Ed Brubaker has consistently kept the tension of the Winter Soldier series high, even amidst some of the sillier gags early on (Bucky vs. the Gorilla Soldier anyone?). Outsmarted at every turn by Leo Novokov, a Soviet sleeper agent rudely jolted out of stasis with amnesia and a serious hate-on for the now U.S.-aligned Winter Soldier, things looked grim for Bucky when we last saw him. With Natasha captured and reprogrammed by Leo, she's become a relentless killing machine; not new in and of itself but being on the good side certainly restrained the tendencies she's letting loose now. That is, when she's not playing the part of sex kitten girlfriend to the man who captured her. Ugh, creepy.
Bucky has decided to bite the bullet and follow the terms set by Novokov: revive his old Winter Soldier programming and implant an unknown mission in his mind. Having been bested by Leo repeatedly, costing the lives of several agents and ending in Natasha's capture, this is the only option. Issue #12 opens up with Wolverine's point of view, an entirely new player in this story. It's a great way to tell this chapter, as it really drives home that the Bucky we know and love is gone. At least for now.
Wolvie arrives just after Bucky wipes the mind of the doctor who reverted him to his old programming and breaks free from the SHIELD base. Cap sends him in to track and prevent Soviet Bucky from doing anything exceedingly terrible in his mission to free Natasha. Except that's no easy task. In Wolverine's words, "I forgot how good he was when he was bad." It's a chilling statement coming from the man who's the best there is at what he does.
Without giving away too much more of the story, there's some really great fight sequences, creepy interaction between Natasha and Leo, and some insight into what it's like to have your mind tampered with. Wolverine has a little bit of experience with that sort of thing. It sets up the next issue really well, with the target of Bucky's mission revealed and, oh, boy, will that be a great stand-off.
Guice, Thies and Breitweiser as penciler, inker and colorer make a killer team on this book. Simple but expressive lines bring the characters to life and though dark tones/shadows are used extensively, the pops of colour depict movement subtly but very effectively. This books has been a solid read the entire run and this issue is no exception.