Monday, August 02, 2010

Redacted? Classified? Misinformation? Or retcon?

As in Punisher Armory, Brown does a great job with this style of page.
We'll be looking at a few books the next few posts, that may or may not have a common thread; of either being outright lies, or getting forced out of continuity in short order. One of the issues we're considering, I don't even have; but as it turns out, we don't need it. (Even less so than some of the comics around here!)

Now, I love Marvel's Nick Fury, but he's been in a pile of terrible comics. His war comics are nowhere near as good as his DC counterpart Sgt. Rock's, and his late 80's book was generally awful for 47 issues. There were a couple cool Jackson Guice covers, but the interior art always seemed rushed or unfinished, the print and color quality not as good as promised, and the direction of the book seemed to be all over the place. In theory, a Nick Fury book that included espionage, war stories, weird Sternako sci-fi spy stuff, and superheroes; could be good. Maybe it is, I haven't read the current Fury book; but the execution wasn't there for this one.

After issues featuring guest-stars Luke Cage (in his 90's Cage look) and Woodgod; Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. #38 began a four-part series: "The Cold War of Nick Fury." Which is a great title, and it was co-written by Eliot Brown, who is probably best known for his technical work on Marvel's Punisher Armory and Iron Manual.

The story opens with Fury being debriefed by some spooks, presumably CIA. The spooks look more like spies than Fury, who is pretty casual about it: as he puts it, "When you work in the suspicion business, it's only natural for someone to get suspicious of you." Questioned by a weaselly-seeming little man, Fury is grilled about his pre-S.H.I.E.L.D. days, after the end of World War II; and Fury obligingly tells the story of his recruitment by the O.S.S.

With a small team of specialists, Fury is sent into the jungles of Malaya after a Japanese war criminal that had been experimenting with germ warfare, Dr. Ishii. After tracking them down, for fear of breaking germ vials with gunfire, Fury and his men are forced to fight Ishii's troops hand-to-hand, Howling Commando style. Well, I'm not sure I ever saw Nick double-stab anybody in a Lee/Kirby Howling Commando story, but you get the point.

Fury captures Ishii and his virus weapon, but is the only survivor of his group. When he gets back, he quickly realizes he was played for a chump on multiple levels: the mission was suicide from the start, the higher-ups knew Ishii had a larger, trained force; but couldn't commit more soldiers until they knew where they were. (Fury asks, what if they had all been killed? His supervisor explains, when they missed their supply airdrop, that would at least narrow down the search area...) The virus isn't destroyed, Ishii isn't tried for war crimes, and the whole experience is an eye-opener for Fury. Who looks weird with both eyes, by the way.

I don't have Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. #39, but as it turns out, you don't need it. Still being questioned, Fury has another flashback, set in April 1953, about his involvement in the Pyongyang Dam. (Presumably, blowing it up...) In issue #40, Fury's questioner rages that the Pyongyang story was a complete lie: "The only part that's true was your name, rank, and serial number!"

Was Fury getting senile? Having a hard time remembering guys he shot and crap he blew up some forty years back? No, it's explained that Fury knew something wasn't kosher with his alleged-CIA interrogators: if they had been legit, they would've seen right through Fury's made-up version. All of #39 is written off as lies, misinformation...or a really quick retroactive continuity correction. Tough break if you coughed up $1.75 for #39, kids!

Brown is off as writer here on #40, halfway through "Cold War of Nick Fury," replaced by Scott Lobdell. As of yet, I have no idea of the reason for the switch; except for the letter page a few issues later mentioning a Kim Jong-il or Kim Il-sung reference in #39. But the shift is jarring, not just in writing style, but in theme. From two flashbacks to the Cold War, we get to...the new Super-Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Good god, they suck. Even in comparison to the first wave of Super-Agents, and that batch had the Texas Twister. (And a young Quasar, who's awesome.) Out of eight Supers in two waves, five were double-agents. Not a great track record, and I would bet Lobdell didn't plan on most of these new Super-Agents turning traitor; that was probably the work of the next writer, Gregory Wright (in issue #43) so Lobdell only wrote two issues.

Moreover, poor Ivory, a Wakandan like the Black Panther, is not only saddled with a terrible name; she's also miscolored as white in about a third of the panels she appears in. And she's the only non-traitor Super-Agent, she would later be killed by the others. (I don't think they were, but it would've been funny if the traitors had all been from different organizations...)

I am positive the behind the scenes of these issues, is probably more interesting than the finished product itself. (Yeah, it might have to be.) Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. #47 would be the final issue, and this stretch of Nick's history is pretty much forgotten. Except for us picking at the scab here. These issues aren't great, but fun enough to pulp up for blog fodder...

Panels from Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. #38, "The Fourth Horseman" Written by Eliot Brown and Bob Sharp, pencils by Jerry DeCaire, inks by Don Hudson; and #40, "Salvation" Written by Scott Lobdell, pencils by Paul Abrams, inks by Chuck Barnette III.

Tomorrow: A Suicide Squad comic! (Yay!) From 2002! (Huh?) With John Severin art! (Yay!) Featuring Sgt. Rock! (Bwah?) Maybe! (...)

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