Nick Fury Agent of SHIELD #37-41
Issue(s): Nick Fury Agent of SHIELD #37, Nick Fury Agent of SHIELD #38, Nick Fury Agent of SHIELD #39, Nick Fury Agent of SHIELD #40, Nick Fury Agent of SHIELD #41
Issue #37 has an 18 page story by Scott Lobdell that continues his super-hero approach with a guest appearance by Woodgod. But it also has a back-up story written by Eliot Brown and Bob Sharp that serves as a prologue to the four part "Cold War of Nick Fury" story arc. This arc is a complete shift in direction. No Super-Agents, and the story involves Fury being interrogated by some government agents which is in practice a device that allows the issues to be full of war stories from Nick Fury's exploits in the 1950s. Meanwhile, reaction in the lettercols to the Super-Agents is negative, and the response is that we won't be seeing them for a while. But then suddenly Lobdell is back, replacing Brown and Sharp right in the middle of the "Cold War" arc. Suddenly, the Super-Agents are back in a big way, and we're told that basically everything we learned in the past two issues was a lie. And then, not to steal my thunder for the next arc, Lobdell is off the book with issue #42, and it will turn out that everything we knew about the Super-Agents was also a lie. So a lot of reversals, both in the story and with the creative teams. It's one hell of a thing to read.
Let's start with the Woodgod story. It almost has the feel of a "disposing of disposable concepts" story from the Shooter era. Nick Fury and the Super-Agent Psi-Borg go to visit the Changelings, the group of animal men that Woodgod lives with, and they find that they are all dead.
The group responsible look at first glance like AIM agents, but they are troops from Trinity Base. Fury describes them as a paramilitary organization. We'll learn later that while they are a private organization, they are partially financed by SHIELD (see the References for more on this).
Fury tries to commandeer them, but they are aware that he's no longer the director of SHIELD.
Fury has to flee from the troops. He runs into Woodgod, who has regressed to his earlier less articulate self.
Fury has Psi-Borg contact Dum Dum Dugan while he tries to stop Woodgod from massacring the troops. When Dugan arrives, Fury gets distracted and Woodgod attacks again, and Fury is seemingly forced to kill him.
Woodgod's mouth seems like a tribute to Sal Buscema to me.
Fury and Dugan tell the Trinity troops that they're going to use the fact that SHIELD controls their purse strings to shut them down. And after they leave, it turns out that Woodgod's death was a ruse. Fury releases Woodgod into the wild.
Then with the pages we have left, we begin the Cold War storyline. Fury is picked up by what seem like government agents.
So like i said, as they interrogate him, we get Cold War era stories. It seems to show how Fury was recruited into intelligence.
You'll note that the art, by Jerry DeCair, is terrible. The poses are downright comedic. (Wyman is said to be moving up to the Avengers, but it will turn out to just be for a three issue fill-in.)
This first Cold War story has Nick working with a team to try to find a Japanese scientist that escaped to British Malaya with a weaponized virus.
It's mostly a typical war story...
...with the clincher being that the (British?) government intended to use the virus for their own sake, not destroy it.
It's presented as Fury's first lesson in the fact that as the leader of an intelligence agency, you sometimes have to play dirty.
In the second story, Fury has been given an assignment to blow up a dam in Korea, which will help the war effort but will starve women and children. Art is by Don Hudson, and it has a vintage Silver Age feel.
Again, it's a lesson in hard choices.
Now here's the end of the issue, with the government agent unable to believe that the government was willing to starve Koreans for the war effort (as he's framed by photos of Nixon and Reagan, surely a deliberate choice).
Now, i don't know where the original story was going. But it seemed like the conflict was going to be between a government agent that either couldn't believe or was trying to disavow some dirty work done during the Cold War. But it's in this issue that the lettercol says that Don Hudson is the new regular penciler, and that the "super-agents will be gone for a while, but if we know Scott Lobdell, they'll be back again some day!". Some day turns out to be next issue. Hudson is gone (he'll be back to inking in two issues), and gone along with him are Eliot Brown & Bob Sharp. Lobdell is back, and so are the Super-Agents. And on page one of Lobdell's return, Fury admits that he's been lying for the past two issues after all, on the grounds that the people he's talking to aren't really the CIA agents they've claimed to be. The Super-Agents show up to help Fury.
Then Henry Gyrich shows up, so the agents do seem to have been government agents if not CIA agents specifically. And the next thing we know, Fury and the Super-Agents have been sent on some mission, tracking down the Japanese scientist from the first story. It's said that the scientist was released after Fury captured him (so i guess at least portions of the stories Fury was telling were true). But the scientist has been killed by Crossfire.
Fury and the Agents aren't too impressed with him.
But Crossfire does have some gadgets to keep them busy.
These Magnum Zs, which have been banned by the Geneva convention, are apparently what Crossfire intends to take over the world with, in combination with the Japanese scientist's virus.
While Crossfire is explaining his plans in generic villain tradition, we get our out of context panel of the day:
I never really commented on what Ivory's powers were, exactly, because it wasn't all that clear. But here it is spelled out.
And here's Fury passing the mantle to the Super-Agents.
As for Crossfire, it's barely a fight.
I don't think the secret of how Crossfire knew about the Super-Agents is ever explained, because as i noted we'll instead be going in a very different direction with the team in the next arc.
While the Agents are taking care of Crossfire, Fury disables the virus device. He gets in trouble and needs to be rescued, but he's fine by the end.
So that, somehow, is the end of an arc called "The Cold War of Nick Fury".
The letters to this series are brutal, but constructive. People miss the old cast of SHIELD agents and no one likes the Super-Agents. A lot of complaints about the art. Requests to keep the super-powered guest stars to a minimum. One person has a really great idea to de-emphasize Nick Fury and just turn the book into stories about regular SHIELD agents on various missions. That makes a lot of sense and would seem to open up a lot of different kinds of stories, similar to something like The 'Nam (on the other hand, maybe it wouldn't be too different than the first two issues of this Cold War arc, except set in the present and not necessarily about Fury). But it's worth remembering that all of these ideas and complaints were from the dwindling audience that was still reading the book. To save the book, Marvel was trying to find the formula that would expand the audience. Failing, mind you, but trying.
Quality Rating: D
Chronological Placement Considerations: N/A
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (1): showCentauria, Centaurio, Centauron, Crossfire, Dum Dum Dugan LMD, Elephantine, Henry Peter Gyrich, Ivory, Knockabout, Minotaurus, Nick Fury, Psi-Borg, Siren, Violence, Woodgod
I think the images after the Crossfire appearance are broken.
Posted by: D09 | February 11, 2016 2:39 PM
Thank you D09. But let me just repeat what i put in the General Comments section not too long ago, and what's in the Q&A: typos and scan problems should be reported in the "Thread of Shame" in the forum. Especially for recent entries, it's very likely someone that is willing to use the forum will report the error. So if you don't want to register for the forum, just assume that someone else will report it. I want the comments section to be for substantive discussions*, not typo alerts. Not singling D09 out; i appreciate everyone that wants to help, but i just wanted to take the opportunity to say this again.
And a big thanks to those who do use the forum for this stuff. I don't want it to sound like i'm taking you for granted. I appreciate you very very much.
*And to promote your brand, of course.
Posted by: fnord12 | February 11, 2016 2:53 PM
That "Yeah, I did. I killed Woodgod" panel feels like it was custom designed for someone's mid-2000s ironic/snarky comics blog.
Posted by: Red Comet | February 11, 2016 5:39 PM
Wow. I had no idea this series existed... but this is B-A-D. I don't "get" Nick Fury and think he's a waste except when Mark Millar revamped him as Sam L Jackson in THE ULTIMATES. How this made it to issue #40- Wow!! Say what you will about Marvel in the 1990s but the fans were still giving more chances to MORE books... I just think Nick Fury and the agents are boring characters compared to X-Force (which have the similar government/military missions) and we don't need a Nick Fury type personality when we've got Ben Grimm
Posted by: Brimstone | February 11, 2016 6:38 PM
Posted by: Mark Black | February 12, 2016 12:12 AM
You mentioned the Sal Buscema-like mouth, but every scan here looks like it was Sal inspired to me. Maybe he was an influence on MC Wyman?
Posted by: Enchlore | February 12, 2016 10:59 AM
M.C. Wyman definitely had a very Silver & Bronze Age style to his work, so it makes sense that he might remind someone of Sal Buscema. I liked Wyman's work in the 1990s. At a time when Marvel was pushing so many new artists to draw like the Image founders, Wyman was one of those who came into the biz with a more traditional approach.
Of course, as is always the case, it is all a matter of personal preference, so I can understand if others were not enthusiastic about Wyman.
Posted by: Ben Herman | February 12, 2016 1:50 PM
Celebrity Brimstone, I'm trying to give you the benefit of a doubt today but, Nick Fury is a VERY important and historical character in the Marvel Universe and certainly predates the Sam Jackson incarnation you're so impressed with. Look up Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos, which is a war book done Marvel style and Steranko's influential and historic run in the late 60s'. Then you will make us all proud on the Celebrity Apprentice.
Posted by: Brian Carey | February 14, 2016 5:43 AM
Comments are now closed.
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