There are two Nick Furys in the current version of the Marvel Universe: a younger black guy and the original white super-spy who’s his dad. This week, they meet in a time-travel story that shows how the racial tension in America today isn’t all that different from the how it was in the bad old days.
Marvel’s been doing a series of one-shots to celebrate the 50th anniversary of S.H.I.E.L.D., the super-spy agency that now has its own TV show. The comic that’s out this week is Fury: S.H.I.E.L.D. 50th Anniversary #1, written by David Walker and drawn by Lee Ferguson with colors by Jason Keith. It features the current Nick Fury—a newish character invented so Marvel would have an in-continuity version that looked like Samuel L. Jackson—chasing down a C-list villain called the Hate-Monger. The old Hate-Monger was a clone of Adolf Hitler. For real. The new one isn’t, but was once possessed by the consciousness of the old one. They both wear ugly-ass purple KKK outfits.
Thanks to a time-travel device, Fury’s pursuit of the new Hate-Monger lands him smack dab in the middle of 1965, during a riot in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles, but that really doesn’t matter. The scene Fury lands into is one that happened a lot during the height of the Civil Rights Movement: anger at inequality boiling over into violence, which is met by police and military ordered to keep a certain class of citizens in their place. The authorities don’t take too kindly to Fury’s arrival.
Eventually, Fury, Jr. meets up with a younger version of Fury, Sr...
and they have a pointed conversation about how America is supposed to be.
As the adventure continues, it comes to light that maybe Hate-Monger didn’t wind up here by accident. He’s here to kill a five-year-old kid who lives in Hawaii.
A biracial boy nicknamed Barry.
This issue deftly flips the hoary old moral conundrum about going back in time to kill Hitler. Here, it’s an Adolf-alike plunging backwards along the continuum to kill the boy who grows up to be America’s 44th president. Fury: S.H.I.E.L.D. 50th Anniversary #1 shows that its creators aren’t out of touch with what’s happened historically in America with regard to race relations but still manages to be a fun bit of sci-fi super-spy business. That’s a tough balance to strike, which makes this comic a very welcome surprise.
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