Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Classics - Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. #1

Jim Steranko cut an amazing arc across comics during his relatively short run and a writer and artist, and he's most famous for his work on Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. as it appeared in Strange Tales (I reviewed one of those classic issues here).

But in 1968, Marvel did something amazing - it grew! After years of being limited in how many comics it could publish, the company finally had the opportunity to expand, so it gave new comics to each star of its "split" comics: Tales to Astonish, which featured the Sub-Mariner and the Hulk; Tales of Suspense, with Iron Man and Captain America; and Strange Tales, with Fury and Dr. Strange.

It was a great time to be reading comics, as each of those characters broke free of the old 10-page restraints - and no one made better use of the expanded space than Steranko.

Before, Fury's adventures had been (brilliantly) based on the format of the old movie serials, with a continued string of cliffhanger endings leading you into the next month's issue.

But with this issue, the storytelling suddenly became more cinematic and more sophisticated.

The first three pages have no dialogue or sound effects at all, as we see Fury breaking into a heavily-fortified structure - and then we see him gunned down!

And that's just the beginning of a story filled with twists and turns as we move from location to location, meeting seemingly-unrelated characters and stories that all eventually dovetail together in an explosive and unexpected climax.

There's plenty of terrific action sequences, as Steranko uses the expanded space to throw in amazing designs, op art and a killer double-page splash.

The story is clever, touching and surprisingly adult for a mainstream comic in the '60s.

Sadly, Steranko only did four full-length issues, each one a classic in its own right. But this first issue was possibly the best of the bunch, and it set the bar for the rest of the industry - a mark rarely matched.

Grade: A+



Anonymous said...

What a great time to be 14-15 years old and a Marvel Comics fan!
First, all the new titles as the
"split books" characters expanded,
and Steranko produced work that
was thrilling then and still seems
fresh and exciting today!
I was a bit peeved then that Jim didn't continue for another hundred
issues, but in retrospect, I'm just
glad for what we got and enjoy every blessed page of it.

Sam Kujava

Chuck said...

Sam, I absolutely agree - I wish Steranko had more quantity in his comics work, but there's no denying the quality.

When I pick up a comic like this I'm always afraid it won't live up to my memory of how great it was. This one hasn't lost a step.

Peter Wallace said...

I'm with Sam, and was about the same age when this came out and blew me away! Really too bad Steranko wasn't more prolific!