There was a time when Marvel thought they could replace Peter Parker with Ben Reilly in order to have Ben, somehow, become the single Peter Parker they wanted. I was never clear how anyone involved thought this could be pulled off. Would Ben eventually just change his name to Peter Parker and... magically step seamlessly into that life? Rumor has it that when the time to pull this off came near the editors realized they never actually planned how to do their... plan. So they backtracked on everything and bailed with some probably wondering how any of them ever believed it could have worked. I mean, how stupid do you have to think your audience is to believe you can just give a character the same name and appearance as another character and expect the audience to accept them as the same character?
So, there’s this Marcus Johnson guy....
Look. You know what’s happened. Usually, I try to avoid spoiling the major stuff that happens in an issue. But you know. Bleeding Cool has been pointing at this for awhile now. The only surprise about it is how far Marvel goes with it. They go all the way.
Marcus Johnson is Nick Fury Jr. No, I’m not making a lame joke. I mean Marcus Johnson is Nick Fury Jr. That is his actual, legal name. Nick Fury Jr. Am I the only one who starts hearing the theme song for that lame James Bond Jr. cartoon everything I see that name? I am? Fine. See. There’s my lame joke.
This is a difficult review, because does anything else about this issue really matter? This entire series has been more about achieving this goal of a black Nick Fury than being a good story. That said, the story itself isn’t really all that bad. It’s fairly unremarkable besides the obvious, but the writing team only has so much to work with. It’s a basic revenge story that comes to the basic conclusion of such a story. I can’t say I minded that Orion and Leviathan are used as cannon fodder for this role either. As much as I loved Secret Warriors, one of my major criticisms of it was that Leviathan was a sorely underdeveloped concept. I feel no large loss here.
There’s something I need to be honest about. I didn’t read the whole Battle Scars series. I read the first issue, some of the second and now, I have read the last. I just found no appeal in it. Marvel took a pretty ridiculously heavy-handed approach with the hype for this book, beating us over the head with vague declarations about how important Marcus Johnson is. Then, this issue even ends with a very self-congratulatory letter about how the we have been going wild over the truth about Marcus and now we have it. There seems to be a great deal of self-delusion from Marvel over this book. I mean, Marcus is not actually Nick Fury. And far as I’ve seen, no one has been going wild over anything with this book. It has largely been ignored, and it’s low sales reflect that lack of interest. In the future, Marvel may want to take a better marketing tactic that straight out telling readers what they’re supposed to think.
So, how is this supposed to work anyway? “Nick Fury” is not Nick Fury. He has none of the history or credentials that make Nick the important figure that he is. Marcus just looks like Ultimate and movieverse Fury now. With every Marvel movie, Marvel seems to think it will be the one that brings in a wave of new readers. But what is this hypothetical wave going to find? A Nick Fury who looks just like the Nick Fury in the movie but isn’t actually that Nick Fury? Way to confuse and turn off people.
Couldn’t Marvel have just... made Nick black? I know Marvel is supposed to be above DC and their brand of poorly written continuity revamps, even though they recently did their own with Brand New Day anyway. But... is this less dumb? Nick Fury Jr. as a replacement is a more palatable plan of action than having the Phoenix burn up some continuity and making the real Nick black? I don’t know about that. One seems like pulling off the band-aid quickly while the other seems like it’s going to be the slow removal of a full body band-aid.
Oh, Agent Coulson is in the Marvel Universe now. There’s that. It’s the real surprise of Battle Scars. Though I have to say, it’s so surprising because the character who turns out to be Coulson seems so very unlike Coulson. I’m not sure what all that’s worth.
While competently written and illustrated, Battle Scars is, in its essence, creatively bankrupt and insulting to the intelligence of the fans. Marcus Johnson could be an interesting character in his own right if he was a character in his own right. But he’s not, is he? He’s a forced attempt at marketing synergy. His purpose is solely to supplant an already popular character. It’s disrespectful to both the current readers and the hypothetical readers Marvel hopes to gain from the Avengers movie.