31 Days of Comics Challenge: Day 13

Great Plot Twist

Published in 1988, Nick Fury Vs. S.H.I.E.L.D. analyzes the problems inherent in a secretive, bureaucratic espionage organization.  Nick Fury is ostensibly the head of S.H.I.E.L.D. — and yet there is a board of directors to which he answers, and whose faces he has never seen.

This series, named one of Nick Fury’s greatest stories, begins with indications that a conspiracy is afoot.  A scheme that frames Nick as a traitor and forces him to go rogue.  As Nick’s colleagues betray him one by one — or are killed off! — the reader’s sense of paranoia grows.  Characters that have been around since the sixties, trusted allies of Nick Fury, are all involved in the conspiracy.  Worse, the enemies of S.H.I.E.L.D. appear to be involved too.

SPOILER ALERT!!!  If you intend to read this series, don’t go any further….  You have been warned….

In the end, the masterminds of the conspiracy are the organization’s Life Model Decoys, android replicas of every important S.H.I.E.L.D. operative.  It was they who betrayed Nick, they who perished.  And all our beloved characters are imprisoned but safe.

Re-reading the series, I see how there are clues as to the identity of the conspirators from the very first scene.  But it truly took me by surprise in my first reading.  And I still think the motivation for the conspiracy is excellent science fiction writing: Life Model Decoys are manufactured to have short lifespans.  They need Fury’s body in order to extract The Infinity Formula, a substance that has kept Fury young since World War II.  They intend to prolong their lifespans and permanently replace their biological counterparts.

The story raises the question: what makes an entity human?  And the last few pages of the story give a surprising answer.

Tomorrow: Good Comic I’ll Never Re-Read