Nick Fury Agent of SHIELD #45-47
Issue(s): Nick Fury Agent of SHIELD #45,Nick Fury Agent of SHIELD #46, Nick Fury Agent of SHIELD #47
I'm curious how much Gregory Wright coordinated with Mark Gruenwald on revealing Viper's motives (and some of the other stuff that we'll see in a minute). I would assume the answer is "a lot" since Gregory Wright was also an editor, presumably working out of the same office as Gruenwald. But we do see some new dynamics regarding her, Baron Strucker, and the Skull in this issue.
Speaking of possible editor coordination (and/or the lack thereof), Fury brings up the fact that Viper was in Vegas for the Dead Man's Hand crossover. Viper doesn't really confirm anything.
It may just be due to the fact that this book is cancelled, but Gregory Wright, while bringing this up here, will actually resolve the situation in Silver Sable, another book he writes. So we don't actually learn anything here.
The fight is crashed by a third party: Solo, who is on his standard "kill all terrorists" kick.
Solo saves Fury from getting overwhelmed by Viper and her goons, and Fury will later admit to himself that it probably wasn't a good idea to do this as a solo (lower case S) mission. Viper then teleports away, i guess using the ring that her former partner Silver Samurai first got back in Marvel Team-Up #74.
Meanwhile, the Red Skull has invited Baron Von Strucker over for a spin on his kinky sadomasochistic Wheel of Sorrow (first seen in Captain America #397).
If anyone was going to pick up on the weird S&M element that Mark Gruenwald introduced for the Red Skull, it was going to be Gregory Wright, creator of the Crippler.
It turns out that Strucker is the one that tipped off Solo, so that he can kill Fury himself. He also wants to make sure that Fury doesn't find out how Werner Strucker was killed. And the Red Skull seems cool with this. He's apparently happy to have the Viper knocked down a peg.
When Fury gets back to SHIELD headquarters, he has Network Nina try to use her mental powers to cure Clay Quartermain, who still thinks he's a Hydra agent. She learns that he's been fitted with a neural implant, which explains why SHIELD hasn't been able to break his conditioning. Fury then brings Nina to meet with G.W. Bridge. Fury says that he holds Bridge responsible for the hijacking of the SHIELD Helicarrier, even though Bridge helped reclaim it and even though Bridge "took that Cable assignment to cover your butt". Nina confirms that Bridge at least believes, that his motives were pure, but she also detects that his mind has been tampered with. Nina is under the impression that she's the only SHIELD ESPer employed at the moment, but Fury tells her about Psi-Borg, one of the SHIELD Super-Agents. Nina scans for that agent and learns that she has "murder on her mind".
Psi-Borg and the other two Super-Agents, Knockabout and Violence, are currently on a mission raiding the SHIELD med-lab, where the SHIELD agents recovered from seeming death at the hands of the Deltites (see the previous arc) are being held. And they manage to kill some of them before Fury and Nina arrive (Bridge is recovering from Nina's mental probe). Fury and Nina are helped by the LMD Red and Lump, both of whom have been lurking about behind the scenes.
Lump knocks out Knockabout, and Fury stabs Violence...
And Nina explodes Psi-Borg's head.
That's the last we'll see of any of these Super-Agents, and while the fighting is happening, Baron Strucker executes Scott Lobdell for inventing the characters.
Strucker then suddenly takes an interest in Gideon, the External from X-Force. I find this weird. Strucker says that he's interested in Gideon because he "seeks power that is rightfully my own". This is very generic reasoning that could apply to anyone from Dr. Doom to the people that run my condo association. But Strucker sends Cassandra and Saltz to convince Gideon to either enter an alliance or die.
Meanwhile, since Fury didn't get information about the death of Werner Strucker from Viper, he tracks down Terror. This is the first time i've seen someone other than D.G. Chichester writing Terror, and Wright does a good job with the intro...
...but in my opinion blows it by having Terror call people "insolent whelps" on the next page.
Terror agrees to tell Fury what he knows about Werner's death in return for unspecified favors to be rendered by SHIELD in the future (similar to such markers that Terror has collected from various heroes already). Terror confirms that Werner was killed by Baron Von Strucker, which confirms for Fury that Strucker is alive.
Kate Neville tries to convince Fury not to treat Strucker's return as a personal vendetta, but Fury brushes her aside. This is the beginning of splitting up Kate and Nick and getting Nick back with Val Fontaine, i suppose as part of Wright putting the toys away and getting everyone back to generic status quo with the series' cancellation.
SHIELD detects the Hydra strike team going after Gideon, and Bridge demands to go with Fury on the counter-mission. While they're away on that mission, Clay Quartermain finally snaps out of his brainwashing (although with sudden political aspirations). He tells Fontaine that Strucker was behind the Delta Affair all along.
Gideon is currently berating Crule over his failure to kill Cannonball.
Gideon had to beat up Crule to make him go after Cannonball in the X-Force series, but Wright writes him like a total lackey in this story. I guess after getting beaten up, he's Gideon's permanent lap dog.
When SHIELD show up, Gideon is not appreciative and he sics Crule on them too.
But SHIELD does manage to stop the Hydra strike team. Fury ties to interrogate Cassandra Romulus but gets nothing from her, and they leave without bothering Gideon any further.
Meanwhile, Strucker blows up the UN building.
Fury is chewed out by a newly inaugurated Bill Clinton.
Boutros Boutros-Ghali also piles on.
Dum Dum tries to hand the SHIELD directorship back to Fury, but Fury is intending a potentially suicidal strike on Strucker, so he declines.
Fury heads for a showdown with Strucker on the Statue of Liberty. He says that if Fury kills him, his Death-Spore virus will be released.
Fury gets thrown off the statue, and Strucker is able to capture Kate, Val, and Jasper Sitwell. Strucker says that he's going to kill the woman that Fury loves. When Fury and a SHIELD team try to come to the rescue, it's Kate that Strucker kills. With a Squunch.
Fury then fights Strucker again. Strucker is armed with a new Satan Claw.
But Fury's challenge is more about staying focused, remembering that he can't kill Strucker or let his personal feelings take over. The fight takes them to the top of a mountain, and Fury chops off Strucker's Satan Claw hand, allowing him to fall into the snow below.
Presumably that contains the virus, or the cold remote area prevents it from spreading. The Claw (and Strucker's hand) is sealed in a vacuum tube...
...and it's said that all agents will be quarantined to confirm they weren't infected. Strucker himself has disappeared. He'll turn up in relatively short order in Wright's Silver Sable series.
One "toy" that is not entirely put away is the weird death-spore power/status that Baron Strucker has had since his resurrection. I think of that as a temporary thing, but it really lasts a long time. It's not something that i think really fits the character as a long term thing. Strucker is a mastermind, and in his earlier incarnations he was known as being a weapons master. He shouldn't need (creepy) super-powers to compete with Fury or to maintain his status as a top tier villain. It was a good way to bring him back, since it's related to how he died, but i would have expected it to have worn off by the end of this series.
But Nick is back with Val...
...and at Kate's funeral it's said that Fury is director again.
And all the major SHIELD agents are back. So for the most part this series puts everything back the way it was prior to this series (and even the Nick Fury vs. SHIELD mini that preceded it).
As you can see from the Statement of Ownership below, this series was getting brutal sales numbers, even compared to last year's. John Heebink's art surely didn't help. He sometimes gives me a Mike Allred vibe, but without Allred's kind of ironic pastiche. And sometimes the art looks just awful (see Nina blowing up Psi-Borg above). But you can't blame Heebink, who is just the latest in the creative musical chairs that have been going on with this title. As i've already noted, the situation was kind of a negative feedback loop, with bad sales resulting in hasty changes in direction, which only made matters worse. Arguably Gregory Wright has been trying to change course (e.g. by getting rid of the Super-Agents), and i appreciate the way he's tying things in (albeit haphazardly) with Dead Man's Hand, Terror, events in Captain America and X-Force, and his Silver Sable book as part of a slow build. Unfortunately it's too slow. The book needed to find a more compelling direction, preferably with a stronger artist, before trying to go back to the kind of plotting that only pays off in the long run. The truth is that there was probably nothing that could have saved the book at this point, which is a shame because Nick Fury and SHIELD have proven to be viable concepts in the long run, even finding a mainstream audience on television.
Statement of Ownership Total Paid Circulation: Average of Past 12 months = 64,987. Single issue closest to filing date = 33,100.
Quality Rating: D
Chronological Placement Considerations: This arc ends with Nick Fury returning as the Director of SHIELD, ending a long stretch where Fury was merely an agent, something that was not always acknowledged in other books.
G.W. Bridge talks like Fury is the director of SHIELD in X-Force #19, so this should go before that (also, Bridge quits SHIELD in X-Force #19 and comes back in issue #20, when Fury is definitely in charge).
Note that Gideon is referencing Crule's fall, which is surely a reference to X-Force #15 (as opposed to #23-24, where he's left floating "safely" in water), and Crule seems to be in fine shape here. But Crule will next be seen in X-Force #23, hospitalized and in a full body cast due to the fall. We can only assume that something about Crule's mutant-external physiology kept him going until after the fight in these issues; maybe his injuries were aggravated by the fight.
We'll learn that Fury was tipped off to Viper's mission by the Viper duplicate (Pit-Viper 12) that did appear in Vegas during Dead Man's Hand; i've listed her as a character appearing.
Baron Von Strucker's return is rather unceremonious, but it happens in Silver Sable & the Wild Pack #15, in a story that shows him getting a weaponized mechanical hand as an upgrade for the one he lost here. The story doesn't actually show him returning from the dead, so theoretically other Strucker appearances can take place between this arc and Silver Sable #15, with the assumption that he's got a normal prosthetic hand, but that should probably be kept to a minimum.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (2): showAl Mackenzie, Alexander Goodwin Pierce, Baron Von Strucker, Cassandra Romulus, Clay Quartermain, Contessa Valentina Allegro De La Fontaine, Crule, Dino Manelli, Dum Dum Dugan LMD, G.W. Bridge, Gabriel Jones, Gaffer (SHIELD Scientist), Gideon, Izzy Cohen, Jasper Sitwell, Jimmy Woo, Kate Neville, Knockabout, Laura Brown, Lump (Gnobian), Madame Hydra (Viper), Network Nina, Nick Fury, Percy Pinkerton, Pit-Viper 12, Psi-Borg, Red (LMD), Red Skull, Saltz, Solo, Terror (Shreck), Violence
Yeah, Gideon, it's surprising Crule survived the fall. Why, you'd think he was immortal or something.
Posted by: Michael | August 30, 2016 7:46 PM
Gideon does not want to be in SHIELD's debt, so he sends Crule after its agents, presumably to scare them out of the door.
Because giving them a reason to investigate and oppose his activities is so much better than being in their debt, I must assume.
Maybe it is just me, but I don't think that makes much sense.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | August 30, 2016 11:34 PM
Huh. I had no idea Crule was ever used outside of X-FORCE. Neat (?).
Posted by: Austin Gorton | August 31, 2016 11:36 AM
@Luis Dantes - What, you're expecting logic from a guy who thinks a shaved head & green ponytail is fashionable?!?
In the early 1990s it seemed like Gideon was making a surprising number of appearances outside of the X-titles. He showed up in New Warriors, Night Thrasher, and here. I suppose the first two were by virtue of Fabian Nicieza writing them. As fnord has observed, Nicieza was fond of cross-title continuity. But having Gideon pop up in Nick Fury is a bit surprising. Maybe it was just an attempt to create one last bump in sales before the series was finally canceled by slapping a "From the pages of X-Force" blurb on the cover of #46.
I liked these issues more than fnord, despite the blatant resetting of the status quo that Gregory Wright engages in (if he really hated the Super-Agents of SHIELD he could have just had them die in combat, rather than awkwardly retcon them into Hydra double agents). It's a pity that after half a dozen issues of gradual build-up Wright had to write a such rushed wrap-up in #47.
Posted by: Ben Herman | August 31, 2016 4:38 PM
You really have to wonder who was buying this book - the writing is abysmal and the art, especially in those later scans, looks like a bad coloring book.
Posted by: Bob | September 15, 2016 10:38 PM
I can assure you Bob, no-one I knew at the time was buying this. Some of the colouring on these pages would make a blind man shriek. How will fnord plod through all of the marvel issues for the next few years when the rot has already set in.
Posted by: Grom | September 16, 2016 12:50 AM
It warms my heart that Gideon - From the Pages of X-Force! was actually expected to boost sales.
This book needed more Punisher, Ghost Rider and Venom! :)
Posted by: Bigvis497 | July 6, 2017 1:37 AM
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