1982, unable to recall her "father's face." By the 2000s, "all I had was my father's work": an essay on cosmic rays - concepts she put to use in her own Electric Ghost technology. She is reunited with Father Hammer. He says:
      "Your mother died screaming as we ripped you from her womb. So too did your father as he tried to rip you from our arms. He died on my order. At the hand of my assassin, the Winter Soldier."
-        The Electric Ghost notes Bucky's costume redesign, seen since #15: "[You had] a widow of your own. And you wear this to mourn her? A black star?" Throughout Brubaker's run, the Winter Soldier of the modern era has been seen with a white star, encircled by blue and red - creating, in effect, the colours of the American flag and the shape of Cap's shield. In his current appearances in All-New Invaders, he still has the black star: although he has dropped the red circle and long hair.

      #19 "It Ends With a Kiss"

      Continuity Notes

-        Fittingly, this issue opens with a pop-art recreation of Bucky's 'death' from Avengers #4, descending from Zemo's plane into the Atlantic Ocean. He recalls words his father told him shortly before his death: "It's the soldier next to him he fights for." Bucky concludes: "Those words that have rung in my head my entire life. Even when I couldn't recall where they'd come from."

-        This issue occurs immediately following the last, with Tesla kissing Bucky.

-        She refers to the object she calls, which resembles a Cosmic Cube, as the 'Tarasova Tesseract.' Clearly, this is a reference to the MCU equivalent of the cosmic cube. She calls it "Such a brightly burning star--turned inward on itself" - not "power for the sake of power" like the Cosmic Cube.

-        Tesla physically takes Bucky through her history, seen in last issue, through the power of the Tarasova Tesseract.

-        Gina's file says she died 09/04/83, contrary to the year given in #15. Robards recalls: "I hadn't talked to Gina in months when she died. Not really. Not since the day I'd asked Fury to put me back undercover--"

-        We are given a somewhat optimistic ending: Bucky touches the Tarasova Tesseract, and is briefly transported back to his time with the Black Widow, represented by the blue, white and red symbol on his robotic arm, where, in accordance with the issue's title, they kiss.

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