I know I could never tell you where Jim Steranko came from before he started drawing Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Supreme Headquarters, International Espionage, Law-Enforcement Division), in Marvel's "Strange Tales" comic book in 1966. Actually, way back when, I was more interested in Doctor Strange, Master of the Mystical Arts. Besides, it was hard to believe Nick Fury, from "Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos," was a one-eyed spymaster. But the development of Steranko's signature style as an artist became THE reason for bothering with a comic that was, in many regards, the bottom of the line at Marvel. Steranko began by doing the finished artwork over layouts by Jack "King" Kirby and ended up not only drawing the series but scripting it as well. The rest was most definitely comic history.Included in this collection are "Strange Tales" 150-168, which provides one of the greatest examples of artistic growth ever seen in the field of comic books (Barry Windsor-Smith's legendary run on "Conan the Barbarian" is the only other example on the same plateau). Here we have Nick Fury's one-man assault on Hydra and the epic battle with the Yellow Claw. Early in the Sixties Marvel had labeled its comics as "Pop Art," in a feeble attempt to market themselves as more than just comics for kids. Well, when Steranko started incorporating elements from the psychedelic films and art of the time you could argue he achieved "Pop Art" in comics. Steranko used photography, optical art effects and unorthodox page designs to create his own unique style. Ultimately, his work had much more to do with cutting-edge cinema than it did with traditional comic books, which is why his reputation endures.Read more ›
I first read these comic books when I was 13, and knew then there was something unique and different about them. And re-reading them over 30 years later confirms my belief that these are still truly incredibly entertaining comic book stories! The artwork gets better and better throughout the book as Steranko actually becomes a better artist with each subsequent chapter. His graphic design sense is totally original and eye-popping. I have the original comics on which this reprint book is based upon and it is nice to have them in one volume printed on better paper. My criticism is that Steranko's original colours were not used and that the stats upon which these reprints were based were not of the highest quality.
Reading level: ages 4-8. Ages 4 to 8?!?! Come on, Amazon, how many four year olds are going to pick up a 60's mod spy books? Have some common sense, please. I'm twenty-two and these books aren't exactly "Goodnight Moon". Why America has such a disrespect for graphic storytelling, when it is highly respected in essentially the rest of the world, is beyond me. [...]
Seldom has a comic artist injected so much of his personality into a series. There are variations of Fury the escape artist. There are multiple identity themes (did the film makers of Face Off and MI-2 read these stories at an impressionable age?). There are scenes that are, literally and figuratively, slight of hand. Beginning with "The Tribunal," Steranko molded his life, comic book, and film influences to fit his sensibilities and developed rapidly as a master storyteller. In doing this, Steranko became a major influence in his own right.It is great to have the stories in one volume. After more than thirty years, they hold up wonderfully as entertainment and as models of innovative storytelling for the critical reader. The only drawback is that the color printing in this volume is not quite as good as in the original comic books.
The appeal of this book is that it contains the full Jim Steranko run of Nick Fury, Agent of SHEILD from Strange Tales. His unique page layouts, use of halftone shading and photography, and pop art aesthetic created something truly new in comic books.
This poor anthology tries its damnedest to hide all of these qualities. The black lines are muddy, and the halftone is rolled into this mud - and utterly lost. The original color has been discarded and replaced with an amateurish, over-saturated, dark, contemporary approach. It attempts to throw a "realistic" dimensional spin on what were designed as the flattish pop art offspring of Roy Lichtenstein and Jack Kirby.
Neither the layouts nor the black line of the art can overcome this wet blanket - and the result looks like any generic Marvel art from the 1960s.
If your interest is Steranko's art, avoid this book like the plague. It will just make you sad and mad. Wait for a Marvel Masterworks or Omnibus edition, which will probably get it right.
Nick Fury is one of the pivotal characters of the Marvel Universe, yet also the least 'super'. He has no special powers, no latent mutant abilities, and no expertise in kung fu or the dark arts, yet he is the focal point of most of the Marvel action since the brewing of the Marvel Universe in the early 60s. The eyepatch is a good touch (although has never been explained, at least not to my knowledge) making him the Odin of the superheroes. His role changes with the times, in the 60s a Bond-like figure, in the 70s and 80s he took to the shadows and more covert ops, and today his role is more political and policy oriented. This early collection is a good addition to your collection, perhaps not the best stories, and perhaps not the most complete collection (an Essentials collection assembling early Capt Am, SHIELD, and Iron Man books would provide some character continuity, as well as a pre-quil Howling Commandos, which maybe would say something about the eye). Good reading, not the best, and really reserved for the obsessive afficianado. But, you wouldn't be reading this if you weren't, right?