Bucky Barnes fans, are you wondering how you’ll survive waiting another year and a half to see him make his on-screen return in Thunderbolts? Well, in the meantime, Mackenzi Lee’s The Winter Soldier: Cold Front is the perfect way to get your fix.
Cold Front tells two stories for the price of one — the harrowing adventures of a 16-year-old Bucky Barnes at the beginning of World War II in 1941 and the dangerous exploits of the Winter Soldier as he operates under the control of the Soviet Union in 1954.
To set the stage for my take on Lee’s story, I should make it clear that James Buchanan Barnes is undoubtedly my favorite Marvel character, both in 2D form on the pages of Marvel Comics and in the live-action Marvel Cinematic Universe. So, needless to say, I had high expectations coming in — would I enjoy this novelized version of Bucky? (Spoiler alert: yes, yes, a thousand times yes!)
Given that this may confuse some readers, it’s important to note that Cold Front is not canon to the MCU. Rather, this story is based on Bucky from the comics — the boy from Shelbyville, Indiana that grew up at Camp Lehigh in Virginia, who didn’t meet Steve Rogers until after he became Captain America, and who went on to become the Winter Soldier without the Super Soldier serum running through his veins.
One of the most important facets of Cold Front, first and foremost, is the fact that this story gives Bucky Barnes the rightful spotlight he’s owed as a character rather than once again relegating him to the role of a sidekick operating in the shadow of Captain America. And Lee’s understanding of Bucky as a whole comes across strongly in her characterization, as she adeptly utilizes the charming, brave, headstrong traits of his youth while also finding ways to thread shadows of who he once was into the Winter Soldier.
Admittedly, one of the best words to describe The Winter Soldier: Cold Front would be heartbreaking. While the book contains moments of gripping action and even swoon-worthy romance, Lee ultimately doesn’t sugarcoat the reality of the character that it focuses on. Yes, we all know that Bucky does regain control of his life one day, but this story is still decades away from that freedom. Instead of shying away from Bucky’s trauma, this book looks at it head-on — and it hits even harder reading it all from his point of view (I was crying by the time I finished).
Though the focus of the story is on Bucky, he’s joined by an array of supporting characters across both time periods. Lee crafts vibrant, tangible personalities for each of these characters, several of which I found myself quite attached to by the time the book was through.
Also, Lee’s writing style heavily lends itself to this story — her descriptive, atmospheric prose paints each scene with careful detail, and the written cadence of her words has a rhythmic, poetic quality that packs a hefty emotional punch at all the right beats.
Cold Front, to put it simply, is the story that Bucky Barnes has always deserved.
The Winter Soldier: Cold Front is a must-read for all fans of Bucky Barnes — be it those that love his original comic persona or his MCU counterpart. Make sure to grab your copy when it hits shelves Tuesday, February 7 (and enjoy those lovely deckled page edges, which are the perfect detail for a story like this)!