BATTLE SCARS | Comic Review & Background

Continuing our look at Black heroes for Black History Month, today we answer the question ‘what’s the deal with the two Nick Furys?’

Published by: Marvel Comics
Written by: Christopher Yost, Matt Fraction & Cullen Bunn
Art by: Scot Eaton
Year: 2011

Collects: Battle Scars #1-6

CONTENTS
– Background
– Plot
– Review


WHAT’s THE STORY?

So if you’re a fan of Marvel superheroes due to the movies, you’ll know Nick Fury as Samuel L. Jackson. Bald. Black. Usually wearing a trench coat.

However, if you read the comics (or have seen the David Hasselhoff-starring TV-movie) you’ll know originally, Nick Fury was actually this guy…

NICK FURY

Real Name: Nicholas Joseph Fury Sr. 
Affiliation:
S.H.I.E.L.D.
First Appearance: Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos #1 (May 1963)

America’s former ‘Top Cop’, Nick Fury was a World War II veteran whose extensive injuries during the war put him on track to becoming one of the most infamous peacekeepers in history. A piece of shrapnel to the eye led to Fury donning his signature eyepatch while being caught in the blast of a land-mine led to him being used as a test subject for a serum known as the ‘Infinity Formula’. 
The formula healed the wounds Fury sustained from the landmine, and also extended his life, allowing Fury to retain his relative youth well into the modern-day. After some time in the CIA, Fury was appointed the second director of the world peacekeeping task force known as S.H.I.E.L.D. 
Under his direction, S.H.I.E.L.D. became a significant presence in international conflicts, utilising impressive technology such as the flying Helicarriers and robotic life-model-decoys, while also studying and developing relationships with superheroes such as The Avengers. 
In more recent years, Fury has been replaced as S.H.I.E.L.D’s director, but still keeps his eye on the various conflicts that threaten the globe. 

He served as the Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. and a major player in the world of Superheroes from his creation in the sixties until he was forced to go to ground in the early 2000s. He was still around, but he wasn’t as prominent.

Meanwhile, Marvel was in the process of creating their ‘Ultimate’ Universe; a line of comics that reimagined classic stories through a more modern lens. The first of these was Ultimate Spider-Man and that was soon followed by takes on the X-Men, Fantastic Four and the Avengers.

In the pages of Ultimate X-Men, ‘ultimate’ Nick Fury was introduced. He was similar to his main universe counterpart, but he was black.

He later popped up in The Ultimates (Avengers), where he had had something of a redesign, and now looked like Samuel L. Jackson. The character even makes a joke about Jackson playing him in a future movie.

Fast-forward a few years, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe is born. Iron Man hits the big screen and introduces Nick Fury in a post-credits scene. And of course, there’s only one man for the job.

But now, Marvel has a problem (but not really). In-universe, Nick Fury looks nothing like the character seen on the big screen (or the little screen, for that matter – black Nick Fury often became the go-to design across animated series as well).

So they needed to find a way to write out white Nick Fury and replace him with black Nick Fury. Little did they know that around 2015 they would have the perfect opportunity to do just that.

Unfortunately, this comic was published in 2011.


PLOT:

While Army Ranger Marcus Johnson was fending off a Taliban attack during his tour of duty in Afghanistan, the United States was attacked by an evil fearmongering Asgardian God.

As always, the superheroes prevailed, but unfortunately, Johnson is informed that his mother has been killed amidst the chaos.

Returning home to grieve, Marcus soon learns that the reports of looters killing his mother were false, as mercenaries start coming out of the woodwork to bring him in dead or alive.

Determined to avenge his late mother and find out why he has suddenly become a target, Marcus must face off against Russian hitmen, the Serpent Squad, Taskmaster and Deadpool in his search for the truth.


REVIEW:

Look, on its own, this comic is mostly fine for what it is. The story makes sense and the art, while a little inconsistent, gets the point across.

There are some fun scenes and cameos, and seeing a regular guy’s response to encountering Deadpool and others like him is enjoyable enough.

But the concept behind this story’s conception is pretty dumb, and that, unfortunately, leaks through into the comic itself.

For the first four issues of the series, you’re left to wonder why some random army Ranger is so important to the Marvel Universe. And by the time you get your answers (Marcus Johnson is Nick Fury’s secret son! *gasp*), this can only be seen as a rather ridiculous attempt at synergy.

It’s especially ridiculous because of how quickly the story transitions Johnson from normal man to a Nick Fury replacement.

At the end of issue four, he has his eye cut out. Which, to be fair, does make sense within the context of the story. A character remarks on Marcus’ lack of resemblance to his father (Fury) and cuts his eye out to fix that problem.

But then, pretty promptly after, he’s involved in an accident that forces him to start shaving his head. At which point he also starts growing a goatee and all of a sudden Marcus Johnson is gone. And he’s been replaced by Sam Jackson’s Nick Fury.

And then, to really hammer that point down, it’s revealed that Johnson’s mother actually named him ‘Nick Fury Jr’, and his best friend ‘Cheese’ who’s been hanging around in a supporting role is actually Phil Coulson. Ridiculous.

It’s especially ridiculous because going forward, writers then start using Johnson-Fury in the same way they would use old-Fury. A commanding presence who talks down to Superheroes, or seems to be in charge of S.H.I.E.L.D, when he’s not that. He’s just a random agent. He shouldn’t be in charge of anything.

I distinctly remember a scene in the comic Avengers & X-Men: AXIS (which is bad, don’t read it) where Johnson-Fury sits down with Sam Wilson-Captain America and remarks how the situation is ‘one of the worst he’s ever seen’. By this point, real-time, two years have passed. Which means, in-story, its probably only been a couple of months since he became a S.H.I.E.L.D agent. He’s seen pretty much nothing, while everyone else in the room has been saving the world for years. It’s especially ludicrous because experienced agent Maria Hill is standing right next to him at the time, yet for some reason, they’ve let the new kid run the meeting WITH THE AVENGERS.

With hindsight, it becomes even worse.

In 2015, Marvel published an event about universes colliding called Secret Wars. They used the ending of this event to take Miles Morales, the black Spider-Man who was becoming increasingly popular, take him out of the ‘ultimate’ universe and place him in the mainstream universe with all their other major heroes. The same thing could have been done with ‘ultimate’ Fury. By this point, old-Fury had essentially been written out of the story. So when you’re merging parts of your ‘Ultimate’ universe with your mainstream universe, why not bring over Nick Fury as well?

Of course, they couldn’t, because they’d already jumped the shark at this point and done this silly story about Fury’s secret black child secretly called Nick Fury who conveniently physically transforms into a copy of Samuel L Jackson’s character.

I feel like I’m starting to ramble so I’m going to stop it there. Sometimes Marvel decides to emulate the MCU rather than telling its own stories, and I struggle to think of a time when that turns out well. As such, I give Battle Scars a…

Thanks for reading! What do you think about synergy? Should characters remain consistent across the mediums? Let me know in the comments below!

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