“I feel like I blinked and someone turned the place into the United States of pussies…”
In this comic, we see Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson turn their acerbic view of the superhero genre onto Nick Fury. Though perhaps not as iconic as Ennis and Steve Dillon in Preacher, their work together on The Boys is top tier and are some of my favourite comic books. So I was excited to see this early team-up. In this story, Nick Fury is a grizzled cold war veteran, who is disillusioned by the state of the world. Everything is done on computers, their is too much red tape, and he can’t even smoke his signature cigar indoors anymore! It’s the “United States of pussies” as he puts it. But soon he gets chance to put his own ways to use one more time against an old HYDRA adversary.
Ok, so it’s difficult to tell how seriously we’re meant to take this curmudgeonly Fury. He’s a man’s man, a dinosaur from a different age who is sick of the PC way of the world. He wants things back the way they were, not this pointless bureaucracy of the modern world. Seeing him deal with the present-day world is funny, though I can understand if people find the whole thing a bit off-putting. Fury isn’t particularly likeable, but he’s an exaggeration, as are all of Ennis’ characters. The villains are all uber-hench soldiers, all with huge muscles and over-the-top facial expressions. It’s not a complicated story either. Sure Ennis has a few of his usual comments in there, but this is much more of a straight-up action story. Like an Arnold Schwarzenegger film fromthe 1980’s, it’s not meant to be analysed.
The majority of the comic is taken up on a small island in the Pacific as Fury tries to prevent World War 3. Action is one thing that Ennis and Robertson both excel in. The one-liners, over-the-top characters, and iffy morals all work best when there are explosions going off around them. And Robertson’s art is fantastic. I loved his work on The Boys, and missed it when someone else took over for the spin-offs. And here he excels, drawing all manner of gross gore, extreme violence, and insane fights. Again, it’s not high art. But comics are one medium that can do both really well, and the pulpy plot of this comic and silly violence and gunplay are just as entertaining as the most pretentious story.
The comic is worth reading for the last issue alone. This sees Fury go up against the main villain, and it’s not spoiling anything to say he kills him. They battle and exchange insults, taking (literal) chunks out of one another all whilst the US air force carpet bombs the island around them. It is one of the most exciting fights I’ve seen in a comic, and I’m not too big to admit that seeing Fury strangle a man with his own intestines isn’t one of the most ludicrously cool things ever committed to paper. Even if I felt like a needed a shower afterwards.
It’s also part of Marvel’s MAX imprint, so expect a lot of edge. There is the violence, sex, and profanity you’d expect (though I still find it weird seeing all of the Marvel characters I grew up with like this!) Apparently, it was this comic that made George Clooney decide not to play the character. Which is a shame, because taking that out of context makes the comic seem gratuitous and unpleasant. Which it is, but it’s also smart and over-the-top in all of the right ways. It’s silly and it knows it.
It’s a classic Garth Ennis story, and you’ll probably know if you’ll enjoy it or not. As a big fan of Ennis’ work, I loved it. And I especially enjoyed the shoutout to Preacher‘s Arseface. He writes a lot of macho, unbelievably grimy stuff. But I will always defend him as there is pathos and purpose in (most) everything he writes. It serves a purpose and most of the time leads someone meaningful and worthwhile. I can see the kneejerk reaction, and it’s not for everyone, but I say if you like Garth Ennis, particularly his run on The Punisher, check it out.
Reviewed by Jack