Comic Picks By The Glick

Fury vol. 1: My War Gone By

December 10, 2012

Garth Ennis returns to his hard-drinking, hard-loving, hard-living version of Nick Fury from Marvel’s MAX imprint for one last hurrah.  Or if you’d rather:  One last round of gratuitous sex, extremely graphic violence, and scathing critique of post-WWII U.S. foreign policy on Disney’s dime.  If you’ve read the writer’s previous mini-series about the character then you’ll know exactly what to expect here.  What helps this particular collection stand out is the explicit focus on specific parts of history that we get here.  Ennis as history teacher?  You heard it here first.

Vol. 1 of “My War Gone By” tells two distinct, but connected, stories.  The first takes place in 1954 in French Indochina, a.k.a. Vietnam, as we and Fury are introduced to the supporting cast of this story.  There’s George Heatherly, a newbie to the C.I.A. who still needs to be educated in how the world works, Shirley Defabio, a tough-but-elegant gal from Chicago’s south side who is now secretary to Congressman (soon to be Senator) “Pug” McCuskey.  It’s Pug who serves as the instigator for Fury’s adventures here as he introduces the man to the French commander who is desperately trying to fix his country’s slipping hold on the region.  Later on, in 1961, the Senator sets Fury and Heatherly up on a mission to assassinate Fidel Castro in the midst of the Bay of Pigs invasion.

There’s a lot here that will be very familiar to fans of Ennis.  The relationship between grizzled veteran Fury and naive idealist Heatherly as the former continues to enlighten the latter on the true nature of the work they’re doing, for one.  Shirley’s tough gal is another, as is Pug’s manipulative, scheming politician.  You’ve also got various members of the cast who have limbs blown off or eaten by sharks, a man’s balls get cut off, another gets his head crushed in a vise, which is pretty much normal considering what the writer has shown us in the past.

It the sense of time and place that we get here that makes “Fury” stand out.  We’re given a clear sense of both sides of why the French need to be in Indochina as there’s the feeling that if they leave, the entire country and subsequently Asia will fall to communism.  On the other hand, is reinforcing them here nothing more than propping up their fading empire?  Then there’s the matter of the actual people living in the region who give Fury their own thoughts on the matter first in a giant firefight at the base he’s been ordered to hold, and then in the aftermath.

The character’s adventure in Cuba is no less specific as we see him train combatants for a mission orchestrated by the C.I.A. at the urging of exiled nationals from the country living in Florida.  Here, though, the book’s focus becomes a bit more defined as Fury tells us at the beginning that even though he knew the operation was a mistake, he took it anyway because it got him back where he wanted to be -- on the front line.  With that, “Fury” further differentiates itself from Ennis’ previous takes on the excesses of the Agency and the U.S. Military-Industrial Complex by not just showing us the war-mongering actions of the schemers themselves but the enablement by the combat junkie commandos who wanted to keep fighting these wars.

Familiarity with the subject matter aside, this is still put together as professionally as you’d expect from Ennis and eminently readable as a result.  Goran Parlov, the artist’s collaborator on several volumes of “Punisher MAX” and “Barracuda,” provides the art and it’s just as gritty as you’d want from this kind of subject matter.  His gory depictions of combat and torture are vivid and disturbing enough, but the man is also skilled at injecting real emotion to the many scenes of talking heads in this volume as well.  Parlov may not be one for photorealistic amounts of detail, but his work here really captures the feel of the time and place of these particular eras.

Vol. 2 will conclude this series, and from what I imagine, Ennis’ tenure at Marvel.  After all, what else would he want to write there?  If that really is the case, then he’ll at least be going out on a high point based on what I’ve read here.  We’ll also be seeing him write Frank Castle again, and (if the two-page splash at the beginning of this volume is an indication) Barracuda as well.  I have a hard time imagining that there won’t be much to not like about that.

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