Bargain Comic Reviews

New Reviews of Old Comics

Marvel Spotlight #31 (Dec. 1976)


Purchase price: $1

As a comic fan you can’t help but love nearly any title from the mid-70s with “Marvel” in the title.  The reprint titles are enjoyable enough, but titles like Marvel Spotlight where we get new characters or one-off stories about characters who lack their own titles are, for the most part, hidden gems.  Yeah, there is the occasional clunker, but they can’t all be winners.

Marvel Spotlight #31 features Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD in a story scripted by Jim Starlin with art by Howard Chaykin called “Assignment: The Infinity Formula!”  That sentence alone is a dead giveaway this issue is far from a clunker. The splash page has a man on his knees begging for his life from an unsympathetic man holding a gun to his head.  The beggar’s loss is the reader’s gain since this sets the stage for our entire story.  The now dead beggar was the doctor who saved Nick Fury’s life during WW II using experimental procedures which had a nasty side affect that could only be counteracted with a serum devised by the doctor.  Over the many years since then, Fury and the doctor had a agreement where they would exchange money for serum, an arrangement someone else was looking to take over with the doctor’s untimely passing.  This sends Fury on a chase to take control of his life out of the hands of potential blackmailers.  The rest of the issue is something like a chapter out of a James Bond or Jason Bourne novel with a good ending.  Plenty of action, plot twists and turns and of course, in the mighty Marvel manner, lots of fight scenes.  I’m intentionally skipping details that I usually give in reviews because this is a good read and well worth finding to read on your own.  It is a one-off story, but it seems like it could be laying some ground work for more stories.

Starlin’s story is very good for all 31 pages.  Chaykin’s artwork gives a good preview of what is to come from him in the future (I’m a big fan of American Flagg!, and Time2, among other works by Chaykin), breaking away from the traditional panel layouts and moving the story along at a good pace.  The story and art both had a good sense of grittiness to it, while not being over-the-top.  Again, if you happen to stumble across Marvel Spotlight #31 do yourself a favor and pick it up.

As a semi-interesting note of synchronicity, irony (or something along those lines) I read this issue right after watching Marvel’s The Avengers at our local drive-in on opening weekend.  I enjoyed the movie quite a bit and thought Samuel L. Jackson played a pretty good Nick Fury.  The long time comics fan in me struggled with the massive changes to the base Avengers story I’ve known and followed for so many years, but once I compartmentalized that into an Earth-2 type situation I was able to enjoy the movie for what it was.

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