Nick Fury Agent of SHIELD #20-23
Issue(s): Nick Fury Agent of SHIELD #20, Nick Fury Agent of SHIELD #21, Nick Fury Agent of SHIELD #22, Nick Fury Agent of SHIELD #23
But there seems to have been a countervailing opinion that Strucker should not be used, since the book went with those kinds of teases instead of actually bringing him back. It almost seems like there was a longstanding policy to not bring him back: his apparent return in Captain America #130 through Captain America #132 was retconned to be a robot in Captain America #247 for no apparent reason except that someone thought that Strucker shouldn't have been brought back. For this series, i kind of get the impression that Von Strucker was being held in a glass box that said "Break in case of low sales". And now was apparently the time to let him out, and in a big way. The return of Strucker occupies this title for nearly all of 1991 as well as one of this year's annual events. It is a slow build; it will be a while before Fury and SHIELD are aware that Strucker has returned, allowing him to operate behind the scenes for quite a while. In a sense that's similar to Jim Steranko's use of Strucker (the first modern age usage, i.e., outside of Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos), except that in this case the audience is in on it from the beginning.
The story begins with the Red Skull providing keys and maps to some operatives (not his own, but they have his "blessing").
Those agents contract with Leviathan (one of the lackluster villains of this series) to set up some technical equipment, and then he's quickly ushered away.
We then see the operatives scuba diving to the sunken Hydra Island, where Strucker died. Strucker was killed by a radioactive Death-Spore virus, and the operatives' device is meant to restore Strucker from the genetic material that the device bonded with. Or something like that.
The operatives actually give up their own lives to provide the materials that restore Strucker. But Strucker doesn't come out looking fully baked.
SHIELD, meanwhile, are busy dealing first with helping the Mexican government bust some drug smugglers and then a rogue espionage unit in Russia. The former is irrelevant to the plot but the latter is not. And for the Moscow mission, Val Fontaine is reduced to doing this sort of a thing.
Oh by the way, in case you couldn't tell, Butch Guice is the new artist on this series, and while he's going for something vaguely Steranko-ish, there are still plenty of his "traced from fashion magazines" poses.
The spies turn out to be working for the Red Skull.
We won't learn what they've acquired from the Russians for some time. Chichester is playing a long game here, in part just because thanks to Guice's splash panels i'd estimate that it takes four issues to get the amount of story that we would have gotten from a single issue five years ago. But for legitimate reasons, too. The idea is to have a long drama played out, with a large part of that being the revived Strucker rebuilding Hydra.
Hydra as an organization has the same problem that a lot of individual villains have: the more they appear, the more they by necessity lose, and therefore after a while they start to look like losers. So we will periodically see stories where we're told that previous iterations of the organization weren't the real deal; the group is fractured, with splinter groups engaging in small-bore activities. So the remainder of these issues has Strucker going to the various factions, telling them what losers they are and then killing their leaders and consolidating the troops.
The Death-Spore is still with Strucker, and he can control it, so he now has a kind of super-power. If he's killed, the spores will be released from his body, infecting those around him.
And what is SHIELD doing during all of this? Continuing to pose for Guice's pin-ups.
I feel like i've stumbled into a softcore porn cable show.
Here's some more along those lines as one of Strucker's agents infiltrates AIM, which, per Quasar #9, was trying to go legit.
Strucker is having none of that, and he takes over the organization.
And we basically end there. Issue #24 is an out of sequence fill-in, and #25 doesn't take place directly after this issue.
Statement of Ownership Total Paid Circulation: Average of Past 12 months = 97,173. Single issue closest to filing date = 52,950.
Quality Rating: C-
Chronological Placement Considerations: As noted above, issue #24 is an out of sequence fill-in, and #25 doesn't take place directly after this issue.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (2): showAl Mackenzie, Alexander Goodwin Pierce, Baron Von Strucker, Bruno Krea, Cassandra Romulus, Contessa Valentina Allegro De La Fontaine, Dum Dum Dugan LMD, Gabriel Jones, Garotte (Hydra), Kate Neville, Leviathan (Coven), Network Nina, Nick Fury, Red Skull
For the first time this SHIELD series becomes good. There's about a good year of stories. The resurrection of HYDRA as a major threat was long overdo.
However, I had some problems with this run.
1) The Red Skull in his Nazi regalia makes little sense given Gruenwald's potrayal of him as a "nihilist" who has outgrown Nazism. That doesn't exactly prevent his support here, but there is some discontinuity. I prefer this kind of Skull anyway.
2) It would have been better to not bring back Strucker. A trip down to the tomb to recover the Death Spores or recover a MacGuffin would have been good, but it would have better to create a brand new leader, or reuse one of the more competent HYDRA goons.
3) Rosa Kleb?
4) I think Strucker should have stopped at combining the various HYDRA sub-groups back together, and maybe recruiting his children's FENRIS spin off. AIM was better by itself (although back as a technocratic organization, not as weapon dealers).
The ultimate thing that made HYDRA cool was the creativity and imagination of Kirby and Steranko who envisioned all sorts of new menaces they could unleash. Ultimately, that is what's needed to keep HYDRA an ongoing threat.
Posted by: Chris | September 11, 2015 10:12 PM
The Skull's "heil Hitler" seems odd- first because he claimed to have abandoned Nazism at this point, and second because he trapped Hitler in the Cosmic Cube.
Posted by: Michael | September 11, 2015 10:35 PM
When the later X-Men/Alpha Flight mini-series came out (which took place between Alpha Flight #4 and #12), one of the many continuity errors they made (aside from Snowbird leaving Canada with no ill effects and Northstar and Aurora being together with her AS Aurora and not Jeanne-Marie) was having Baron Strucker as the villain... with absolutely no mention of the fact that he was supposedly dead at the time (and in fact, he was, since the Hydra agents go to the site of his previously-recorded death to revive him here, in a story that takes place LONG after Alpha Flight #12). It couldn't have been a robot Strucker either.
Posted by: Dan H. | September 11, 2015 10:45 PM
The MCP assumes that it WAS an LMD Strucker.
Posted by: Michael | September 11, 2015 11:10 PM
The Skull himself may no longer be a Nazi, but he can still put on a show for those who are.
Does the reborn Baron Strucker regaining control over Hydra's factions remind anyone else of the way the reborn Emperor Palpatine regained control over the Empire's factions after the death of Grand Admiral Thrawn?
Posted by: Thanos6 | September 11, 2015 11:23 PM
Re: Strucker being an LMD in X-Men/AF 2...
It's been a while, but I'm sure the Strucker in that series had a heroin addiction or something... can an LMD develop a drug problem?
Posted by: Dan H. | September 12, 2015 12:17 AM
We've seen LMDs impersonate cigarette smokers before. So if they can simulate a tobacco addiction, why not a heroin addiction? LMDs were built to be indistiguishable from humans in the field- if the bad guys could tell they were fakes by asking them to try alcohol or drugs, then that would be a problem. So there's probably something that helps them fake the symptoms of being drunk or high.
Posted by: Michael | September 12, 2015 9:19 AM
Garotte is only seen in a psychic flash from Network Nina in issue #25 (he's killing one of the rogue Russian spies, Rosa Kleb). And Romulus is the blonde woman endearing herself to Strucker during his purge by completing his "Cut off one limb" line. I'll highlight them more in the next arc, but i've noted them in the Historical Significance line.
Posted by: fnord12 | September 12, 2015 2:12 PM
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