“Original Sin” has been out for quite some time, it’s rather close to the end, and I’ve been given adequate time to get acquainted with this story. Now, my track record with big company crossover events is usually that I hate them until time passes and other worse stories come out. With hindsight, much of Marvel’s events are actually quite good. But “Original Sin” is a bit different. As a story it’s fine. I see no big, glaring problems, plot holes, or obnoxious writer choices. It’s not an amazing story. “Original Sin” is fair—it’s average. If it were a day it would be Tuesday, if it were a bread it would be white, if it were a U.S. president it would be Calvin Coolidge. As an event it is inoffensive, insubstantial, and yet full of heart pounding action. And yet there is this feeling, a sour taste, like a penny in my mouth that I couldn’t quite pinpoint. This latest issue clinched it for me.
Let me pose a hypothetical. I will describe a character, listing traits and see if you can guess who I’m talking about. This person is a very powerful person on the world scene. He has quite an arsenal on his hands and immense resources at his disposal. His tactics are brilliant and just a little bit malevolent and ethically lacking. With his time he has accrued an incredible knowledge of things ranging from the superhero community, to magic creatures on the edge of our periphery, to galactic beings who could be considered Gods themselves. The weapons he uses are both mystically enchanted and technologically advanced, allowing him to respond to any danger that threatens him. Also? He has at his disposal an army of androids who are made exactly in his image, all of whom believe they are real and fight tenaciously for his singular cause. His existence stretches back to the very beginning of Marvel history. Oh, and did I mention that he has a powerful armor that he wears into combat with the Avengers? Who could I possibly be talking about?
If you guessed Doctor Doom you are completely wrong. I was actually talking about Nick Fury, though I can understand the confusion as the two are so similar. If you think I’m joking I challenge you to read “Original Sin” all the way to issue #6 where he dons his armor to fight the Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, and a cadre of other Avengers. I remember flipping through the pages in disbelief. “This isn’t my Nick Fury. They’ve taken everything I love about Nick Fury and thrown it away.” To understand why this Nick Fury feels so wrong, allow me to explain what made Nick Fury so amazing to me in the first place.
Let me clear one thing up before we begin: I am all for new Sam Jackson Nick Fury replacing old Howling Commandos Nick Fury. In fact I am one of the biggest supporters of legacy characters that you will meet. That’s not what has aggrieved me so. The thing about Nick Fury that made him so incredible that he was essentially a man who was doomed to fail and fought against it anyway. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Consider this. Let’s start from the beginning of his tenure as Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. Essentially he was in charge of a super police force tasked with protecting the Earth… all of it… from everything. Now that is a tall order and so he started out with an abundance of resources. He had a larger army than any single nation and enough firepower to bring down half a dozen Fing Fang Fooms. But then more and more attacks sneak through the cracks, the world governments lost confidence. What was the result? A cut in his funding, massive in scale, enough to neuter S.H.I.E.L.D. and make him practically useless. Did he resign and opt for the public sector? Hell no! He took a shot of whiskey, doubled down, and booked himself the best prostitute he could find.
The next challenge to Nick was “Secret War”. That was about that one time Nick talked Spider-Man, Captain America, Luke Cage, Daredevil, and Wolverine to invade Latveria and topple Lady Doom—and then wiped their memories so they wouldn’t have any qualms with what they did. What was the result? Lady Doom struck back and all those heroes were put in jeopardy and they didn’t know why. And you know what? Even with Cage in the hospital and all the collateral damage, he would have done the exact thing over again because it saved lives. He was sorry Luke got hurt but beyond that he couldn’t give a F&%$. And you know what? It lost him S.H.I.E.L.D.
At that point, Nick almost felt relieved. He’d saved the world and now he was practically retired. Time to scarper off to some Mediterranean resort with Valentina Allegra de Fontaine to watch the world get saved from the sidelines—or not because Valentina was actually a Skrull assassin! Not only did Nick figure it out on his own but he killed her and dropped everything to start fightingthe Skrull invasion… on his own… with no resources to his name. Do you see the constant theme? This is a man who will keep on fighting even when he has less and less to fight with. This is a man that constantly loses but keeps on fighting because he doesn’t know how to give up. This is a man who knows that there are ethics out there and knows they’re for other men who don’t have the responsibility of the world in their hands. That fight, that never say die, if there was one thing that defined Nick Fury that would be it. And in one swift move “Original Sin” took that away.
In “Original Sin” #5, Nick explains that back in the fifties an alien army invaded Earth and nearly won. Except one lone man flew in with an incredible suit of powered armor and dealt the killing blow to the army, sacrificing his life in the process. As he stood in amazement, Howard Stark approached him and told him that one man was responsible for protecting the Earth from every known threat. He then brought Nick to an underground bunker full of the most advanced technology in the galaxy and told Nick that he was now responsible for the safety of the planet. So, let me explain exactly what this meant. Monday through Saturday, Nick would run S.H.I.E.L.D. as its director, putting out fires as they arose. On Sunday, Nick would go out and kill potential threats, terrestrial, galactic, mystic or other, didn’t matter. He was a one man army that stood between Earth and complete obliteration. In order to do all this, he started employing LMDs as his personal assistants. Over the years he acquired more and more LMDs until he had his own private army of lookalikes. Now with his infinity formula waning, he wants to tie up his loose ends and appoint a successor or two before it’s too late.
As a story, “Original Sin” isn’t bad, my problem isn’t with content. The problem for me is that in order to achieve its goals, the book is retconning one of the most interesting characters within the Marvel mythos. Here was a man who was reduced to nothing and still he fought for the protection of Earth. Now with the revelation of his other work, nothing seems as challenging as it was before. Nick Fury represented the only thing that humanity really had at its disposal, perseverance. Instead it turns out he was some kind of wunderkin who could bring down the Gods if he wanted to. And if that’s the case, then all those times Nick Fury did something morally dubious comes into question. Before he was doing something wrong because it was the only choice left to him. But now it seems he’s just doing the wrong thing when he had the power to do the better, morally upstanding option—which kind of makes him an asshole.