Marvel Comics is one of the best when it comes to movie tie-ins, and while Ryan Cady and Jan Bazaldua’s latest isn’t tied to the recent Black Widow film, its title character is certainly a person of interest. The new series launches this Wednesday and features the lead character Yelena and Red Guardian teaming up against Russia’s greatest villains. This is a spoiler-free review, but everything in the preview already revealed will be discussed.
As the opening credits page details, Red Guardian and Yelena Belova are persons of interest largely due to She-Hulk being captured by Russia’s superteam Winter Guard. If you’ve been reading Jason Aaron’s current story arc in Avengers, those events will help inform readers on what is going on here. Due to this, this issue feels like a booster shot for the main Avengers book. Want more Winter Guard? Read this book!
Yelena is the star of the show here, though, and Ryan Cady writes her well. She’s got the Russian accent we all love to voice in our heads as we read her dialogue, but also her spark. She’s got history with Black Widow, who you can see clearly cares for her in the preview. Meanwhile, Red Guardian is all business, but also reasonable. Cady has also done a great job selecting some Winter Guard members you might not expect or even know about. It’s an intriguing team lineup that has an impressive array of powers.
This issue really opens up when Yelena and Red Guardian take on the Winter Guard. Bazaldua’s art maximizes the various Russian superheroes (or are they villains?) to the nth degree, and their varied powers are quite cool to see. Cady sets up the big fight in the comic — this is superhero comics, after all, there’s gotta be a fight — with the fact that Yelena doesn’t have powers. That sets up the stakes well, especially when you know the Winter Guard easily handled the Avengers recently.
This issue jumps around a bit in time and has Djibril Morissette-Phan penciling the opening story that sets everything up. Avoiding spoilers here, but there’s a very strong hero that’s rendered respectfully, and there are some clever choices to show their strength, but also their temper. That helps establish the weight of the situation as the story pushes forward. There’s also a 9-panel grid worth checking out that shows the various skills of Yelena. The art is a touch less detailed and doesn’t quite jive with the main art, but it gets the job done.
Federico Blee colors the issue and he brings his A-game to the glint of Red Guardian’s costume. The dude is mad shiny. There’s a darker tone to the book, and much of it is set at night, but Blee brings out the reds of a lot of the costumes well.
Letters by Ariana Maher are clean and sturdy. There are a few word balloon choices that work well to convey elements like dialogue behind a door, or the unique sound of a futuristic gun. Props to her work on the page pictured above which has a lot of dialogue that’s effortlessly organized across the page without covering up too much and never looking daunting.
Winter Guard #1 is a strong start for a series that shows a lot of potential to flesh out Yelena Belova. It’s a character that hasn’t quite found a footing yet, even with the Widowmakers: Red Guardian and Yelena Belova last year, but even more so the creators have shown Yelena can fight against even the toughest villains and isn’t just any other spy. Winter Guard may just introduce you to your next favorite super spy.
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