Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Classics - Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. #14

   What do you do when a superstar artist leaves a title?

   Sometimes the series can survive, but sometimes... not so much.

   A good example is Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. - a series that flourished under the creative juggernaut that was writer / artist Jim Steranko.

   During his relatively short (three-year) stint on the series in the late '60s, Steranko elevated it to being the best comic in the Marvel lineup, with amazing designs, pop art effects and terrific cliffhanger stories.

   But as suddenly as he appeared he stepped away from the series, leaving the comic in other creative hands.

   It was doomed to fail.

   Other titles Steranko left had the benefit of being handed over to other top-flight talent - such as Neal Adams taking over the X-Men (when I saw Adams' first issue, I wondered why Steranko had changed his name on the credits box), and John Romita and Gene Colan sitting in on Captain America.

   But the Nick Fury series had a series of artists, almost all of them doing their best to imitate Steranko's style - but they fell short. This issue is by Herb Trimpe, a terrific storyteller who does his best to fill the creative void - he uses vivid layouts, photo backgrounds, panel grids - but despite Trimpe's professionalism, it just feels like a thin imitation of the real Steranko.

   The writing struggled as well, as Gary Fredrich tried to cook up the kind of high-speed action and adventure fans craved.

   But those styles really didn't play to the strengths of the creative team, and the series would only manage one more issue before becoming a reprint book, and then being canceled.

   Perhaps they should have tried a completely new approach, rather than clinging so desperately to Steranko's style. Or perhaps they should have just cancelled the book outright when Steranko left.

   It would have been a mercy.

Grade: B-  


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