The Winter Soldier: Cold Front

Marvel. (Marvel Rebels & Renegades: Bk. 3). Feb. 2023. 416p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781368022279.
Gr 6 Up–Lee pens another successful YA origin story for a well-known Marvel character. Eschewing the Marvel movie continuity, Captain America is merely a background character to James “Bucky” Barnes’s solo adventures. Cutting between two time periods, Lee weaves together a study of teen Bucky’s first espionage encounter in 1941, along with Bucky’s missions as the metal-armed and brainwashed KGB Winter Soldier in the 1950s. Both versions of Bucky are extremely intelligent, whether an adult navigating an unknown city to hunt a target or a 16-year-old running a supply black market for enlisted soldiers. Despite the very different circumstances, Bucky’s independence and rebellious spirit remain consistent. Lee manages to maintain suspense and tension while having connective tissue between the two stories, in particular through the doomed love affair with the unwitting Hydra pawn Imogen Flemming, whose chess genius helps Bucky learn to think strategically. As would be expected by a wartime espionage thriller, the story does include mature elements including non-explicit teen sex, several depictions of murder, and one suicide. Some basic familiarity with the Marvel universe would aid the reader (e.g., knowing what Hydra is), but the book largely stands alone and separate from the larger shared universe.
VERDICT Fans of the previous “Marvel Rebels & Renegades” YA books, military espionage, or The Queen’s Gambit will enjoy this nail-biting thriller.

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