This is a review of Marvel Masterworks Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD Vol. 1. Marvel put out a lot of material in the 1960’s. We all know the classics, but there are comics that aren’t as good. And then there are the stinkers. I try to be positive, but if you look through past reviews you can see what I’m talking about.
The Lee/Kirby run of Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD is a classic. The stories are twelve pages long, but aren’t one-shots. Instead we have a meta story that goes on for over a year. Contrast this with a title like Iron Man, which produced a number of one-shot stories featuring a series of dopey villains (Mister Doll, Jack Frost, etc.).
Jack Kirby’s influence is plain to see. Stan Lee wrote a lot of stories, and the quality is variable. A lot depends on his co-creators. Daredevil wasn’t great until Wally Wood. Sometimes it’s a character. The Avengers didn’t find their groove until Captain America joined.
Sometimes you have synergy, where a creator and a character mesh. Nick Fury is a man of action, the type of character Jack Kirby loved. Captain America, The Sub-Mariner, Nick Fury. Fury has no powers, but he’s got plenty of good ole’ fashioned grit. He’s also the head of the most powerful spy organization in history, and has their resources at his disposal, so there’s that. Lately, characters like Nick Fury have become problematic, but not back in the 60’s.
Fury spends the first story arc fighting Hydra, a secret organization bent on world domination. Every issue you feel the actual stakes, mostly nuclear annihilation. There are lots of cool, exotic-looking weapons; Kirby gets to play with his toys. SHIELD and Hydra are evenly matched in terms of smarts, organizational know-how, and tactics – two sides of the same coin. Sometimes Hydra gets the upper hand, but they never win.
Series influences would be The Man from UNCLE and the 007 movies. I’m a bit embarrassed I didn’t know this series existed. In my defense, my prime comic reading years were the 1980’s. Anyhow, great stuff.