Having sworn off superhero comics I couldn’t help picking up this double dose of personal favourites: Captain America and Alan Davis.

Cap struggles to find his faith when the new Hydra rises from the ashes and makes its first deadly moves! As the Serpent Squad strikes and Madbomb riots explode through Manhattan, Sharon Carter takes charge – and Cap’s crisis of faith becomes a debilitating physical dilemma! Events spiral out of control as Codename: Bravo returns, Machinesmith breaks loose, and Falcon fights alongside the enemy! Can Cap be cured? And if so, will it be in time to face the new Hydra’s deadly secret? Superstar artist Alan Davis joins the all-star creative team as best-selling Cap writer Ed Brubaker brings you action-packed espionage in the Mighty Marvel Manner! Collecting CAPTAIN AMERICA (2011) #6-10.

This is a solid tale, continuing the storyline established in volume 1 but with Alan Davis on pencils and Mark Farmer on inks. A new Hydra has emerged and they’re forging new alliances with old villains. The crux of this storyline is that Cap’s super soldier serum seems to be failing, leaving him without its “power” at inopportune times. And as always he gets by with a little help from his friends. Along with that is a new version of the Madbomb that causes people to become crazed lunatics bent on destruction and chaos.

The story had a low and high for me. When Captain America’s super solder serum fades he’s left as the physically feeble man he once was. Yet at no point is Captain America made up only of a heightened physical stature: steely determination, dedication to a cause and overwhelming sense of duty and commitment, i.e. drive, are what sets him apart. Without the physical he seems to fall apart and lay down for a beating, repeatedly. I kept waiting for the inner drive and years of training to take over but we see him resume the fetal position instead. If the storyline is about self doubt I wasn’t getting that anywhere; Cap’s full of self confidence throughout, until he loses it.

The highlight was getting a chance to see the supporting cast take some active roles. It’s great to see The Falcon and Sharon Carter get face time and in fact Carter basically gets a chapter to herself with great effect. Falcon gets dosed with a Madbomb and becomes a maniacal mob leader calling out against “the man”. Great stuff. Plus that winding thread of a slowly rebuilding Hydra keeps drawing me in.

Davis and Farmer take the artwork to that special place they seem to be able to do with every comic they work on. Take a minute and drink in that crazed look Falcon has in that last panel above: is there any question what those eyes hold? Davis’ firm grasp on giving a wonderful emotional range through body language and facial expression shine through. Wow.

Completely aside, why is Hawkeye now dressing like Ultimates Hawkeye? What did I miss?

While it’s only in a dream sequence we’re treated to two pages of Cap versus Batroc The Leaper, one of my favourite Avengers villains. For extras we’re treated to a few variant covers so take this Batroc appearance as the real “extra”. Captain America By Ed Brubaker Volume 2 is a Premiere edition hardcover so it’s slightly oversized, and $20 for 112 pages of wonderful Davis artwork is well worth it.