Winter Guard was a surprisingly great spy story which was a surprise in part since there was no mainline superhero attached. Instead, Ryan Cady and Jan Bazaldua aim to tell a story featuring Red Guardian and Yelena Belova as the central heroes. Their enemy is the Russian super-“hero” team Winter Guard, which is a motley crew of villains that serve as familiar roles to the Avengers. Winter Guard #2 is out today and it’s a recommended read.
The second issue might be even better than the first as it features the incredible powers of various characters in cool ways. This issue opens with Darkstar looking up at the stars under a dome on top of a speeding train. Soon we’re checking in with Vanguard, Red Widow, Chernobog, and Perun, each of which has a unique perspective and edge towards villainy more than heroism. They’re on the hunt for Yelena and Red Guardian while aware someone in their ranks may have backstabbed them.
This issue is good superhero comics. Each character gets to show off his powers and Cady gets inside each character’s head. These characters may actually be more interesting than the Avengers on a good day since they’ve each got a unique edge to them. Some are more evil than others and their dynamics are intriguing thanks to not quite knowing how they function just yet.
Letters by Ariana Maher continue to be clean and easy to follow. Word balloon placement breaks up dialogue well and draws your eye in the right direction. There aren’t any long speeches in this issue, but the dialogue always seems to be in the right place given the layout design of each page.
A weakness of the issue might be the lack of Yelena and Red Guardian, but you probably won’t care since the Winter Guard characters are so eclectic. Yelena and Red Guardian certainly show their cleverness when they get into sticky situations, but they’re also after a McGuffin we’ve seen in spy dramas hundreds of times over. There’s a good turn as far as Yelena attempting to sway a Winter Guard member with good dialogue that’s believable, but they’re certainly not the focus. But this book is called Winter Guard for a reason!
Art by Bazaldua and colors by Federico Blee is strong exploring each character’s unique gifts well. There’s a great full-page splash of a character that’s on a respirator that has little details all around the page, making it a bit of a scavenger hunt to take everything in. This is a darker book for sure — even in the light, there are dark shadows creeping in at the corners. The near full-page splash to end the book is quite something too, framing the villain reveal well while adding plenty of creepy details around him.
Winter Guard #2 is a fun spy story that’s really about the eclectic and strange Russian superhero team. Cady and Bazaldua are doing such a great job fleshing out these characters you’ll put this book down and only want more. Knowing this is a shorter four-issue series is a bit of a bummer when all you want is more Winter Guard in your life!
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