Since the final page of the first issue of “Secret Avengers,” the question of Nick Fury working for the mysterious Shadow Council has hung over the book. Is it really Nick Fury? If it is, how is that possible? What’s he doing? If not, again, how is that possible? This epilogue to the book’s first story arc answers the question of who this Nick Fury is and how he came to work for the Shadow Council, but doesn’t give much information on the group itself. The biggest problem this issue faces is that with an incredibly talented creative team, the writing doesn’t elevate the tale beyond a basic explanation of what’s going on, while the art is remarkably uninspired. For a comic featuring the names Brubaker, Aja, Lark, and Villarrubia on the cover, it’s a disappointment.
“The Secret Life of Max Fury” details how the doppelganger of Nick Fury came to be, building off Fury’s confrontation with his brother years ago. Using the Zodiac Key, Scorpio gave a Fury Life Model Decoy the memories of the real Nick Fury, somehow enabling it to develop independent thought and sentience, convinced that it was really Nick Fury and going insane when the true was revealed. Max Fury provides a chance to see what Nick Fury unfettered would be like when, on the run from S.H.I.E.L.D., he leaves a long trail of destruction by taking down any Hydra, A.I.M., and miscellaneous terrorist operations he came across. It’s a chance to see some old school Nick Fury, kicking butt and fighting the good fight in clear-cut cases of right and wrong.
And that’s about it. The ‘secret life’ of Max Fury is simply thinking he’s Nick Fury and taking down some bad guys amidst a constant capture/escape routine with S.H.I.E.L.D. until he’s recruited by the Shadow Council. Framed by Steve Rogers and Sharon Carter questioning Nick Fury about the man that appears to be him, concepts of how much of a real person Max Fury is are raised and dismissed. There’s a surprising lack of emotional punch in the story, delivering rote action, lip service of philosophic ideas of what makes a person a person, and coming off like a quick continuity explanation instead of the self-contained, character-based comic that you’d expect.
With David Aja, Michael Lark, Stefano Gaudino, and Jose Villarrubia handling the art chores, mediocre writing shouldn’t be an issue, but even their work falls down here. There’s a lot of movement in the opening pages and throughout the issue, a staple of Aja’s art, but there’s a lack of strong, bold images. The action scenes are done in a workman-like fashion, not leaping off the page with kinetic energy that stops you dead in your tracks. It’s good, solid art that most artists would be proud to have drawn, but, when compared to what these men have done before, it comes up short.
The art flows well between artists, making the prospect of dueling styles between Aja and Lark a non-issue. There are some very nice moments in the art, like using similar compositions for both of the Furys, and one strong and gripping action sequence where Max takes down a bunch of A.I.M. grunts atop a submarine.
A compilation of familiar concepts and hints of the ‘good old days’ of Nick Fury that never cohere completely, “Secret Avengers” #5 is a disappointing issue from this creative time. It’s serviceable in the explanation of how Max Fury came to be working with the Shadow Council and does pick up on a thread from “The Marvels Project” that makes the secret group working against Rogers’s Avengers more interesting. It’s a fine comic that doesn’t satisfy completely if only because of the high standards set by the creators previously.