"Winter Soldier" #2 by Ed Brubaker and Butch Guice is a wonderful noir espionage mix with a breakneck pace. It's a story playing to both Brubaker and Guice's strengths as writer and artist and the result is an exciting new book for Marvel.
Brubaker is at his best in this issue with effortlessly cool dark and dirty spy capers. James and Natasha fit the roles of espionage agents perfectly and Brubaker has a great handle on both their voices. The premise for the book plays to both Brubaker's and his characters' strengths and the concept is firing on all cylinders. The issue is mostly plot but because Brubaker built James and Natasha's relationship so well in issue #1, it all works. The Winter Soldier and Black Widow make a great team and the writer does a particularly good job of allowing both to shine in different moments. Attention to small details -- like having Natasha take off her heels in order to engage in battle -- is a credit to both Brubaker and Guice's skill.
The art by Guice is a great tonal fit for Brubaker's dark story but isn't quite as tight as in the first issue. As a result, the storytelling is a little muddy and unclear. Guice's art and the coloring by Bettie Breitweiser are both appropriately dark and moody, but occasionally goes too far and becomes a challenge to understand. While the figure work is wonderful and the action breathtaking, sometimes the clarity gets lost amongst the unnecessarily irregular panel layouts. The first issue's more traditional layouts are superior from a storytelling perspective. Hopefully, it will return in future installments.
"Winter Soldier" #2 is packed with a bracing plot, great character development and moody appropriate visuals, making for a great read. The second issue doesn't quite match the bar set by the first but is still a good book poised to be a great series.