Nick Spencer sows seeds of distrust throughout "Captain America: Sam Wilson" #2 with shadows, shell games and whispers. Magnifying S.H.I.E.L.D.'s Hydra infestation and inserting Sam Wilson and Steve Rogers directly in the middle, this comic hops back and forth through a narrow timeline, giving Daniel AcuÃ±a plenty to work with.
While the All-New, All-Different Marvel is set in the timeframe of eight months from the end of "Secret Wars," this comic leaps back in time six months to reveal the Kobik project. Commissioned by S.H.I.E.L.D., this project allegedly focuses on collecting shards of a Cosmic Cube and serves as a soapbox for Sam Wilson to stand upon, declaring his aversion to the plan. Spencer bounces back to the border confrontation with the Sons of the Serpent, gives Wilson another fight with the Armadillo and fabricates plenty of distrust and uneasy feelings between Rogers, Wilson, S.H.I.E.L.D. and Misty Knight. I can appreciate the need for subplots and conflict, but putting everyone on high alert against their former best friends and staunch allies just comes across as forced, especially as this series hasn't even had enough real estate to convince readers of Wilson's heroism. He's made his opinions known, but Spencer hasn't really shaped his version of Wilson, at least until the final page of "Captain America: Sam Wilson" #2.
AcuÃ±a's art is a smart fit for Captain America, as he blends mysterious heavy shadows with bright, unforgiving spotlights. The artist doesn't waste time with unnecessary details, giving readers just enough to spur imagination and drive the story. Occasionally (mostly when the star-spangled shield is involved), AcuÃ±a faces a storytelling challenge that might benefit from more real estate, but -- for the most part -- the story flows nicely, with distinct, diverse characters passing through the panels, eagerly inviting readers to join them. His figures are understated and minimal, which makes his Armadillo leaner and more muscular than he has ever been presented before, more like a miscolored Abomination and less like the comedically hideous Antonio Rodriguez longtime Cap fans are familiar with. Meanwhile, letterer Joe Caramagna transforms the recap page into a multi-device blitz, with television screen, tablet and smartphone all aiding the recap and setup.
Spencer has carved a niche for himself in the Marvel Universe by writing about lesser luminaries like the Sinister Six, Secret Avengers and Scott Lang and elevating them to fan favorites. In this case, he's tasked with taking a fan favorite and spinning it around, giving it a kick or two to see what more can be done. "Captain America: Sam Wilson" #2 works just a little too hard trying to find itself and sets up future storylines where the "Captain America" aspect doesn't catch enough light to shine. That said, I'm convinced this book would be an amazing Falcon series. Spencer has earned some leeway in getting to the flow of his stories. With AcuÃ±a and Caramagna alongside, this series has plenty of potential. These guys just have to fulfill it.