The first issue did a beyond solid job of establishing Bucky Barnes, his place in the universe, and the tone. Like the best sequels, this follow-up issue is sans fat and all kinetic movement.
To recap, #1 ended with an assassin (looking remarkably like a young Bucky) shooting up a diner and looming over the OG Winter Soldier with a fearsome Vibranium sword. It should come as no surprise that they fight further in #2, although I don’t want to spoil the outcome. What I can say is that Kyle Higgins gives Rod Reis plenty of opportunity to illustrate brutal fisticuffs in bloody detail.
What makes this issue even tenser is the sadistic cockiness of RJ, the youthful killer. His knowledge of Bucky from most likely years of study makes him a formidable foe. Even darker is the fact that he’s a teenager–a child soldier who outright proclaims he’s good at killing but wants to be great. This naive savagery is cemented by a terrifying opening scene where we witness RJ’s master using mind-games to initiate a slaughter.
But hey, with the ever optimistic Bucky, there may be redemption. Maybe. The two fighters are able to exchange some dialog which reveals troubling similarities and differences. Like the first issue, I still worry that Bucky doesn’t have enough grit to fit the grim tone and his traumatic past. That being said, his heroic nature remains a refreshing light in such a morally ambiguous world of espionage.
I only briefly mentioned Rod Reis before, but all his work here, not just a fight scenes, deserve to be mentioned. Each panel is gorgeous in its bold colors, razor-sharp composition, and efficient minimalism.