Nick Fury,
Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.

by Jim Steranko
(Marvel, 1968;
collected, 2000)

"He's Mike Hammer and James Bond rolled into one, a tough-talking, shirt-shucking, gun-toting fireball of a secret agent who attracts bullets and babes in astounding qualities."

This is how Marvel Comics begins the explanatory text on the back of its newly-released Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. trade paperback, and it perfectly encapsulates the exciting exhilarating, and down-right FUN attitude of this book.

The trade collects the first six issues of the original series that began in 1968, and at a time when superheroes were Marvel's standard material, this was something quite different. In fact, it still is. The stories reprinted in this album present readers with a fair amount of action, suspense, science fiction, drama and even horror. And they are all done in a style incomparable to anything else done at that time, and, unfortunately, to the following issues as well, as writer/artist Jim Steranko departed after the sixth issue.

Steranko kept the dynamic Marvel style alive, but gave it an extra kick by adding then-modern design concepts to characters and scenes. He borrowed from popular media, such as TV's The Avengers and the James Bond movies. Similarly, his page layout style showed great influence from modern graphic artists Andy Warhol and Peter Max. Events flowed through the page, as opposed to the stop-and-go of panel-by-panel storytelling. These innovations, even today, make Nick Fury as much fun to look at as it is to read.

Unfortunately, Steranko's early departure from the book gives the trade paperback an unsatisfying ending, leaving the reader to wonder at the identity of the villain, Scorpio. As a result, the book has a beginning and a middle, but no real ending. It is, however, still worth searching out for those who wish to experience what great work can be accomplished in the comic book medium.

[ by Mark Allen ]
Rambles: 21 December 2002

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