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

The Story: Cap and friends rush to put a stop to the mad bombs and a mind-controlled, enraged Falcon.

The Review: This issue is a frustrating one to review if only due to the talent behind it having created such a mediocre issue, particularly given how much a fan I was of the last issue.  I really thought this Alan Davis-illustrated arc had been a turning point for the series post-relaunch, but alas.

Let me first say, however, that even a mediocre effort by the likes of Ed Brubaker and Alan Davis will be better than a fair chunk of superhero comics out there.  When he finally gets around to doing it, Brubaker’s internal monologue from Rogers is as gritty, forboding, and intimate as ever.  Furthermore, I really liked how Brubaker ended this issue; we learn the nature of Sharon’s bargain with Machinesmith and we get an ending that manages to both conclude the arc while also tantalizing us by leaving things open, with Queen Hydra and Bravo still very much at large.  While an open ending like this will no doubt frustrate the trade-waiters, it’s one that will keep monthly readers reading and it’s cool to see that be the case in a medium that’s increasingly become about writing for the trade.

And as for Davis, well, his work will always have a characterful, old-school energy to it.  Davis’ work is dynamic and full of life, intensity, and drama.  It’s quick paced and lovable.

That said, this isn’t Davis’ best issue by far.  It’s very clear at certain points that he rushed through this final issue.  It lacks the same amount of polish that the previous issues had, certain panels look a bit “sketchier” with Davis skimming over some details and things generally just don’t have that same sharp degree of finish that, say, last month’s book had.

As far as Brubaker goes, there’s also some short-cutting on his part as well, in that much of the plot is lazily resolved through convenient super-tech.  Once Tony finds out the nature of Steve’s infection, wham, magic ray and he’s fine.  Curing the mad-bomb effects?  Iron Man just shows up with a magical raygun he whipped up in a lab.  None of this tech is even remotely explained, and instead it just shows up in the right place, at the right time, solving all issues.  It borders a bit on deus ex machina.

Then there’s the old “mind controlled friend” plot.  Seriously, how many times do we have to read a comic involving the protagonist telling his friend to “fight it” or that he knows he’s “still in there somewhere.”  Those probably aren’t direct, verbatim quotes from the comic, but those statements are certainly there regardless.  It’s just really, really tired and it’s amazing how writers are STILL going for this plot with this exact same dialogue.  Uninspiring to say the least.

I also wasn’t a big fan of Brubaker’s making many of the rioters HYDRA agents in disguise.  It’s clearly done to give Rogers a moral out in the face of media condemnation by not ACTUALLY beating down civilians.  Why avoid the moral conundrum?

Conclusion: An underwhelming effort by two very, very good creators with a lot that feels rushed or slapped together

Grade: C+

-Alex Evans