REVIEW: “Winter Guard,” Issue #4

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Winter Guard #4 - But Why Tho

Winter Guard #4 is published by Marvel Comics. Written by Ryan Cady with art by Jan Bazaldua. The colorist is Federico Blee and the letterer is Ariana Maher. The Winter Guard has been hunting one of their own, the original Red Guardian. He has been tracking data drives containing highly sensitive files. With the help of the White Widow, aka Yelena Belova, Red Guardian has traveled across Russia in search of what he needs. Crimson Dynamo’s armor is sabotaged from within, suggesting a traitor inside the Winter Guard. The conflict led the team to Chernobyl, where Dracula and the vampire nation had been gifted. He holds the data drive. Red Guardian’s true vision for Russia repulsed White Widow, so he left her in the captivity of the Winter Guard. 

In this final issue, the Guard interrogates Belova. The last stages of Alexei’s plan are being prepared and they need to find out what. But one of the members makes an admission that will tear the team to pieces The group is torn apart, all searching for answers in different places. Lines are crossed and decisions are made that show just how broken the team is.

The final issue has a lot to wrap up and mostly succeeds in doing so. The teams split into three again, dealing with the three major plot threads that the book has been balancing. The structure in how this is executed works well, as the intensity is incredible in all three areas But for the first time the heavy metal aspect of the book is at risk within Winter Guard #4. The group’s distrust of each other has caused it to be fragile and now it faces not existing at all. There are powerful moments of vulnerability, especially within the most powerful and darkest members of the team. 

Perhaps the most compelling storyline within the miniseries may not have the conclusion readers are waiting for. Not every question is answered by Cady and there are loose ends aplenty. When the Guard rejoin the main Avengers book, hopefully, they bring those stories with them. The final scene adds a character cameo that was both fitting and unexpected at the same time.

When they were first brought together at the beginning of Jason Aaron’s Avengers, it was a collection of chaotic gods, hardcore assassins, and mutant bears. A group of badasses to match the powerhouses gathering in America. What this series has done has given the Winter Guard weaknesses and thus strength in character. Those in the comic that has not been given much attention in the previous three issues result in being crucial to the plot. Chernobog’s obsession with Darkstar is explained and he reveals some light inside the pure darkness that he is made from. And Perun, the God of the Storm, has some very poignant moments. He’s very old and perhaps more protective over the Russian people than any other members of the Guard. Cady’s scripting of the dialogue in this issue shows some fantastic understanding of these characters that were initially invented to just be cool.

The art is awesome inside Winter Guard #4. The action element of the comic has always been captured perfectly by Bazaldua. The fight scenes are brilliantly choreographed by the artist. The scale of the different characters, alongside the general variation in design, makes each battle visually mind-blowing. Perhaps the favorite for this reviewer is Ursa Major. Sure there are Gods and superheroes with intricate costumes and weapons. But there is something about the simplicity of a gigantic bear that will always leave you with a smile. The power that he has is evident, as is his ferocity.

There is one page in this comic that lets the whole comic down. There is an attempt to tell two of the stories in separate locations at the same time. To do that, each panel alternates between the areas. But the layout of the panels is very messy and results in confusion. With these intricate borders and lack of real definition between the scenes, the poignant and meaningful dialogue inside is lost by a poor design choice.

The colors are stunning and pivotal to the storytelling. The line art is very detailed, but Blee also provides much of the textures and specifics to the panels. When many of the characters have costumes consisting of one main color (White Widow, Red Widow, Crimson Dynamo, Chernobog, Ursa Major), the colorist superbly uses shading to denote muscle tone and lighting. The brilliance of the bright lights from Perun and Darkstar’s abilities are gorgeous and stand out in gloomy settings.

The lettering is also very nice. What should be commended is that Maher does not use custom fonts or word balloons too much. One character has them, but another letterer may have added one to nearly all of the team members. But it ensures that the text is very easy to read.

Winter Guard #4 brings an excellent series to a close. The adventures and inner turmoil within one of the most underused and yet most intriguing teams Marvel has to offer have been a delight to read. Fun, ridiculous, and action-packed, it has also been an investing story of mistrust and mystery. The artist has detailed some awesome battles, featuring characters that readers will love. Hopefully, Aaron takes the important plot conclusions from this comic and uses them to enrich his Avengers series.

Winter Guard #4 is available where comics are sold.


Winter Guard #4
3.5

TL;DR

Winter Guard #4 brings an excellent series to a close. The adventures and inner turmoil within one of the most underused and yet most intriguing teams Marvel has to offer have been a delight to read. Fun, ridiculous, and action-packed, it has also been an investing story of mistrust and mystery. The artist has detailed some awesome battles, featuring characters that readers will love. Hopefully, Aaron takes the important plot conclusions from this comic and uses them to enrich his Avengers series.