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Winter Guard: Cold Warriors

Learn the secrets and stories behind the premiere Soviet super team

HULK: WINTER GUARD preview art by Steve Ellis
By Jim Beard

Where once stood the Soviet Super Soldiers and the People's Protectorate now stands the Winter Guard, Russia's own super heroes. Recently declassified secret documents tell the tale of these cold warriors in December 2's HULK: WINTER GUARD.

A 56-page one-shot, this special story boasts the popular creative team responsible for High Moon, David Gallaher and Steve Ellis, eager to bring the Russian characters to prominence as heroes and not villains.

"This is definitely a heroic book," insists Gallaher. "To the people of Russia, the Winter Guard is like the Yankees or the Phillies. They are the home team. And, to them, every game is like the World Series. There is a lot at stake for them personally and professionally. And at the end of the day, the Winter Guard is absolutely adored by the public for their bravery, courage, and sacrifice. In the midst of their glorious feats of heroism, we'll have the opportunity to examine the personalities behind the powers.

HULK: WINTER GUARD preview art by Steve Ellis
These characters are so much more than Russia's answer to the Avengers."

The writer describes a scenario within his story where the Guard "stands in direct contrast to teams like the Avengers," with their hierarchies of heavy-hitters and second-stringers. HULK: WINTER GUARD purports to paint a different picture.

"You have Red Guardian, Ursa Major, Crimson Dynamo, and Darkstar," notes Gallaher of the team's core roster. "Those four are the iconic characters of Russia. Russian kids wear Red Guardian t-shirts, young girls dress up as Darkstar for Halloween, they running around the playground pretending to be Ursa Major, etc. But, unknown to the public at large, these heroic identities are job positions that need to be filled by the Russian Executive Security Committee, and just like any job, any member can be fired or replaced at any time.

"And, when someone in the Winter Guard fails or falls in battle, the RESC has a qualified pool of candidates ready and willing to take their place.

HULK: WINTER GUARD preview art by Steve Ellis
There's definitely an iconic legacy there that the government wants to preserve. Every member of the Winter Guard is ready at any time to give their life for Russian people. And, to me that's powerful stuff."

In this one-shot, the Guard squares off against one of the Marvel Universe's strangest and most unique entities, the Presence. Formerly a Russian nuclear physicist, he now exists as a megalomaniacal "other"-and a baffling puzzle for the heroes to solve.

"The Presence is awesome," Gallaher enthuses. "He's like the best Jack Kirby character that Kirby didn't create. In my mind, he's part Hannibal Lecter, part Hal 9000. He is so far removed the 'human experience' that he comes off as sort of alien at times. At this point, his only remaining connection to humanity is the idea that his daughter, the original Darkstar, could still be alive. This creates a significant amount of difficulty for the new Darkstar."

HULK: WINTER GUARD preview art by Steve Ellis
And what role does the Incredible Hulk himself play in HULK: WINTER GUARD?

"While he is not an active participant in this story, Hulk plays a unifying role here," Gallaher teases. "[He] has a rich and textured history with the Russian characters of the Marvel Universe. The Soviet Super Soldiers, one of the teams that became The Winter Guard, debuted in the pages of INCREDIBLE HULK. And the People's Protectorate battled the Hulk when they were both after the Russian fugitive Igor Dregnov. In fact, that story [INCREDIBLE HULK #393] is the one that we have reprinted in HULK: WINTER GUARD. So, readers will certainly get a chance to see the Gamma-spawned goliath in action when they buy the book."

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      So part of the 56-page one-shot is a reprint? Now I don't know if I am going to buy. I am still intrigued.