Apr 17, 2015

Massive New S.H.I.E.L.D. Omnibus Collects All the Classic Sixties Nick Fury Comics

The complete run of the classic Sixties spy comic Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. will be collected in one massive hardcover tome due out from Marvel this fall. Though in keeping with current branding, it won't actually be released under its original title, but just "S.H.I.E.L.D.," dropping the Nick Fury. This is obviously in part to tie in with Marvel's current TV show Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which doesn't feature the one-eyed superspy, and in part because Fury himself has largely been written out of the Marvel Universe at the moment. (The Nick Fury featured in these stories has been banished to the moon, believe it or not.) The name change is regrettable, but it's still nice that these classic and essential comics will all be collected together.

Historically, S.H.I.E.L.D. collections have focused on Jim Steranko's undeniably definitive run on the title. That's as it should be, since those Steranko comics are essential reading for any fan of the character or the medium at large, but by focusing on Steranko alone they leave out a lot of good stories by other writers and artists. This Omnibus will be the first time that the entire run of original stories from Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. has been collected in one place, not just the three issues that Steranko drew. (Most of Steranko's contributions to the character came earlier in the anthology book Strange Tales, though that run began in the hands of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Even the Kirby material is often left out of Nick Fury collections.) This 960-page tome, S.H.I.E.L.D.: The Complete Collection, collects the Fury material from Strange Tales issues 135-168, Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. #1-15, Fantastic Four #21, Tales of Suspense #78, Avengers #72, Marvel Spotlight #31 (featuring a story drawn by Howard Chaykin that explains why WWII vet Fury didn't seem to be aging much by the 1970s), and relevant material from Marvel's self-parody 'zine Not Brand Echh #3, 8 and 11. As far as I can tell, that means the only content not already collected in three volumes' worth of Marvel Masterworks (out of print high end, hardcover collections) is Tales of Suspense #78, a Jack Kirby-drawn story which sees Fury teamed with Captain America to defeat "the macabre menace of THEM." So if you've got the three volumes of Marvel Masterworks: Nick Fury, you might not need this collection. Then again you might, as it is the first time all of this material has been collected in a single volume. The only glaring omission that I can spot is Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos Annual #3, which saw the eye-patched Fury (the patch distinguished the contemporary version of the character from his WWII self, star of a long-running series) and his WWII unit reconvened by President Johnson for a special mission in Vietnam. That one didn't make any previous S.H.I.E.L.D. collections either.

The Steranko stories are all conveniently collected in a much cheaper, much easier to hold trade paperback called S.H.I.E.L.D. by Steranko: The Complete Collection. That might be the best place for beginners to turn, eager for their first exposure to Steranko's groundbreaking artwork or Nick Fury's spy adventures. And Fury's whole Sixties run is collected in those three very nice, very readable Marvel Masterworks hardcovers, though those are out of print. But S.H.I.E.L.D.: The Complete Collection Omnibus brings everything together in one convenient place. So if you think you're apt to get hook, this might be a good starting place after all. It will certainly save time in hunting down all of these issues individually! And the Sixties S.H.I.E.L.D. oeuvre is as essential a part of any good spy collection as Ian Fleming paperbacks or The Man From U.N.C.L.E. DVDs.

Marvel will also release a trade paperback this fall collecting the first six issues of their current S.H.I.E.L.D. comic, based loosely on the TV series. (It's surprisingly good!) And the final trade paperback volume of Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. Classic, collecting the comic's early Nineties run, is due out in June. Between them (and especially when combined with Nick Fury vs. S.H.I.E.L.D., Wolverine & Nick Fury: Scorpio and Garth Ennis's Fury MAX: My War Gone By), Nick Fury's Marvel legacy is now pretty well covered in trade!

Retail on this behemoth is $99.99, but it's considerably less on Amazon. It will be available with a Steranko cover or a new Alex Ross cover.

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