"Winter Soldier" #8 by Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark is a quiet issue where plot points advance and characters reflect on past, present and future actions. While the pace slows down just a tad but for an espionage tale, the metered rate is purposeful and effective. This is the relative calm before the storm where everyone gets into position for the final firefight.
There is plenty of action in this issue as the Winter Soldier searches for information on his missing girlfriend, the Black Widow. We get pages of Bucky Barnes tearing up the landscape and punching stoolies in the face, but those pages aren’t about the action. This entire sequence is actually about the barren planes behind the action. Barnes is hurting and he hopes pure force will get him the conclusion he wants. Action as character progression is always welcome.
The Widow aspect of the storyline has the audacity to apply both crazy science and grounded '70s pulp to make for a very satisfying cliffhanger. The simplicity of the action showcases minimum input for maximum output as the final page works on multiple levels. Brubaker doesn’t necessarily do anything revolutionary for this issue, but he crafts a decent plot.
Michael Lark continues to handle everything this comic needs. There are talking heads, round room discussions, action sequences and even a ballet performance. Every character gets the chance to shine as Lark, with the help of Brian Thies and Stefano Gaudiano, makes pages feel dynamic even when it’s just someone thinking. The colors from the Bettie and Mitch Breitweiser make the world of "Winter Soldier" seem cast through a grimy lens. Everyone brings their top game to the long shot moments of Barnes jumping from buildings.
"Winter Soldier" #8 is a continuation of Brubaker's slowly burning espionage fire. The overall story and the characters come first and the set pieces arrange later. There are bigger themes at stake and the audience is expected to hold on for the entire ride. Watching Barnes slowly twist and hurt is becoming a true spectator sport.