A Second Reading and a New Interpretation
As I grow older I find myself trying to thin out my possessions. I haven’t decided if this is some sort of late midlife existential crisis or maybe I’m just getting tired of storing, moving, cleaning, and tripping over all the shit I’ve accumulated during the last four decades. I’d like to sound hip and say it’s the former but it’s probably more the latter. A couple months back I was sorting some comic books into keep and donate stacks when I came across Bob Harras’ six book series Nick Fury vs. S.H.I.E.L.D. I remember enjoying it when I read it over thirty years ago, but my memory of the plot was a bit vague. So with beer in hand and some 1980s music for ambiance I sat down to reread the series to see if it would make the keep stack.
I was a geeky kid in high school who read comics (this was before being a geek or reading comics was considered cool) when the series debuted in 1988. I was an avid reader of a few Marvel superhero titles at the time. I was also developing an interest in spy and mystery novels (the inexpensive, paperback ones that you could buy at your local KMart). It was Jim Steranko’s cover artwork that first caught my attention back in the summer of ’88. It wasn’t the kind of comic book cover I was used to. This was a cover for a novel, the kind of novel I that wanted to read. That cover suggested adventure, espionage, and pages of thrills. Thirty years later the cover still impresses me. That cover makes you pause before you turn the page and start reading. After an appropriate pause I did turn the page, and I was glad I did.
It’s interesting what thirty years will do to, or for, your memory. Nick Fury vs. S.H.I.E.L.D. is still the action story I remembered enjoying as a teenager, but Harras did so much more than write an action story. He gives us Nick Fury, a man who faces an existential crisis (one much more complex than my possible first paragraph crisis). Nick Fury is forced to question the meaning and purpose of his work and accomplishments as Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. and come to grips with the answers. In 1988, the protagonist’s dilemma was something I couldn’t fully appreciate. Thirty years later I discovered a story of personal crises and political intrigues. This story was true in 1988, but it was a truth that I didn’t have the life experience to fully understand. The story still rings true in 2019 and with over thirty years of life experience (and as many years of comic book reading) it is a truth that is readily accessible and exceptionally well written.
Harras’ well-developed story, along with the talented artwork of Paul Neary and Kim DeMulder, is well worth reading. One of the features of good art is that it can be read or viewed at different times in one’s life and provide varying interpretations each time. Nick Fury vs. S.H.I.E.L.D. accomplishes this. At the time of publication it provided a geeky high school kid who was beginning to discover a world of literature a well written action story. The series also provided this middle aged reader with a contemporary commentary on modern man and the political world he lives in.
Nick Fury vs. S.H.I.E.L.D. (1988) by Bob Harras with artwork by Paul Neary and Kim DeMulder.