Monday, July 20, 2015

Fury of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Ltd. 1995) [COMICS]

Twenty years ago, long before the Marvel Cinematic Universe, only comic book fans knew who Nick Fury and SHIELD were: even David Hasselhoff hadn't yet donned the eyepatch!  There's been a lot of attempts to give Fury and his supposedly super-secret spy organization a comic series, and most of them haven't been very successful.  In 1995, Marvel tried with a four-issue limited series titled Fury of S.H.I.E.L.D.  Let us peruse . . .

Just look at that cover to Issue # 1--can you tell we're in the Image Comics influenced mid-1990s?  Fury looks like freakin' Cable with ginormously broad shoulders and a huge rifle.  Compare that to the classic Jim Steranko Nick Fury from a couple of decades previous.

It looks like our buddy Nick has been hitting those steroids hard.  On to the story.  We start in media res, with a good rooftop action scene: Fury tries to recover a computer microchip from some bad guys, but there's an explosion and one of them escapes with it.  The scene shifts to a party attended by Tony Stark, and we learn that the microchip was originally stolen from Stark Industries.  Fury is at the party keeping tabs on one Karl Kraus, CEO of Kraus Techmatrix, someone suspected of involvement with the theft.  Apparently there's  been a rash of similar hi-tech thefts, and Fury and SHIELD are on the case.  Nick's joined by his occasionally-psychopathic son, Scorpio.  From what I can tell, a previous story in another comic had established that Scorpio had taken over the presidency of a country called Carpasia.  Here, we find that Scorpio had given up that job because of Snickers-related corruption.  Yes, I am not joking, and no I cannot explain it.  Anyway, Nick and Scorpio intervene at a break-in at another hi-tech firm called Polydyne when they're trapped by robots.  Cliffhanger!  Verdict:  fairly average story, hate the artwork.  There is a funny scene where, due to budget cutbacks, Fury is forced to give up his daily cigar if he wants to keep his health insurance with SHIELD.

In Issue # 2, we find out that Karl Kraus is a head honcho with Hydra!  He's got a girlfriend named Kitty Drake, but in a good twist, it turns out that Drake is the actual thief.  Comic books and soap operas are close cousins, because a long time ago Kitty Drake was actually Kraus' first wife, only he doesn't know that the two women are the same person! (there was a name change, some weight loss, and plastic surgery involved)  Kraus got his position with Hydra by stealing it from Kitty Drake's father, and she's out for revenge.  So she's seduced one of Kraus' tech-geniuses, a guy named Simon Mycroft, to help her build a micro-neutron bomb.  Fury and Scorpio, who had no trouble escaping those robots from last issue, get help from Iron Man to track the bomb.  We then end up with a three-way battle between the good guys, Kitty Drake, and a very mad Karl Kraus.  Kitty says she'll detonate the bomb unless Kraus turns over his Hydra holdings to her.  Cliffhanger!  I actually like the Kitty Drake character and back story, even if one must swallow a heaping helping of disbelief.

Issue # 3 starts with a very pretty splash page of a top-down view of the restaurant showing rainfall splashing on the glass with Kraus and Kitty having their stand-off inside.  Credit where it's due.  Kitty gives Kraus 24 hours to give her what she wants, or she'll sets off the bomb.  Fury and Kraus make a deal to work together to find Kitty using Hydra technology.  A car-chase jet-pack shoot-out action chain eventuates, and it's pretty good.  Kitty tries to set off the bomb, but Kraus has a jammer and shoots her.  He deactivates the bomb but then pulls a gun on Fury!  But Kitty is still alive and shoots Kraus!  Both the bad guys die, and Fury lives to tell the tale.

And now for something completely different.  Issue # 4 is evidence that this was originally planned as an on-going series before being recast as a limited one.  The story does not have anything in particular to do with the Kraus/Kitty storyline.  Instead, Fury & Son walk through the old neighborhood, as Fury reminisces about how dangerous it has become since he and his brother Jake were little kids.  A good scene, and a part of Fury's backstory rarely seen.  Soon, however, Fury and Scorpio find themselves caught in the middle of a gang war involving hi-tech weapons.  Investigating, the pair find a lead to a secret government operation named "Future First": an old SHIELD agent named Spanier has gone rogue and teamed up with a former Soviet mutant-hunter named Firefox.  Although Fury and Scorpio get captured and caged, Firefox plays around too much with Scorpio's cosmic key doohickey and accidentally blasts the cage door open!  The good guys then make short work of the bad guys, and the final panel shows Nick getting to have his cigar after all.

To sum up: the 1990s were a terrible time for superhero comics.  But that being said, Fury of S.H.I.E.L.D. was slightly better than some.

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