REVIEW: ‘Winter Guard,’ Issue #2

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Winter Guard #2 - But Why Tho

Winter Guard #2 is published by Marvel Comics. Written by Ryan Cady, with art by Jan Bazaldua. The colour artist is Frederico Blee and the letters are by Ariana Maher.

The Winter Guard is on the hunt for two traitors, former Red Guardian, aka Alexei Shostakov, and Yelena Belova, the White Widow. The Guard track the other Russians down to an old base, outnumbering them and outgunning them. The White Widow and Red Guardian are at the base, stealing classified files regarding Operation Snowblind. They manage to escape due to Alexei sabotaging the Crimson Dynamo suit. They get away, and to make matters worse, there may be a traitor among the Guard. 

In this issue, the team is back on its mission of tracking down the traitors. There is a moment of reflection as Vanguard investigates the roster. Red Widow receives new orders. The Winter Guard must split in two. One team travels back to Mosco, looking for Yelena. Deep in the countryside. Darkstar and the two gods travel to the village where the red Guardian was born. But whilst they are there, the villagers may be in need of superheroes.

The book may have lost the two timelines, but the story continues to split into two. With the number of characters involved, this is a brilliant tactic by Cady. Something that is evident in this series is the variety of stories being told within this comic. There are pieces of a spy thriller laced within every page. But this is also a superb superhero tale as the writer acknowledges the wealth of opportunity. Both of the different settings that the team is taken two are fantastic, filled with intrigue and incredible action. The combat is heart-pumping, with so much tension that comes from more than just the violence. So far, the series has primarily taken place in the native country of the team. This is a great idea, as it allows Russia to be explored with the detail that it rarely is in comics. There is a final page reveal that is a huge surprise and will take the comic in a direction no one could have predicted. 

Winter Guard #2 absorbs the reader into this world by using fantastic characters. Crimson Dynamo and Vostok are out of action, but there is still a huge cast full of personalities. Cady plays with the dynamics within the team well, creating connections that have not been seen yet in the Avengers stories. And with the group splitting in half, it allows for more focused, poignant conversations. Darkstar is unnerved by the ever-present Chernobog, who seems determined to stalk her. Both of them are users of the Darkforce, but Lorna does not feel safe around the creature. Some of the team members, such as Ursa Major, are showing flickers of dissent and confusion. It should be noted that Major is in his human form for much of the issue, revealing his other persona.

Something that this series is accomplishing is making the reader question who the heroes are within this comic. Although the Winter Guard are in the title, they are assassins, monsters, and villains when battling the Avengers. They have these faceless masters with murky orders. Meanwhile, White Widow and Red Guardian may believe to be the good guys, but they are starting to disagree with their respective methods. The Guard itself question what their roles are in this comic. Part of what makes this team great is the incredibly varied characters with a broad spectrum of ideologies and moral compasses. For some, they are protectors of the people of Russia. To others, they are purely there to bring a target in.

The art is superb. It is only Bazaldua on art this issue, but the artist excels on their own. There is a smoothness and cleanliness to their line art. Each character looks awesome, with some of the designs being awe-inspiring. The two gods, Perun and Chernobog, have an epic amount of detail. Within the action scenes, the artist portrays the unique movement of each fighter brilliantly. The agility of Red Widow is completely different to the static, brutish strength of Ursa Major. More of the characters’ abilities are explored in Winter Guard #2, including Perun’s specific powers regarding storms. White Widow utilities a new gadget in this issue that the artist creates a neat design for. It simultaneously has a distinct look and suggests a tribute to existing characters. There are some very clever techniques used to show where characters are traveling, using a map and the train.

The colours are stunning. It is fascinating to see just how many different shades of red Blee uses as there are so many characters that include it in their costume. But that is not the only colour seen within these pages. The whistle of Belova’s suit is pristine, whilst the yellow of Darkstar very much sets her apart from the rest of the Guard.

The lettering is very good. Two characters that had their own custom word balloons are not out of the picture. Therefore all that is left is a standard font, which is clear and easy to read.

Winter Guard #2 is an awesome continuation. The characters involved and the action may initially make it seem like this is a heavy metal comic book, with non-stop violence. There are many moments where that is the case. But that is not entirely the case. There is a very interesting mystery thread that runs through the backbone of the comic, and the actions of the White Widow seek to destabilise the team. The characters are fantastically written by Cary, each having an identity and voice. What started as an adversary to the Avengers in Jason Aaron’s run has now become a group full of depth, heart, and tension.

Winter Guard #2 is available where comics are sold.


5

TL;DR

Winter Guard #2 is an awesome continuation. The characters involved and the action may initially make it seem like this is a heavy metal comic book, with non-stop violence. There are many moments where that is the case. But that is not entirely the case. There is a very interesting mystery thread that runs through the backbone of the comic, and the actions of the White Widow seek to destabilise the team. The characters are fantastically written by Cary, each having an identity and voice. What started as an adversary to the Avengers in Jason Aaron’s run has now become a group full of depth, heart, and tension.