This year marks the sixtieth anniversary of quite a few Marvel characters, and among them is Nick Fury, who’s received a giant-sized one-shot from Al Ewing and a whole lot of artists (we’ll get to them). Fury #1 is a bit of an anthology, using a series of loosely connected stories to tie together the past, present, and future of the men called “Nick Fury”.
Ewing explores the identity of “Nick Fury” in a way that makes a sort of convoluted thing feel simple. I was originally going to go into a whole condensed history lesson about how the Ultimate Universe Nick Fury led to the Marvel Cinematic Universe Nick Fury, and that resulted in the creation of a “Nick Fury Jr.” in Marvel’s main continuity, because the most popular version of the character looked like Samuel L. Jackson, but Nick Fury was still a white guy in the comics. However, it just really distracted from this review being a “review”.
All you really need to know is that now there are two “Nick Furies”: the newer one doing secret agent shit on Earth, and the older one, who is on the Moon and has been doing Watcher shit and mostly staying out of the way since 2014’s “Original Sin” event. However, Fury #1 lays out the history of these characters so smoothly and intertwines them so tightly that it effortlessly catches you up on the status quo of these characters. It’s a lot like what Ewing did for his Ant-Man and Wasp miniseries for their sixtieth anniversaries. He takes intimidating continuity and transforms it from an obstacle to a tool that can be used to piece things together.
The first segment takes place in the present, and follows Nick Fury (the younger one) as he infiltrates an underwater base and squares off against a new foe with a familiar name: the “Special Combat Operative Reserved for Primary Intelligence Objectives”, or “S.C.O.R.P.I.O.” for short (Ewing really knows how fun bullshit acronyms are). S.C.O.R.P.I.O. is a really delightful femme fatale whose arrogance is exceeded only by her skill, and she just feels like a really great new nemesis for Fury.
Scott Eaton does fantastic work drawing this segment (as well as a transitional page later on), with a style that feels distinctly modern, but also includes some very retro choices that harken back to Jim Sterenko’s work on Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. back in the latter half of the Sixties. The title of the intro, “Who is S.C.O.R.P.I.O.?”, is worked into the surface of the aquatic base as Fury approaches it, and several moments from Fury and S.C.O.R.P.I.O.’s fight are all condensed into a single panel. These are techniques that you don’t see a lot in modern comic art, which often tries to present a more literal depiction of what is happening in the story.
The second story, “Countdown to the Impossible!” features the original Nick Fury chasing the original Scorpio to the Moon during the Sixties. Artist Tom Reilly leans hard into the distinct psychedelia and sci-fi that Steranko brought to the character, with a healthy dose of Jack Kirby inspiration for good measure. There are ray guns, intricate cosmic ruins, and a space suit ripped straight from Frank Springer’s cover for Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. #6. By the end of the story, time and space warp around our hero as colorful spheres, waves, and trippy patterns consume the page. It’s all a very heartfelt throwback.
Speaking of colors, I was genuinely shocked to find out that there’s only one colorist on the entire book, because each of the five vastly different art styles in this comic have coloring that specifically compliments them. From the heavy hues on the earthy backgrounds of the World War II segment to the cool, dark shades of the finale, there’s incredible variety in the way Fury #1 looks, and that’s all thanks to colorist Jordie Bellaire.
The third story, “Operation: Zodiac!”, is another flashback featuring the original Nick Fury, but this time it pays homage to his origins as a war hero who debuted in Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos. Fury and his men seize the mysterious Zodiac Key from the Nazis in a segment that artist Adam Kubert brings a visual gruffness to. The whole thing has the fuzziness of an old Silver Age comic thanks to the coloring making it look like it was printed on paper that’s yellowed over time. Ewing does a very good job bringing a WWII old-timey voice to Fury that’s recognizably different from the Atomic Age old-timey voice he gave Fury in “Countdown to the Impossible!”.
The finale of the issue, “The Man for the Job”, sees Nick Fury Jr. and Nick Fury Sr. join forces on the moon to fight S.C.O.R.P.I.O. She escapes to cause problems for Nick Fury Jr. later down the line, and Nick Fury Sr. departs to look after the multiverse. With his father’s blessing and encouragement, Nick Fury Jr. is left as the Nick Fury of Marvel’s main continuity, Earth-616. While it’s left open-ended whether or not the older Nick Fury will eventually return, it feels like there’s still a sense of finality to his departure. This issue is a respectful send off to one Nick Fury, while also giving another Nick Fury more room to grow outside of the shadow of his father. Marvel has been trying to do both of these things for around a decade now, and I think Ewing has finally solved it.
Unfortunately, “The Man for the Job” doesn’t have as much of a strong visual identity as the other segments. Ramon Rosanas’ art isn’t necessarily “bad”, but it sticks out as being a lot more safe and simplistic than everything that came before it. It’s easy to follow, but it also feels a bit too empty. For example, there’s a part where the original Nick Fury is shown alongside all of the roles he’s played over the years, and there’s just a distracting amount of emptiness between Fury and the upper panel. Also, Bellaire colors S.C.O.R.P.I.O.’s legs differently here than in the first story, and it makes it look like she doesn’t have any pants. It’s… an odd choice.
Fury #1 is very impressive in how it stylishly condenses six decades of Marvel history. I don’t even consider myself a massive Nick Fury fan, but this standalone issue makes me both excited for what’s next and eager to dig into previous stories. It’s a feeling that Al Ewing never fails to inspire- he just has an infectious passion for this universe and its characters. Whether you’re a diehard fan of Nick Fury or a casual reader, Fury #1 is an issue you should keep an eye out for.