Out now from Disney Books and Marvel is “The Winter Soldier: Cold Front” by Mackenzi Lee. This young adult novel is a mystery spy thriller told across time and borders. This is Lee’s third novel about anti-heroes within the Marvel Universe, preceded by “Loki” and “Gamora and Nebula.” While the characters and artistic depictions of these novels seem to align with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Lee’s take on Bucky Barnes aka The Winter Soldier, is closer to the characterization and origin from the comic books.
“The Winter Soldier: Cold Front” is told across two timelines: one in 1941 as an upstart 16-year-old looking to aid the war effort and another in 1954 after his capture by the Russians led to his transformation into a deadly assassin, the Winter Soldier. As a young spy in 1941, Bucky teams up with Gimlet, a young chess champion, as the two find themselves on the run from a mysterious assassin. In 1954, his mission is not quite as clear, but leads him on a journey to discovering his own past.
Lee’s take on Bucky is a balanced blend of his established comic persona and the swagger of the films. At just 16, he is not a smooth spy or infallible hero, but his hidden capabilities and clear potential make him a worthy protagonist. The character of Gimlet turns the 1940’s sassy dame stereotype on its head. She is confident in her own intelligence, but also chillingly aware of all that she doesn’t know and the danger that poses.
There were two elements within the book that might not be to every reader’s taste. The first is detailed descriptions and analogies of chess strategy. These sections felt longer that needed and didn’t always warrant the time spent for the poignancy of the metaphor. What did work for me was the divergence of this Bucky Barnes and Winter Soldier from the MCU. It is refreshing to see the character depicted as he originated in the comic books, and fleshed out as his own protagonist instead as of a support or foil to another character, as he has been in the “Captain America” franchise and in “Falcon and the Winter Soldier.”
“The Winter Soldier: Cold Front” is a highly enjoyable mystery with a predictable conclusion to all who are familiar with the Winter Soldier’s fate. The dramatic irony of the 1954 timeline can feel painful as the reader witnesses V discover the depths of his own trauma, doomed to repeat the pain of his past. While the reader is guaranteed an unhappy ending, there is nevertheless a strong thread of humor and humanity that makes Lee’s story worth reading.
“The Winter Soldier: Cold Front” is available now.
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** A review copy of this book was provided to us