Set deep in the Cold War, "Winter Solider: The Bitter March" #3 features Ran Shen, one-time S.H.I.E.L.D. agent and future S.H.I.E.L.D. nemesis, trying to secure a pair of scientists before either Hydra or Russia can claim them. Rick Remender complicates matters by putting Shen up against Shocky Dan and the Drain from Hydra and the Winter Soldier representing the interests of the U.S.S.R. on a speeding train, loaded with explosives.
The grit and rawness of Roland Boschi's artwork is successful here given the time period, the crux of the plot and the setting, but once upon a time, the seemingly incomplete nature of the artwork in this issue would have caused me to stop reading. I'm not sure if that's a sign of my personal maturity or Rick Remender's appeal as a writer. In typical Remender fashion, he raises the stakes and brings them crashing down. Boschi has a limited cast to work with here: a pair of Hydra specialists, Ran Shen, Winter Soldier, two scientists, a random couple caught in the act of bumping uglies and a score of Hydra troops. Captain America makes a pair of appearances in flashback, but Boschi's art really finds its mark as Winter Soldier pursues Shen through the train.
The speeding train is less of an impact on the story and more of an afterthought, but by the end of the issue it truly comes into play. Over the course of "Winter Soldier: The Bitter March" #3, the struggle to "claim" Peter and Mila Hitzig -- one a German sympathizer, the other the real brains of the pair – sprawls throughout the train, disrupting other passengers and claiming the lives of at least two of the combatants. Remender's story is exciting and cinematic, with just enough action swirling around the characters to keep every panel hopping one to the next.
The Winter Soldier is the most recognizable character in this story, but it truly isn't his story despite the character's name taking top billing on the cover. This is Agent Shen's show and the S.H.I.E.L.D. agent provides some entertainment while coaxing readers to the edges of their seats. Remender brings the pulse and scope of a story that could easily be integrated into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. "Winter Soldier: The Bitter March" #3 is a fine transitional issue that should be finding its way to more readers hands as moviegoers the world over continue to familiarize themselves with James Barnes and his questionable past.