Today, Drew and Spencer are discussing Original Sin 5, originally released July 2nd, 2014.
Drew: As far as board game adaptations go, Clue actually does a pretty fantastic job of mimicking the experience of playing the game (it’s certainly closer than Battleship, and don’t even get me started on Twister). By the end of the movie, it really could be anyone, and the multiple endings play with that idea brilliantly. Of course, what’s truly clever is the way that those endings play with our expectations of parlor murder mysteries in general. Of course it could be anyone — that’s the whole point. Ultimately, the who, where, and what of the murder doesn’t matter so much as the why and how, which tend to be pulled out at the very last minute, anyway. Original Sin 5 subverts those explanations by showing us why Nick Fury killed all of those monsters and planets, but stopping just short of telling us who killed the Watcher. But hey, maybe it doesn’t matter!
This issue amounts to Nick Fury’s Original Sins issue, as he explains that he was recruited long ago to single-handedly fend off every threat to Earth’s existence since the late ’50s. Like, in addition to his responsibilities as super-spy and S.H.I.E.L.D. Director. That sort of explains all of the dead things our various teams discovered, and gives Nick a solid motivation for killing the Watcher, who was witness to all of these needlessly secret murders. Only, Nick doesn’t quite admit to it, and his concern over being “next” makes it seem like it wasn’t him, after all.
So…Nick Fury apparently put together three hilariously mismatched teams in hopes that they would discover a secret that he ultimately just told them anyway, all of which seems only tangentially related to the Watcher’s murder? I think Ant-Man sums up my thoughts here:
This only sort of explains away the bodies, and maybe lends some context to the murder, but is mostly a total red herring. Each issue of this series has started with a question, and “Nick Fury moonlit as Earth’s bodyguard” is the answer to exactly none of them.
Under normal circumstances, that disinterest in the series’ central mystery might bother me, but Original Sin has been such an effective send-up of comic excesses, it’s hard to begrudge Jason Aaron and Mike Deodato this equally over-the-top piece of misdirection. I mean, they even have Ant-Man point out how utterly unsatisfying Nick’s explanation is. This “answer” has only led to more questions, which seem poised to lead to even more questions. It’s an effective way to drive sales in an ongoing, but obviously has an endpoint in a maxi-series like this one. How big can Aaron inflate the balloon in only three more issues? I wouldn’t have thought much more after we learned someone had shot a planet to death, but here we are, learning a whole secret history of Nick Fury.
As usual, the strength of this issue lives and dies by its sense of humor, and I’m afraid this installment didn’t quite have me laughing like the last one. Indeed, Deodato is so adept at playing it straight, it’s hard to tell any of this is meant to be funny until Fury ends his story, and we get back to the main cast. Don’t get me wrong, giant sniper rifles and the cadre of Nick Fury LMDs are hilarious concepts, but Deodato’s skill lies in selling precisely those types of absurdities. That perfect straight-man is a strength in other issues, but here makes many of the jokes read as non-jokes, creating a decidedly different atmosphere.
Spencer, I’m kind of on the fence on this issue. It’s as gorgeous as ever, but I have to admit to not being totally invested in Nick’s secret history. I mean, is this ultimately that different than defending the Earth from aliens as the Director of S.H.I.E.L.D.? Is S.W.O.R.D. cleaning up his messes, or is it the other way around? Oh, and do you think you have an explanation for why he would be so old?
Spencer: I don’t know the exact science behind it, but there’s this thing called aging, where the longer somebody is alive, the more their body begins to break down. Considering that Nick Fury is like a zillion years old (I should be more careful about my hyperbole, as this is a surprisingly common backstory in comics), I’d say he looks his age. I think the real question is “why do we expect him to be young in the first place?” We have to jump through all these hoops to keep Nick Fury young when “he’s actually old but uses Life Model Decoys in the field” is a much more elegant solution; I’m perfectly fine with it.
As for the secret history of Nick Fury, add me to the list of people who feel a little underwhelmed. I agree, Drew, that it doesn’t seem all that different from what Nick was already doing, something that the narrative itself even points out.
I suppose the fact that Fury’s operations are “bigger in scope” is supposed to be the surprise, but to be honest, this isn’t all that much bigger than what I already imagined Fury did anyway. I mean, sure, the giant space rifle is cooler than anything I could dream up, but spies in comics are essentially superheroes anyway, and a more flexible morality has always been a part of Fury’s character (especially in a post-Avengers-movie world). “Nick Fury did a lot of morally questionable stuff for the greater good and kept it a secret” is essentially the character’s thesis statement, all this story does is add a few more pieces of evidence.
Honestly, this entire issue feels like a strange digression from the actual story of Original Sin. What appeared to be murder mystery about the Watcher’s death and/or a reckoning for the Marvel Universe as their darkest secrets were revealed has quickly transformed into a Nick Fury spotlight, which isn’t necessarily bad or even misleading, but I know which plot appeals to me more.
As Nick Fury stories go, this is a decent one, but the longer I read comics, the more the “take an issue to explain a character’s backstory by relating a linear series of events without any real plot or character progression” template starts to grow old. These kind of issues are constants in mainstream comics, and they’re never as exciting as they should be; Original Sin 5 is no exception. Deodato’s art and storytelling are certainly as effective as ever — in fact, the noir-ish style he’s using for Original Sin seems to be better suited to Nick Fury than to the story of the Watcher, but that could just be me — but without any real humor, character, or plot movement, it isn’t enough to sustain the issue on its own.
This isn’t a terrible issue, but it’s certainly a bit of a letdown. I dunno; despite all the big reveals and revelations this issue contains, it basically ends right back where it began. I have more questions than when Original Sin started, and these aren’t the kind of questions that satisfyingly spring up as earlier questions are answered, but the kind of unanswered questions that pile up atop earlier unanswered questions without any really being resolved. Will future issues retroactively redeem this one? Here’s hoping.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?