Nick Fury, Jr. kicks off his solo series with a thoroughly enjoyable and visually striking 60s-style caper from writer James Robinson, penciler ACO, and inker Hugo Petrus.
Writer: James Robinson
Artist: ACO, Hugo Petrus
Publisher: Marvel Comics
James Robinson built his reputation in superhero comics on his unique touch with legacy characters and a fondness for the genre’s Golden Age. In his greatest work, Starman at DC, his pop culture-obsessed, Gen X slacker protagonist came to accept his place in a lineage of heroes by connecting with his aged father and dead brother. More recently, Robinson embraced the history of the Marvel Universe, reuniting World War II-era characters in The Invaders. With Nick Fury, he sets out to bridge the gap between the cinematic powerhouse of today’s Marvel and its 60s glory days of innovation in characterization and storytelling.
This debut issue finds the updated version of Fury–the Ultimates/Samuel L. Jackson-inspired son of the original model–in a scenario where his father would have been quite at home. He’s been assigned to a mission on the French Riviera, equipped with high-tech eyepatch and prepared to take down the customary hordes of HYDRA agents as necessary. The younger Fury has fewer apparent hard edges than his cigar-chomping, WWII vet forebear, bringing a hint of Bond’s suave charms to the character. The debt to everyone’s favorite MI6 agent is not subtle in the narrative, most apparent in the name of Fury’s primary quarry: HYDRA paymaster Auric Goodfellow, is–of course–a very on-the-nose homage to the title character from Goldfinger and holds the same position and fondness for gambling as Le Chiffre from Casino Royale.
The art from design-minded penciller ACO, who has worked on Constantine and Midnighter as well as numerous covers, does a beautiful job, along with inker Petrus and colorist Rachelle Rosenberg, of capturing the right atmosphere with Steranko-inflected panache. As the cover makes clear with the op-art-influenced imagery from the the original Fury’s first solo series projected onto the new model, this comic is aiming for an updated take on the eye-catching majesty of that classic run. The figures are significantly smoother than any Steranko would have drawn, but his influence is readily apparent in the wild, yet legible, layouts and nods to pop art sensibilities. The entire issue is a master class in arranging double-page spreads and presenting the characters in suitably cool poses. The bright colors and some self-conscious throwbacks like the stars and crackles in an explosion bring the effect home.
The sparse plot of the comic brings to mind Warren Ellis’ run of one-shot stories on Secret Avengers. Unfortunately, that comparison also raises the major weakness of Robinson’s writing so far. Ellis excels at using strategically placed technobabble and a couple intimate character moments to add a sense of depth and stakes to this kind of fast-paced narrative. By contrast, Robinson–who usually is more likely to script lengthy, soul-baring conversations–errs a little too far on the side of keeping the proceedings light and action-packed. As a result, it all feels a bit slight, with Fury’s expressions of personality limited to a bit of banter and his badass opposite number at HYDRA, Frankie Noble, a rather flat villainess so far.
Of course, if this was the start of a Bond film, I’d be entirely thrilled with the over-the-top action and ready to settle in for the credits sequence. Given Robinson’s proven facility for revealing hidden depths in his characters, there’s ample reason to be optimistic about what’s ahead for this series. The combination of visual excitement and commitment to producing mission-focused issues that can stand alone could make this comic a welcome breath of fresh air in a world with a surfeit of writer-focused, continuity shattering superhero epics.