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Comic Book / Fury: My War Gone By

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My name is Nick Fury. I've had a bullet in my head since nineteen forty-four. I can't seem to die, don't even age much. I fight and fuck like a goddamn demon. I lick up war like it was sugar. These are the things I have done for my country...

The second Nick Fury comic series released on the Marvel Comics' MAX imprint, which ran for thirteen issues between 2012 and 2013. Just like Fury (MAX), which preceded it by over a decade (the two seem to be linked through references in Fury: Peacemaker), this was written by Garth Ennis.

An old Nick Fury sits in a dark hotel room in his usual mood, drunk, bitter, and with prostitutes in bed. Beside him is a recorder, to which he tells about his work in the CIA and their involvement in First Indochina War, Bay of Pigs Invasion, The Vietnam War and the Contra War in Nicaragua.

This comic has examples of:

  • Affably Evil: Steinhoff (a German veteran of WWII) explains that he had nothing to do with the death camps; on the Eastern Front they just had the Jews dig a trench and shot them. He fails to see why this distinction fails to placate the Americans.
  • The Alcoholic: Shirley doesn't take her failed marriage to Pug well, gulping down vodka like water.
  • The Alleged Boss: Barracuda is in charge of his outfit despite only being a sergeant and having two officers above him. This is what makes Nick Fury suspect corruption.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Shirley, who is caught in between Nick Fury (a ruthless and vicious Blood Knight who lives only for war, but who at least cares for her even if he would in no way be a suitable partner) and Pug (a hypocritical moral vacuum of a man who treats her like dirt, but who can at least give her a life with the trappings of wealth and comfort). Being trapped between the two takes its toll on her over the decades leading her to snap completely when Hatherly confesses on his deathbed that he had always had feelings for her, making her realise that she could have chosen to have a happy life with a man who genuinely cared for her and would have treated her well instead of being stuck between two assholes.
  • Black-and-Grey Morality: The story starts like this, later becoming either Grey-and-Gray Morality or Evil Versus Evil. To be expected with something that deals with Vietnam and CIA Covert Ops as written by Garth Ennis.
  • Bloodier and Gorier: The battle of Son Chau is essentially this version of the real-life Battle of Dien Bien Phu, albeit on a smaller scale as the French garrison is far smaller. Whereas at Dien Bien Phu the Viet Minh captured a large amount of prisoners - over 11,000, all told - at Son Chau the French garrison is wiped out to the last man, with Fury being the sole survivor.
  • Blood Knight: Sergent-Chef Steinhoff, a Nazi war criminal, evaded capture after WWII and joined the French Foreign Legion to continue fighting in wars. He has no problem with the atrocities he has committed, which includes executing Jews, and instead views these actions as his duty as a soldier.
    • Nick Fury as well, of course. "I lick up war like it was sugar" to quote the man himself.
  • Call-Forward: In The Punisher, Barracuda is missing a significant amount of his teeth, and has replaced his missing front teeth with a grill that reads, "Fuck You." If one looks closely as Nick Fury beats Barracuda to near death with a club the teeth that are replaced by the grill are the exact same ones that got knocked out.
  • Chainsaw Good: Barracuda is introduced in the Nicaragua arc with three tied men in front of him and a chainsaw over his shoulder.
  • Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys: Averted: the French troops are quite competent, if under-equipped. Even the ex-SS man Steinhoff doesn't mind taking orders from them.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • Fury: Peacemaker: Fury mentions having a bullet in his head since 1944.
    • The Punisher: Born: Frank Castle's second tour in special ops is partially featured, including the NVA general getting sniped mentioned by Goodwin.
    • The Punisher Presents Barracuda: Barracuda appears in the Nicaragua arc, along with Fifty and Dabny. Fury turns out to have been the one behind Barracuda losing his front teeth.
  • Defiant to the End: The Sandinista leader murdered by Barracuda.
  • Dirty Communists: From Vietnam, to Cuba, to Nicaragua, the ideal of stopping the evils of communism is used as the catch-all excuse for American intervention. Of course, the reality is far more complex. Truth in Television for the Cold War.
  • Downer Ending: The final page of the series is Fury sitting alone in a hotel room having lost everyone he cared about and possibly considering suicide. You know it's bad when the MAX version of the Punisher received a happier ending.
    • In fact, every chapter ends on a Downer Ending. The Viet Minh allow Fury to go back to his superiors as the sole survivor of the attack, the Cuban invasion fails completely, the evidence linking the CIA to narcotrafficking burns up (ensuring the Vietnam War won't be shortened), the CIA-backed narcotrafficking in Nicaragua will continue as if nothing happened, Hatherly dies thinking everything he did was All for Nothing and his family hates Nick, and Shirley murders her husband's mistress and her husband before shooting herself after years of alcoholism.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Of the main characters, Hatherly comes closest to this. Though he dies thinking everything he did was All for Nothing, he manages to have a loving family and live his life without compromising his innate idealism, even using his last moments to comfort Shirley. Everyone else, on the other hand, is either killed (Pug), commit suicide (Shirley) or wind up realizing that their life has ultimately been utterly empty and meaningless (Fury).
  • Elites Are More Glamorous: Greatly Deconstruction throughout the series. Elite formations such as the SAS, Green Berets, Delta Force and Spetsnaz are more glamorous to civilians and rank-and-file soldiers, and they're certainly trained and equipped to make spectacular splashes... but ultimately, they're too few in number to actually win wars. That's the job of the great masses of the regular armies, navies and air forces, who endure horror, boredom and vastly more casualties (and for much longer) to assure a lasting victory. So, they may be glamorous, but they're not as effective as many would believe. And that belief - that a handful of elite "super-soldiers" could make the rest of them irrelevant - was what ultimately led America to attempt some very stupid things, thinking the elites would always succeed.
    • It's especially evident with Fury himself. A highly trained soldier with extensive experience in covert operations, he time and again endures horrific battlefield injuries and is subject to torture more than once in the series. Apart from that, it's clear that he doesn't enjoy his life much and war is the only thing he truly lives for. He may be elite, but there's very little glamorous about his life.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Steinhoff. Being a Nazi war criminal is one thing. Not doing the least to hide the fact and being surprised when people on your side try to kill you is another.
  • Eye Scream: While fighting Fury hand to hand, Steinhoff tries to gouge out one of his eyes. This has no results since he tries to get the one that was already lost and its empty socket is covered by Fury's trademark Eyepatch of Power.
    • Steinhoff loses his own eyes during the final Viet Minh attack on the French base. It's not shown, but the wounds look like shrapnel damage from artillery.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Suffice to say, anyone familiar with U.S. military history after World War II will know that the Bay of Pigs will end in failure, the Vietnam War will end in a communist victory, and evidence of the CIA's involvement in narco-trafficking will be kept a secret from everyone else.
  • Foreshadowing: The opening arc, set in the last days of the First Indochina War in 1954, is this for the rest of the series, as the revelation that Fury and Hatherly are involved in what is basically a colonial war pitting the colonial subjects, i.e., the Vietnamese, against their colonial overlords, i.e., the French, under the guise of the global struggle against international communism, and the two of them having to work with Steinhoff, an unrepentant Nazi war criminal, foreshadows the steady degradation of US foreign policy and Fury encountering other amoral and outright monstrous people ostensibly on the "same side," with Barracuda being the most noteworthy example.
  • Friendly Sniper: For all Hatherly's misplaced idealism, Fury takes him along as the best sniper he knows.
  • Goofy Print Underwear: Fury wears polka-dot boxers.
  • Gratuitous French: Steinhoff's French is somewhat lacking, though still comprehensible. The other French speakers have no such excuse.
  • Good Adultery, Bad Adultery: McCuskey and Shirley get married, but both cheat. Shirley continues sleeping with Fury, though it is not shown if she sleeps with anyone else, and it is shown she does so out of loneliness. McCuskey sleeps with prostitutes, something Shirley is indifferent to until he starts bringing them home and even has one move in with them.
  • The Heart: Hatherly. Nick spends most of the story looking down on him, as his idealism tends to fall flat in the face of cold reality, but by the end both Nick and Shirley find themselves utterly regretting having taken him for granted, and Hatherly himself has become so disillusioned with his country that he dies believing everything he'd done was for nothing.
  • Hero of Another Story: Frank Castle co-stars in the Vietnam arc, set during his secretive second tour which had been teased by Ennis for ten years.
  • The Idealist: Hatherly starts out this way, having been raised and trained with the myth of the heroic soldier in the aftermath of WW2. He's soon confronted with the shitshow reality of international politics and just how little ideals really matter, especially in war.
  • I Love the Dead: After Shirley shoots Pug's mistress in the eye, then forces him to continue humping the dead woman's corpse before shooting him and then herself.
  • Karma Houdini: A Central Theme.
    • Steinhoff. He may have died in the defense of a doomed French outpost in Indochina, but he got to die in a manner which he was quite happy with, instead of facing the firing squad he thoroughly deserved.
    • Le Trong Giap is revealed to have survived Frank Castle shooting him in the neck, despite him having committed several war crimes and atrocities before and during Vietnam. Somewhat averted in that he's an Anti-Villain and it was All for Nothing.
    • Barracuda would easily be one, if one has not read Ennis' Punisher MAX books, which takes place after this storyline and shows his Karmic Death.
      • Somewhat subverted with Barracuda as while he does make it out alive, Fury nonetheless manages to track him down and beat the living shit out of him.
  • Kick the Dog: Fury and Castle both deliberately prolong the Vietnam War by preventing the dissemination of information that would utterly cripple the geopolitical standing of the United States and pretty much turn international support in favor of Vietnam. All to satiate their Blood Knight tendencies, rather than to defend their country.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Although Barracuda initially avoided facing punishment for his actions in Nicaragua, he eventually gets his just penance at the hands of a pissed off Fury with a baseball bat.
    Nick Fury: Sometimes the uniform fucks back.
  • Legion of Lost Souls: Fury visits a French outpost in Indochina staffed by the Foreign Legion and other units. The local Sergeant Rock is an Affably Evil former SS Captain turned Sergeant who takes offense to accusations of perpetrating atrocities in concentration camps (he was on the Eastern Front) and says they merely made Jews dig a ditch, lined them up, and shot them.
  • Ludicrous Precision: By the Vietnam war, General Giap is in charge of the NVA training cadres, which the CIA report have improved by 30%. Fury later lampshades it as clear BS when he learns why they really want him dead.
  • Man Bites Man: Seen in the Bay of Pigs arc combined with Facial Horror when Fury tackles and bites off most of the sadistic Cuban Colonel's face.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Despite the realistic tone of the series, Nick Fury ages very slowly compared to everyone else around him.
  • Meaningful Rename: An interesting inversion serves to cap the first arc, set in what both arc and characters refer to as "French Indo-China", during a conflict ostensibly against Communism but in reality to keep the country subjugated under French rule. Following a major Viet Minh victory, Captain Le Trong Giap gives a warning with what is more of a Meaningful Reclamation:
    Le Trong Giap: This is not French Indochina, Colonel Fury. It is not French anything. This is Vietnam.
  • Mercy Kill: After Elgen loses his limbs to a bunch of sharks in Cuba, Fury, after seeing his reaction to it, grants his wish for death.
  • Never Suicide: In order to get Fury to finish his investigation about the possible drug relations in their outpost, Barracuda forces the place's Commanding Officer to "confess" about trading drugs by having him telling about them on a suicide note that he was forced to write on a gunpoint, before killing him. Fury isn't fooled, and continues his investigations in secret.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Five years after the atrocities in Nicaragua, Fury retaliates on Barracuda by breaking most of his bones in a darkened room by beating him with a baseball bat while wearing Night-Vision Goggles.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: Le Trong Giap, a brutal Viet Minh captain, later NVA general, whom Fury encounters and fights twice in Vietnam, but ultimately neither of them manage to kill the other. Decades later, after the end of the Cold War, Fury meets Giap again in Washington, D.C. in peaceful circumstances. Giap talks about how they are very much alike, both men who did horrible things without remorse because they believed their cause was just. But in the end the regime they fought for was just as greedy and corrupt as any other.
  • Occupiers Out of Our Country: Le Trong Giap's motivation.
    • Deconstructed in that driving the occupiers out didn't do any good, because the methods used to do it weren't abandoned in peacetime - they formed the resulting government, making it no different from a Full-Circle Revolution.
  • Only Six Faces: The younger Fury looks exactly like Castle with an eyepatch.
  • Realpolitik: One long Take That! towards it. Eliminating idealism and compassion from international politics reduced the glorious and beloved heroes of World War Two to the corrupt and bloodthirsty schemers behind Vietnam, Cuba and Nicaragua - and persists to the present day.
  • Senseless Sacrifice: The battle of Son Chau, near the end of the First Indochina War, becomes this with the fall of Dien Bien Phu. When they receive news of the French defeat, Fury and the French command understand that, regardless whether they're able to hold out at Son Chau, France's ultimate defeat in Vietnam is all but inevitable. Shortly afterwards, the base is taken by a final Viet Minh assault, with Fury being the base's only survivor.
    • On a wider scale, Fury's entire career and war record becomes this, as he comes to understand that all the wars and black ops he fought, and all the friends and comrades he lost, was ultimately all for nothing.
  • Silly Rabbit, Idealism Is for Kids!: Explored, deconstructed and gradually inverted. Despite his regard for the other man Fury himself tends to look down on the idealistic Hatherly as someone who doesn't really understand the world that they live in and the necessity of the brutal, cynical and terrible actions they and their leaders are involved in, such as backing oppressive regimes, using Nazi war criminals, assassinating world leaders, performing illegal actions in other countries and general Realpolitik in order to oppose communism. By the end, however, Fury is burned out, has lost everything and everyone he values, and realizes that everything he did in the Cold War was essentially pointless and unnecessarily harmful and didn't really improve anything, and that if there'd been more good idealists like Hatherly running things the world might have been a lot better. In essence, it's Fury realizing that Silly Rabbit, Cynicism Is for Losers!
  • Single Woman Seeks Good Man: What Shirley ultimately wanted. She recognizes that her relationships with both Fury and Pug are unhealthy in different ways, but while Fury is more honest and accepting, Pug offers more security. When Hatherly mentions on his deathbed that he always found Shirley attractive, her realization that she lost the chance to share a life with a truly good man drives her to kill Pug's mistress, Pug and then, after confessing everything to Fury, herself.
  • Sleazy Politician: Senator "Pug" McCuskey. While he all but admits that he is also a Corrupt Politician who profits quite a lot from the various illegal activities that Fury comes up against, nothing can be proven on that front. What can be proven is that he's a largely smug, unpleasant and slimy individual with numerous distasteful personal habits.
    ...That's if any of these preposterous things you've said were actually true, of course.
  • Sociopathic Soldier:
    • Issues 11 and 12, a ground-level view of the Contra War in Nicaragua are essentially Ennis' Deconstruction of where such soldiers come from; they were sociopaths before they became soldiers. Giving military training to an otherwise-average drug gang simply resulted in... a much more dangerous drug gang.
    • In a related sense, one of the themes of the series is essentially how US foreign policy, frequently based on cynical and self-serving ends that obscured the noble ideals it claimed to represent and which led to various atrocities and (arguably) unnecessary conflicts, gradually managed to twist the image of the average American soldier in American uniform from the heroic savior of World War II, to a sociopathic avatar of authoritarianism and oppression in nations where the nation's oppressors often wore said American uniforms. Nick Fury himself, once a hero who faced down entire armies and single-handedly destroyed tanks on foot to liberate concentration camps, in the end becomes nothing but a killer who goes to far away places for nothing but the love of combat, and screws scores of prostitutes in his spare time.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: The series show how Fury becomes one.
  • War for Fun and Profit: Ennis implies that pretty much any war can become this if permitted to run unchecked. War Is Hell even at the best of times, so when it's waged merely for profit, the ones who wage it for fun tend to thrive.
  • War Is Hell: Pretty much the central theme of the series along with Karma Houdini.
  • Was It Really Worth It?: Le Trong Giap is confronted by this question at the end of the series, as he's realized that driving the occupiers out of Vietnam and reunifying it under the North only resulted in a Full-Circle Revolution. In this, his disillusionment mirrors that of Bùi Tín, the real-life NVA colonel who became famous for accepting the surrender of Dương Văn Minh, the last president of South Vietnam, during the fall of Saigon, only to become disillusioned in the 1980s with postwar corruption and the continuing isolation of Vietnam, culminating in him leaving Vietnam and going into exile in France to express his growing dissatisfaction with the communist leadership and political system of Vietnam.
  • Woman Scorned: Pug ends up bringing his mistress to live in his home in spite of Shirley's protests. Or to spite her.