REVIEW: Fury Max #9

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Fury Max is Garth Ennis’s take on Nick Fury as a Cold Warrior, trading in his jet pack and blue bodysuit for extrajudicial killings and murky political maneuverings. Fighting the Viet Cong instead of Hydra, and working for the CIA instead of SHIELD, this version of Nick Fury is more realpolitik than superhero. Major Spoilers has the review of Fury Max #9 so you can decide if this gritty tale of a real-world cigar-chomping one-eyed spy is for you. Plus: bonus Frank Castle!

FuryMax9CoverFURY MAX #9
Writer: Garth Ennis
Aritst: Goran Parlov
Colors: Lee Loughridge
Lettering: Rob Steen
Editor: Nick Lowe
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: $3.99

Previously, in Fury Max: Sent on an assassination mission into the deepest depths of Laos during the Vietnam War, Nick Fury and Frank Castle end up captured by the very man they were sent to kill: General Letrong Giap. Giap lets slip that the CIA wants him dead so badly not because he’s an effective guerilla leader, but because he has evidence of a CIA-led heroin smuggling ring. Giap believes that his documents could bring about the very end of the war, if only Fury will play ball. But c’mon, it’s Nick Fury.

STONE COLD

War comics are a venerable genre, but there’s precious little war comic work being done in the modern era. Off the top of my head, the number of no-frills combat titles I can name fits on one hand – and two of them are written by Garth Ennis. Fury Max (which is titled Fury: My War Gone By on the cover, but I’m going with what’s on the solicits) is a historical war comic for those who want a little hardboiled spycraft between machine-gunnings. It follows Nick Fury as he maneuvers the complex Cold War political waters, trying to adjust as a man of battle forced to sink or swim in the treacherous world of espionage.

If you’ve read Garth Ennis, you know his proclivity for pushing boundaries. Earlier issues have traded in some pretty juvenile sexual titillation, but when Ennis reigns in his prurient interests and focuses on the blood ‘n guts side of things, this book really sings. And issue #9 is almost all that. With Fury and Castle imprisoned and an Arclight mission on the way, it’s up to the would-be assassins to bust free and find a way out of this mess. With Nick Fury and Frank Castle against an entire NVA battalion, the odds are stacked firmly in favor of the Americans. Ennis writes Fury and Castle as grim, determined men of action, with their personalities so abstracted they’re almost chilling in their starkness. For an action-filled issue which hits the predictable beats, it still manages to be disturbing in the way that Ennis connects the individuals to the larger plot implications.

JUST LIKE OLD TIMES

Goran Parlov’s work has a cartoony, retro look – almost like an evil Darwyn Cooke. This suits the historical themes of the book, while creating a semi-ironic contrast with the explicit violence. The way he lays out his pages is also fairly old-school. Most of the pages are structured into 5 vertically-stacked panels, deviating only to highlight a facial expression or action sequence. This sort of construction can be tedious, but Parlov wields it well, using it to impart a cinematic quality to the art. He also varies it enough so that the technique does not get stale. Parlov’s depictions of the North Vietnamese captors does get close to crossing a line, but then again, so does Ennis’s writing.

BOTTOM LINE: A WAR COMIC WORTH READING

Fury Max #9 is a two-fisted tale of over-the-top macho martial prowess. But it also has something a bit deeper concerning issues of political expediency and pragmatism, with an almost nihilistic ending. It’s not a triumphant tale by any measure. Fury’s character isn’t anything approaching heroic. The titular character is a sort of stock military man that will be familiar to most readers in the military genre – the grizzled badass who is too tough to die, but doesn’t seem to have much reason for living. But characters like these are Ennis’s stock and trade – he has an affection for them that shines through in his writing. And while nothing in this story surprised me, it certainly did entertain me. Fury Max isn’t breaking new ground, but it does what it does well. Fury Max #9 earns three and a half out of five stars. Check it out.

Rating: ★★★½☆

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