The Man Behind the S.H.I.E.L.D.

He’s Nick Fury. A legend. He fought in every major U.S. war over the last seventy years and a few nobody ever heard of, and thanks to the Infinity Formula he doesn’t look old enough to have fought in Viet Nam. He never rose higher in rank than full bird colonel, but he was appointed Executive Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. “When you’re in the same room as him it’s like being in the presence of a tiger. There’s a feeling of danger, of imminent threat, hovering about him.”

That’s the guy we know. Forget about the Ultimate Marvel reboot and Samuel Jackson and all the ensuing movie stuff. It’s the Jim Steranko era of Nick Fury we love the best. The “new” Nicholas Joseph Fury is just a bald dude in a trench coat. There’s nothing particularly dangerous or threatening about him, unless you harbor residual Fear of a Black Planet paranoia from 1990.

In the hands of artist/writer/escape artist Jim Steranko, Fury was a wise-ass super spy with an expressive shock of hair. He was funny and sexy, and surrounded himself with a band of loyal commandos who complimented his indefatigable bravado. And it’s Steranko’s interpretation of the character that pops up in this novel. Thank goodness.

Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. are on an impossibly tight deadline to stop a despot and his plans to unleash an “unquenchable fire” upon the world. In order to reach the Middle East and infiltrate the Palace of Mysteries, S.H.I.E.L.D. must do the unthinkable. It must forge an alliance with an international terrorist organization named Hydra. Talk about jumping from the frying pan into the fire.

But no matter how dangerous the assignment, Fury and his crew remain confident. In tow with Timothy “Dum Dum” Dugan (he of the “fierce walrus mustache”), a new psychic recruit named Starla Spacek (!), and a handful of Hydra flunkies, Fury is able to prevent the fiery apocalypse and save Christmas. Our only complaint is that his girlfriend, Contessa Valentina Allegro de la Fontaine, isn’t more involved. We always liked her.

Even with all the serious stuff going on, there’s a lot of humor in this novel. Our favorite moment comes when Fury rescues the leader of Hydra’s Middle Eastern cell. Knowing the history between S.H.I.E.L.D. and Hydra, you’d think the two soldiers would be at each other’s throats in a nanosecond. But instead, the uneasy allies fall into a comical Martin and Lewis-like relationship. It’s too bad the Imperial Hydra commander doesn’t make it out of the desert alive. He and Fury had a bright future in vaudeville together as the Howling Comedians.

[Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Empyre / By Will Murray / First Printing: August 2000 / ISBN: 9780425168165]

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