by Ed Brubaker (writer), Alan Davis (pencils), Mark Farmer (inks), Laura Martin (colors), and Joe Caramagna (letters)

The Story: Sharon Carter tries to cut a deal with the devil, Falcon  tries to go solo, and Steve Rogers struggles with being puny.

The Review: With its second arc post relaunch, Captain America has showed steady improvement, once again becoming a solid, entertaining read without any real, glaring faults.

It’s hard not to attribute a lot of this to Alan Davis’ brilliant, timeless artwork.  Davis’ art is not so much pretty as it is classic.  It has a vintage, characterful feel to it that makes the book so much easier to love.  It’s brimming with energy and manages to be nostalgic but not dated, bringing to mind all the pure fun associated with classic stories but also having all the polish of modern comics.

The remarkable thing about Davis’ work though is how it reflects back onto Brubaker’s script, which I think is what’s largely behind the gradual improvement this book has experienced since Davis took over.  In reality, Brubaker is telling a fairly simple story, but it also has a similarly classic, nostalgic tone to it, with “mad bombs,” wacky villains seemingly from a bygone era, and the age-old plot device of a hero having lost his powers.  There’s something distinctly old timey about Brubaker’s story and that suits Davis perfectly.  Due to the perfect synchronization between artist and writer, what might be a very bland comic ends up feeling like a fun tribute to a bygone era.

That said, I also quite enjoyed the Sharon Carter/Machinesmith fight this month.  There was a a subtle sci-fi horror vibe going on here, with Sharon, completely isolated and alone, hunted by a villain vastly more powerful and seemingly everywhere at once.  The cover, also by Alan Davis, actually does a fantastic job of encapsulating that.  It all leads to a plot that feels paranoid and dreamlike.  I also enjoyed how Brubaker ended the comic; you’re really left wondering whether Sharon actually made a deal with Machinesmith and, if so, what.  The ambiguity is left unspoken and is played, and paced, perfectly, leaving you with a lot of curiosity, certainly more than enough to want to grab the next issue.

With all that being said, it does bare repeating that this is really a fairly simple, basic story and, in having that nostalgic vibe, there are plot elements that are familiar.  Naturally, that’s part and parcel here, but it also puts a glass ceiling in how good it can really be.  It’s also a little frustrating just how little Steve actually does this month or how little plot progress is made with him.  For the most part, he’s left navel-gazing, still puny and sad, while Tony Stark continues to run those infamously undefined “tests” to no result.  Essentially, nothing happens for Steve between this month and the last.  In that, I almost wish that after the first page, Brubaker focused on Sharon and Falcon instead since, really, that’s where the plot’s at this month.

Conclusion: Sharon manages the heavy lifting this month in a comic where classic art meets classic script.

Grade: B

-Alex Evans