Saturday, October 17, 2015

Fury: S.H.I.E.L.D. 50th Anniversary #1

A very troubling sign greets us with the roll out of the many issues commemorating the 50th anniversary of S.H.I.E.L.D., Marvel's fictional representation of the overarching, suffocating U.S. national security state military industrial complex.

First off, as mentioned in a recent post devoted to Fantastic Four #600, I find it bizarre how little fuss Marvel made of the golden anniversaries of its seminal, industry-defining characters -- Spider-Man, Thor, Fantastic Four. I made sense of this bizarreness by explaining it as a marketing decision. Marvel's characters now principally toil for the profit of Walt Disney Studios. Seating movie-going youth in front of the big cinema screen is not achieved by accentuating the rich heritage of your fictional property.

But the opulent celebration of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s fiftieth cuts against this grain. Why? S.H.I.E.L.D. back in the day -- meaning, back in the Silver and Bronze Age of comic books when Marvel replaced D.C. as king of the hill -- was never more than background noise, set dressing, Stan Lee's fictive recasting of the Cold War, CIA vs. KGB, as S.H.I.E.L.D. vs. Hydra; it provided a platform on which the superheroes could perform their derring-do. But S.H.I.E.L.D. and its agent Nick Fury, outside of an influential -- influential among industry aficionados -- 20-issue run by graphic pioneer Jim Steranko in the 1960s, was never front and center. So why now?

My suspicion is base commercialism. Disney wants to emphasize characters that can be easily and lucratively translated into television and film. S.H.I.E.L.D. is the anchor.

This bodes ill for the creative potential of Marvel going forward. I think the recent iteration of Secret Wars, Marvel's latest crossover reboot, was a confusing dud. And having recently watched Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), I can say the same thing about it. It was horrible. I had to struggle to sit through it.

But the heavy promotion of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s fiftieth also has a political component as the presidential election years approaches. The message is don't fret about our old buddy the intrusive national security state; see, he has been with us for a half century, and that whole time he has been keeping us safe from hatred and Hydra.

An example of this noxious message is on full display in Fury: S.H.I.E.L.D. 50th Anniversary #1, written by David Walker with art by Scott Hepburn. Here the black son of Fury, the present Nick Fury, travels back in time to Watts during the rebellion of the summer of 1965 where he encounters his father, the original Nick Fury, who, hagiographically, is actively sympathizing with blacks and trying to keep the Los Angeles Police from overindulging in a murderous rampage.

For the sake of verisimilitude, representatives of the national security state would be actively engaged in the "turkey shoot" alongside L.A.'s Finest, not trying to tamp it down. Proof of this is the political tsunami that Watts, along with Berkeley's Free Speech Movement, brought about -- white backlash. It elected Reagan in a landslide over Pat Brown, probably the greatest liberal governor in the history of the United States.

Absurdly the story concludes with Nick Fury rescuing the tot Obama from assassination by a time-displaced Hate-Monger. But Obama has transformed nothing about our system of predatory capitalism, war-mongery and institutional racism. So the contemplation of his possible death at an early age really represents nothing in terms of a meaning counterfactual.

Below you will find eight scans from Fury: S.H.I.E.L.D. 50th Anniversary #1.

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