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What follows is a theory about one of Marvel’s most resilient characters, Nick Fury, and all the forms he takes. From a sergeant with the Howling Commandos to an Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. to Samuel L. Jackson and beyond, the character of Nick Fury endures. But why? Let’s talk about Battle Scars #6 and look at all the Furys (Furi?) we have on the table.
WARNING: Yep, talking about Battle Scars again, so if you’ve picked up issue #6 or are just a fan of internet spoilers, read along!
As of Battle Scars #6, we have a 616 “Nick Fury” who resembles the guy showing up on the silver screen under the same name. It’s a pretty good story to get him this far, the new moniker is believable and hey! He brings along an “Agent Coulson” with him as well! It’s movie-comics kismet. The thing is, they didn’t really need a new guy to match the movie image. As we all know, movie sales doesn’t exactly equal comic sales, so there’s no need to keep consistency between different media. So why introduce a young black soldier to be a Nick Fury Jr. in the 616 universe? I can answer that in one word: opportunity.
You see, the new Nick Fury does not eliminate the original Nick Fury. There’s no replacements, no dying wish, no torch passed, just an opportunity presented by the old man who walks back out into the world with a few more years of ass-kicking to do. He’s not going away, not by a long shot, as there’s a Fury MAX series due out, probably some guest appearances along the way … he’s not out of the game. But, for the sake of opportunity, we now have a different man with a family legacy, wearing Cap’s old Super Soldier outfit and trucking round with a breakout character from the silver screen.
But it gets better; there’s still the Ultimate Nick Fury to contend with. Another powerhouse in his own universe, he’s the actual guy who you’ll see in theaters next week, and I’m not just talking about the obvious. Nick Fury’s role in the Ultimate universe is unique, if not a little more experimental, as he never really changed with the times like classic Fury. Ultimate Fury is an institution in and of himself.
So why are they all Nick Fury? What is it about that guy that puts him in the thick of these conversations about heroes and has now found so much reinvention, allowing him to practically exist at all the right moments?
Well, let’s start with the classic Nick Fury: starting as a hard bitten army sergeant, he was the title character of his own war comics and the leader of a band of Howling Commandos. Times changed and Fury changed with them, upgrading to colonel. He became an agent of a secret spy agency called the Supreme Headquarters International Espionage Law-enforcement Division, who fought against HYDRA (Wikipedia tells me that there’s no official acronym explanation, but to keep it capitalized anyway). Like the Man from U.N.C.L.E. and other classic spy serials, Fury kept up with the times and, thanks to the Infinity Formula, barely aged a day. As spy stories waned, so did Agent Fury, bumming around for a few decades in mini-series and special one-shots, rather like the James Bond films. He guest-starred in plenty of other titles, so Nick Fury never really went away. He never got a full overhaul or snazzy new costume or a younger, thinner Life Model Decoy. He’s endured time itself and popular culture to play Marvel’s archetype of the secret agent, no matter what popular culture’s perception of a “secret agent” is. Classic Fury has risen in rank, in title and now exists as something undefined. In a way, Classic Nick Fury is a benchmark for super-heroes to come and go by; if a hero’s worth his salt, he’ll have shaken hands with Nick Fury.
Whereas Classic Fury is like the rings in the trunk of a tree, showing us how far the Marvel Universe has aged, Ultimate Nick Fury is more like the tree itself. He has been there at the beginning of the Age of Marvels, as a test subject in the Super Soldier program and at the end of it, surviving Ultimatum and all that’s come after. In the Ultimate universe, Nick Fury shepherds the weak through the valley of the darkness, for he is truly his brother’s keeper and the finder of lost children. Sorry, I couldn’t help myself, but it’s true! He watched over Peter Parker, is the guy who goes out and finds what is to become the Ultimates, or Ultimate Avengers, or whathaveyou. He even goes to another dimension and, according to Hyperion, grows to greater power there than he did in his own dimension. He adds to a different kind of story, another benchmark for the Ultimate heroes, but less as a standard of hero, but as a selector. Ultimate Nick Fury is the hand of God, selecting you to join this group or goal for a greater purpose than your own. On the small screen, this is the Nick Fury that shows up in Ultimate Spider-Man to guide Spider-Man and his new Amazing Friends because a shepherd is needed. In the Avengers movie next week, this is where the masses will see Nick Fury, the man with the plan behind the scenes, gathering troops for the conflicts to come.
Both Nick Furys presented are larger than life, these icons of their age and universe in total. Our new Nick Fury is starting from scratch, appropriately taking on his father’s name (given to him at birth but changed to protect his true identity later) as almost a superhero moniker. Our new guy is young, honored and decorated as an Army Ranger and has absolutely no attachments to the superhuman community. His pal, Cheese, is more enamored of fighting alongside Captain America than he is. He’s a hero long before mercenaries in colorful costumes arrive on the scene; throughout Battle Scars, Marcus’s motivations have been clear, his determination ironclad and his skills absolutely everything an Army Ranger should be capable of. If this new Nick Fury is a benchmark like his predecessors, he’s a measure of what a hero can do without the word ‘super’ thrown into the mix. New Nick Fury is simply a good man doing right by his country, which is where Classic Nick Fury started off all along.