When Bucky Barnes finally returned to the world it was many years after the war, so many in fact that there are decades of adventures and missions left unaccounted for. After reappearing, there were things alluded to and things mentioned, but whenever we see the man, it is in the present. With The Bitter March, Rick Remender looks to undo a little bit of that mystery with a story of the Winter Soldier, Hydra, S.H.I.E.L.D. and Nazi scientists. It also has the needed danger, adventure, suspense, thrills and witty banter needed to bring a spy story from the Cold War of the 1960s to life. And just for added measure, Nick Fury makes an appearance or two which is always a good thing in any book.
The story finds Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Ran Shen trying to acquire and remove two Nazi scientists from Hydra’s grasp. It will require a little suave, sophistication and the wooing of a beautiful Hydra agent to do so, but Shen is up to the task. All is going as well as can be expected until the Winter Soldier busts in and tries to kidnap the very same scientists. Shen of course, cannot let that happen. For the remainder of the book, it is a cat and mouse game, a battle of wits between all of the interested parties and when some unexpected things rear their heads, the book gets a lot more intriguing for the parties involved and the reader.
When the second Captain America movie was released to critical acclaim and box office gold, most assumed Marvel would launch Bucky right into another ongoing series. Yet that would not be the case and instead a miniseries taking place in the Winter Soldier’s past was instead presented to us. It was a good choice in the end as it presented a complete adventure featuring some solid writing by Remender and gave new and long-time fans a glimpse into a time that has not been well represented up until this point.
Rick Remender, prolific author that he is, does a fantastic job on everything he comes into contact with and it is no exception here. With these specific characters, Remender fleshes them out as if we have known them for years, especially new S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, Ran Shen. Shen is an old school spy, written as if James Bond was in mind, with Sean Connery’s charisma and Roger Moore’s tenacity ripped from the screen. And as an added bonus, we get S.H.I.E.L.D. filling the role of Q with all of the gadgets. What makes for an interesting turn of events is that the book does not even feature the Winter Soldier in the role of the protagonist, instead being filled by Shen. From a story standpoint it makes more sense as at this point in history, Bucky was a nearly mindless drone, simply programmed to go on missions with no other thoughts in mind. Having the Winter Soldier as a supporting character is a genius move and makes the book work perfectly because of it.
Another positive to the book is that it did not overstay its welcome, though another adventure from the same creative team would obviously be welcome. The series flowed nicely with a quick pace and it never seemed to drag or be boring and coming from Remender, this was quite the different experience. For a man who usually writes long and intricate epics, this was a great change of measure for the man. It was nice to see that he is versatile and able to deliver a short, compact and explosive spy thriller. The book also happened to feature some fantastic artwork courtesy of Roland Boschi and the loose-flowing nature of his pencils really helped to convey that sense of urgency and paranoia so prevalent in spy thrillers of this sort. When all is said and done, the complete package this book represents is a total win for everyone involved including and most especially, the reader.
4.5 out of 5