Down collects the second six months of Carol Danvers’ adventures as Captain Marvel, from 2013. The stories here are slow burns, taking the opportunity to properly establish a supporting cast, and introduce the plot elements, such as a fight with a false Deathbird, and Carol’s blackouts and inability to fly under her own power, that will lead through to into the Enemy Within story.

Christopher Sebala was involved in writing some of this volume, by his own admission to help Kelly Sue DeConnick as she was heavily committed elsewhere, but it’s hard to identify anything that’s specifically Sebala. This is very much DeConnick’s story, and she really has a handle on the characterisation. Very early on there’s an excellent demonstration of how confident she has become with her cast, when she presents a Bechdel test passing confrontation between Carol Danvers, current user of the Captain Marvel codename, and Monica Rambeau, a previous bearer of the title. She’s none too pleased that she wasn’t consulted about Danvers’ assumption of the identity. The exchange between them is a fine example of how to craft a dramatic superhero story without needing any supervillains to hit, though those also are to be found here. DeConnick’s dialogue for Carol is constantly witty, and will bring a smile to the reader’s face.

Throughout these stories DeConnick develops the supporting cast – photographer Frank Gianelli, PA Wendy, PI Dakota North, Rose the lady in the park, as well as Danvers’ superhero BFF Spider-Woman. The dialogue sparkles throughout.

What is rather less impressive is the art. Dexter Soy’s painted pages on the Monica Rambeau story improve on his work for In Pursuit of Flight, but it’s far from the best artwork in superhero comics. Filipe Andrade’s artwork in the rest of the volume, though enhanced by Jordie Bellaire’s colours, is expressionistic, non-realistic and unattractive. He’s an interesting artist, but inappropriate for a cosmic series like this, which needs a cleaner and more dynamic line. It’s a testament to DeConnick’s writing skill, as well as the intrinsic appeal of Carol Danvers, that it’s still worth coming back despite the rotating cycle of unsatisfactory artists.

The story here ends on a cliff-hanger, revealing the bad guy lurking behind the scenes. This leads into Avengers: The Enemy Within. DeConnick then takes up the Captain Marvel story again in Higher, Further, Faster, More.