NOTE: This article contains SPOILERS for Occupy Avengers #4
Despite his humble, if not totally forgettable beginnings on film, the rise of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has made lifetime military man and Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. Colonel Nick Fury a household name. And when Samuel L. Jackson brought the part to life on screen, it led an entirely new generation of comic fans to discover what others had known for years: he wasn't the first Nick Fury at all. That honor goes to Colonel Nick Fury, Sr. - a grizzled veteran of World War II who made his name, and that of his "Howling Commandos" the stuff of legend.
When Marvel launched its Ultimates series in an alternate universe, the role of Nick Fury, Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. was re-imagined in the image of... well, Samuel L. Jackson (fate's funny like that). That version was actually shifted into the mainstream Marvel universe back in 2012, with his name tweaked to Colonel Nick Fury, Jr. - the son of the original war hero. But we have some good news for fans of the original: Occupy Avengers #4 just returned him and his war-era buddies for one last battle... in the best way possible.
The Surprise Return
The twist of Fury's return was actually dropped on the final page of Issue #3, with Clint Barton and his band of misfits (hot off addressing socially relevant issues, not superhuman ones) tracking down a mysterious shipment. A shipment they stumbled on thanks to a coal truck getting destroyed in a massive car accident, spilling its contraband load of Life Model Decoy parts and Epidurium - the key ingredients to making passable human replicas. Tracking the truck to its source led them to an abandoned coal mine... and Nick Fury himself, greeting them with a rocket launcher.
Issue #4 picks up right where things left off, with Barton immediately recognizing Nick Fury and the Howling Commandos - Gabe Jones and "Dum Dum" Dugan - at his side. The presence of these heroes of yesterday would leave most heroes dumbfounded, but Barton keeps his allies from being shot as trespassers by surrendering, and offering up his S.H.I.E.L.D. confirmation code phrases, which Fury accepts. There's just one thing: they're old S.H.I.E.L.D. codes. As in, thirty-five year old codes.
So as thrilling as it is to see the impossible made real, and Nick Fury return to the modern world with his buddies at his side, Barton realizes what's really at work. And when Nick Fury confidently states, at Barton's urging, that the President of the United States is Ronald Reagan... the pieces all fall into place.
Nick Fury is a Life Model Decoy (Again)
It's not easy news to take, but Barton has no choice, considering the clear breakdown in the late Nick Fury's failsafes and updates. As he explains to the former-Fury/current-self-aware-LMD, nobody actually knows just how many safehouses Fury had hidden away, nor how many Life Model Decoy versions of himself and the Commadnos he deployed to monitor them. Typically, wherever they may be stashed, updates are constantly sent our to keep them believing they are the current, living Furys (like, technology and world leaders changing over the course of three and a half decades).
As it turns out, these particular heroes were stashed away, unable to be updated until their base was infiltrated by thieves looking to acquire the Life Model Decoy ingredients for themselves. It's a tragic realization for both Fury and the readers, who may have momentarily believed the impossible, and that Fury, Dugan, and Jones had all returned from the grave to live anew. But Fury is-- was practical, if nothing else. So when more reinforcements arrive to clean out their stronghold, he and the Commandos launch into one last glorious battle.
The Death of (Robot) Nick Fury
It wouldn't be a Nick Fury story without a glorious leap into combat putting his own life in jeopardy. And is there anything more heroic than being killed in the same issue in which you return to life? Without actually explaining why the deceased Dum Dum killed while defending the base is actually a robot - something Gabe couldn't help but notice when his head blew apart into metal and wiring - Fury and Gabe take the lead, intended to draw fire to give Barton and his teammates the best chance of survival. It's a particularly heroic move for Gabe, when you consider his perspective. Totally oblivious to the fact that his life isn't genuine, he nevertheless gives it in defense of his comrades.
While brief, the return of Nick Fury reminds readers that there's something to be said for living anachronisms. And even if the gruff, no-nonsense Colonel is forced to chomp on a protein bar instead of a cigar, a little Fury goes a long way. Who knows? Maybe Clint's ongoing mission and investigation into the forces out to steal the LMD resources will give another Fury decoy a chance to rejoin the spotlight? We can hope, at least.
Occupy Avengers #4 is available now.