Friday, September 21, 2012

Old Warhorses

Dissension In The Ranks

When resentments and disagreements boil over,
even allies can turn against each other in fierce battle that can bring the house down.

(And often does!)


Captain America and Nick Fury

You know it's going to be a rumble when Nick Fury suits up:

Though these two fight on the same side, they aren't formally on the same team, of course--though it's not because of lack of trying on Fury's part. Cap's carried out a number of assignments for Fury's spy/enforcement organization, S.H.I.E.L.D. (don't ask me to tell you what the initials stand for--I always liked the word itself better for a name, anyway)--but Cap has never signed on as a rank-and-file agent. That's always stuck in Fury's craw, as he's all but rolled out the welcome mat for Cap. But as you'll see when this issue comes to a head, Fury's problem with Cap goes a little deeper. He's also under the mistaken impression that Cap is putting the moves on his girlfriend and fellow agent, Contessa Valentina Allegro de Fontaine (or "Val" to her fellow agents, since having to spew out her entire name on a mission would have everybody running out of time).

On the surface at least, it's all apparently a misunderstanding, as Cap suspects, though there's no getting Fury to back down at this point. And thank goodness, because otherwise we wouldn't get to enjoy this great fight scripted by Steve Englehart and illustrated by Sal Buscema. Englehart has a couple of interesting handicaps in play here. For one thing, Cap is dead tired, just returning from an all-night mission with the Falcon--but as far as levelling the playing field, it's not really that necessary considering that Fury is an experienced fighter and strategist, as well as wearing a special battle suit. On the other hand, he doesn't have the level of stamina that Cap would normally have, due to their age difference, which brings the fatigue factor into play.

Also, their brawl is taking place inside an apartment (and a dump, at that)--pretty close quarters for Cap, for two reasons. One is that he's not out to seriously injure Fury, which will be difficult to avoid having so little room to maneuver. (Fury, of course, has no such qualms about Cap.) Secondly, Cap's use of his shield as an offensive weapon will be limited, as you'll see. Those things aside, there's the pure comics enjoyment of someone simply crashing onto a coffee table, yet the sound effect registering as "KRAK-A-BOOM!"

Yet Buscema plays these factors brilliantly, taking all of them into account while keeping an excellent pace. And with a scripter of Englehart's caliber, words are as much a part of the battle as fists:

It's an opportune moment to end the fight, now that Fury has aired all of his grievances--and it's here when Val, alerted to the fight, rushes into the room and sets Fury straight about where her true feelings lie. And Fury finally listens, since Cap's words have made him receptive to both her point of view and his.

One other interesting thing to see in this fight is who actually throws the first "punch"--Cap, of all people, who has a strange way indeed of trying to settle Fury down. In a way it reminds us that we're watching two old warhorses, settling things the old-fashioned and, yes, bull-headed way, despite being comrades-in-arms and despite having left behind this kind of irrational brawling long ago. Cap may have simply been trying to make a preemptive strike in order to end the fight before it began--but we readers are fortunate that here, as well as in the comic book world in general, that kind of gambit has rarely been successful.

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