With the Winter Soldier Bucky Barnes squaring up to be Captain America’s next big adversary in 2014’s Captain America; The Winter Soldier, fans were wondering if and when the one-time Soviet Super Soldier would rear his head inside comics. Well wonder no more.
In February 2014, Captain America writer Rick Remender and artist Roland Boschi will be uncovering a hidden part of Barnes’ past in a new five issue series titled Winter Soldier: The Bitter March. Set in the 1960s, this period in the Barnes’ life has him working as the mind-controlled secret agent for U.S.S.R., kept in cryogenic storage and only thawed out and tasked with a mission on their biggest assignments. And the assignment he’s given in Winter Soldier: The Bitter March is a game-changer: in this story it’s revealed that two errant Nazi scientists that have discovered the key to winning the Cold War, pitting the U.S. against the U.S.S.R. on a race of who can get to them first - -and get them out of the clutches of HYDRA. On the Soviet’s side you have the Winter Soldier, but on the American side Captain America is still frozen in ice and believed dead, leaving Nick Fury to activate a S.H.I.E.L.D. sleeper agent who’s spent the better part of the 1960s infiltrating communist China.
Newsarama spoke with Rick Remender about this series, discussing this new secret agent named Ran Shen, writing the Winter Soldier as an antagonist, and how this series ties into his larger plans in Captain America.
Newsarama: The Winter Soldier Bucky Barnes is best known as a hero, but between World War 2 and modern times he was very much a villain working under the employ of the USSR. What’s Bucky like in 1966 inside Winter Soldier: The Bitter March?
Rick Remender: He is the predator. He is the bad bad man you do not want on your ass. He’s the Soviet Super Soldier; their black ops murder machine. When the Soviets release him from the Red Room, it’s only for big deals. And the events which start Winter Soldier: The Bitter March are a big deal: two former Nazi scientists have discovered the key to crowning a winner and a loser in the Cold War, and they have fallen into the hands of HYDRA. Both the United States and the U.S.S.R. obviously want it, and will do whatever it takes to get it.
For America, Nick Fury has to call his #1 guy out of deep cover to take on this mission. This man is Ran Shen, and at the time of this call-up he’s spent the last few years infiltrating various organizations in China to become Mao’s right-hand man. Nick Fury’s alone on the case, so he calls Ran Shen to go after HYDRA and get these two Nazi scientists. At the same time, red shadow of the Soviets is inching closer and they open the doors to the Red Room and send Winter Soldier out on the same mission with the green light to take out anyone in his way.
Nrama: Ran Shen is a new name for comics’ fans; Tuesday’s USA Today article reveals that Shen will debut in November’s Captain America #13 as the long-talked-about villain the Iron Nail. But who is Ran Shen here at this point in the 1996s?
Remender: Ran Shen is the son of Chinese immigrants. His father was a factory worker when in the 1920s strikebreakers came down on the workers and ended up crippling him; it was fairly frequent back then. But instead of being bitter, Ran Shen’s father used these acts to fuel his goal to raise his son to fight harder for truth, justice and the American way and make sure their family’s American dream is realized. So for Ran Shen, his career as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent is very personal; he’s defending capitalism, and carrying out his father’s dreams. When he joined S.H.I.E.L.D. he brought with him his father’s hopes and ambitions along with some of his own.
And since he’s joined S.H.I.E.L.D., Ran Shen has risen through the ranks and become one of the agency’s top deep cover agents; in a way, he’s the American analogue for the Winter Soldier from U.S.S.R.’s Red Room. So when he’s called out of cover in China, he knows it’s a big deal. From that point on, he’s dropped in the center of things and his journey ends up putting him at odds with not only the Soviets and HYDRA leadership but also S.H.I.E.L.D.
Speaking of HYDRA, Winter Soldier: The Bitter March will show off some new faces – faces of the HYDRA leadership during the 1960s. This feeds into my larger plan for HYDRA, which new characters like Chancellor Cassandra and Madame Worm; cool 007-style villains I’ve been developing for HYDRA.
And the artist on this, Roland Boschi, is doing storyboard-style, James Bond meets Jim Steranko magic with his pages. In these five issues of Winter Soldier: The Bitter March we’ll develop Ran Shen, show Winter Soldier at this point in his life, and the events that happen that’ll play a major part in the Marvel U going on. Although the Winter Solider is essentially the antagonist in this, we’ll also show how Bucky Barnes was struggling with what he was as the Soviet Super Solder and what’s going on inside his head.
Nrama: You said the catalyst in this story is two Nazi scientists who create something that’ll tip the scales in the Cold War. This takes place in 1966, 21 years after the end of World War 2 and the fall of the Nazis. How have these two scientists been able to stay out from under the thumb of the U.S., U.S.S.R. and all the other global players for all this time?
Remender: They’ve been in hiding the past twenty years. They’ve been working on their own experiences, in seclusion. But HYDRA finds them, and puts these pieces into play. What the scientists’ motives are will be made clear as we get into the series itself.
Nrama: What does the subtitle of this story, “The Bitter March,” mean?
Remender: The series takes place in March, and its freezing cold. Also, there’s the march – the journey – to get these two scientists to safety inside the U.S. before being capitalized on by HYDRA or the Soviets.
Nrama: You’re a busy man, Rick, balancing multiple books at Marvel, Image and elsewhere. What made Winter Soldier: The Bitter March a story you wanted to tell?
Remender: This is something I was planning on telling in the pages of Captain America, but I didn’t have enough time to do it justice in that series. As you’ll see in November’s Captain America #13, the story of Ran Shan – who in modern times is the Iron Nail – are coming to the forefront.
Last year while writing the “Dimension Z” arc I made a grand plan for my Captain America run, going from Dimension Z breaking Cap in half to unveiling Nuke, Dr. Mindbubble and the grand finale of the Iron Nail. With all that developing, I had this flashback story with Iron Nail – as Ran Shen – going up against the Winter Soldier, but I didn’t have the time to do it within the confines of the Captain America series. But then Marvel offered me the chance to do a Winter Soldier book, and it all came into place. Tom Brevoort and I fleshed this miniseries’ story out further on the phone, crossing all the T’s and dotting the I’s. And it’s worked out perfectly, with Captain America and Winter Soldier: The Bitter March working as brother-sister titles that will feed into each other while being self-contained.
By the end of Winter Soldier: The Bitter March, we’ll see in Captain America the Iron Nail’s plot unfolding as he puts the boots on Cap’s necks. Seeing who the Iron Nail was – Ran Shan in Winter Soldier; The Bitter March – will clue people in to the larger story. Readers will learn that Ran Shen/The Iron Nail is not entirely bad; he’s a guy who’s got a complex set of issues leading him down a darker path.
Nrama: This might be presumptuous, but given how the Ran Shen is being described as a hero in Winter Soldier: The Bitter March and being promised as an adversary for Cap in Captain America, will we see that turn it takes to bridge the gap between Ran Shen and Iron Nail in Winter Soldier; The Bitter March?
Remender: I don’t what to give it away, but readers of this series will learn to know him and care for him. They’ll also understand Bucky Barnes more, as well as the relationship between Ran and Bucky. And when we putCap in the middle in Captain America, it adds to the drama.
Nrama: Working with you on this is Roland Boschi, who worked on you on several occasions during your Punisher run. What makes him the right guy to tell this story with you?
Remender: Well, I requested Roland because what I wanted to do with the story: James Bond-type action stuff. I wanted to have a lot of very fluid action sequences, and he’s one of the few guys I’ve worked with able to do it to that degree. Roland’s a perfect storyteller and an exciting illustrator, so given all of that and the era we’re setting this in he is a perfect choice.
When people see his stuff in Winter Soldier: The Bitter March, I think he’ll become breakout star to the general comics audience. He’s A-level and world class; I’m really lucky to get him on this and let him loose. We’ve developed a lot of the new HYDRA guys together; a lot of the visual ideas are his. As you know, I like to collaborate with the artists I work with; open up the lines of communication and find a nice center. Roland has really kicked out some great ideas and characters. It’s going to be a really exciting jaunt.