Answers bring more questions! Jefferson Davis, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. ?!?!?
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: David Marquez
Color: Justin Ponsor
Lettering: VC’s Cory Petit
Cover Art: David Marquez with Justin Ponsor
Production: Irene Y. Lee
Assistant Editor: Emily Shaw
Editor: Mark Paniccia
Story: Newark, 25 years ago. Brothers Aaron and Jefferson Davis are at Club 2099. Aaron, the future Ultimate Prowler, has business with a low level gangster by the name of Turk. Aaron drags Jefferson along for looks and things go south, eventually leading to Jefferson getting arrested. A mysterious stranger, calling himself Nick Fury, bails out Jefferson and states he needs him to save the world. In the present, Miles Morales is astounded at the tale his father is laying out for him.
Thoughts: We start of with a nice, symbolic cover of Miles trapped by logos of Hydra and S.H.I.E.L.D. I’ve got to be honest, I’ve never taken Hydra seriously before now. Marvel is going all out with their cinematic synergy and having Hydra being behind everything. Will the Captain America: The Winter Soldier fallout ever cease? Having Hydra infiltrate every group has certainly seemed to invigorate not only the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. tv show, but other aspects of the 616 and Ultimate Universe as well. As far as we know, there really wasn’t any Hydra presence in this issue. Is the cover foreshadowing what’s to come in these past events or is it solely to build off of the live action hype?
As I picked up the issue and thumbed thru it the first time I noticed a change in the art and coloring. It was such a departure for this volume of the series that I was surprised that it was actually the same art team! I was also surprised to not see any shots of Miles as Spidey. Surely there’s gotta be some in the issue somewhere, right? Bendis tells us right up front that we are in the New Jersey of 25 years ago, at a night club with a very familiar logo. I don’t know why the night club would be called that and I certainly didn’t see any futuristic décor, but I ate up the reference just the same. Seeing the old, familiar font that came to Marvel Zombies’ attention back in 1992 brought a smile to my face.
Something, or should I say, someone, familiar to long time readers also makes an appearance, too-Turk. Turk, for those who aren’t regular readers of Daredevil, was a low level employee of Kingpin Wilson Fisk, and was a bumbling thorn in The Man Without Fear’s side. Daredevil author Frank Miller also referenced a Turk in The Dark Knight Returns, not to mention Coolio made mention of him in the director’s cut of the Daredevil movie. As far as I know, this is his first Ultimate appearance, and he comes off as much more competent here. Why Aaron thought his anxious-to-get-out-of-here-brother would be intimidating to him, I don’t know. Aaron and Jefferson quickly get separated as Turk and Aaron talk about their shady business.
Once separated, Turk’s men quickly try and shake Jefferson down, who quickly points out that he only has $28 to his whole name total. As they begin their assault, he mentions it again and the small bit of banter echoes that of his future son, Spider-Man. He’s doing a great job of fending off Turk’s gang all by his lonesome when the cops arrive. Jefferson tries to split, but he fights the law and the law wins, throwing him in the slammer. It’s been alluded to in the previous volume that he had trouble in the past and we’re starting to get the idea what it was, but at the moment, it just seems like a case of wrong place, wrong time.
And then we see Jefferson get bailed out and who did the bailing. Nicholas Fury. Even though it’s a quarter of a decade ago, he’s already sporting the eye patch, although Marquez doesn’t depict the scar like others have. Also, I can’t recall if I’ve ever seen this version wear a suit before. It’s a nice change of pace from the turtleneck and trench coat he so often seems to sport. There are times though, that in close up, we see a glimpse of that older, more seasoned Nick Fury.
Nick tells Jefferson that Aaron has already abandoned him for Florida, but that he’s been put in a position where he could save the entre country from disaster. Fury tells Jefferson that Turk will be coming back to offer him a job as professional hood rat, but that Fury himself is an agent of a super secret world peacekeeping organization and that he is there to recruit him first.
Needless to say, Jefferson is shocked. We get a brief glimpse of him at home and see his mom for the first time. It’s clear to him that Aaron breaks her heart and if he goes down that path, he will, too. We’ve yet to see his mom in the present day and I don’t think Miles has mentioned his grandmother before. Faced with her sons turning to lives of crime, does it cause her to disown them or even die? She’s so frustrated that Jefferson isn’t doing something with his life, I can see and understand where Jefferson gets it from when he places emphasis on Miles’ education later on in life. Could his mom be his Uncle Ben?
It doesn’t take long for Fury’s prophecy to come true and Turk’s men escort Jefferson to a meeting. You have to love late 80s/early 90s clothing and hair styles. Jefferson finds his brother waiting with Turk and Aaron quietly apologizes. Turk tosses Jefferson a roll of cash for going to jail and not talking, then points out that Jefferson took down all his men and now wants him to be his new muscle. Jefferson asks if the job is for both he and his brother, but Aaron has his own thing. The Prowler Begins? Jefferson wants to think about it.
Fury interrupts Jefferson’s pondering and he can’t understand how someone like Turk could threaten the world. Nick lays it all out for him-how with Jefferson at his side, Turk’s rise would get him noticed by an even bigger player, one Wilson Fisk, who will then hire Jefferson away from Turk and reveal how by breaking international law, the world will be put in danger. Marquez gives us a moody shot of the future Kingpin flanked by his Enforcers. Fury stresses how Jefferson will have to do deplorable things to earn trust in the underworld, things that will make him sick, and we begin to see the scope of that in a montage of Jefferson busting heads and doing things his mom would no doubt be ashamed of. This is how Jefferson will save the world, by doing the seemingly opposite.
The flashback ends on Jefferson’s shocked eyes and we cut to he and Miles in the present, sitting on a park bench. The artistic shift is obvious and we are back in the familiar modern day Ultimate Universe. I really have to hand it to the artistic team on this issue. The flashback had a distinct feel and felt like another world altogether. Even though they were depicting the New Jersey of 1989 and the clothes depicted the era, I felt like I was reading a 70s crime movie. There was such a stark contrast when they switched back to their usual style for the last three panels. Something about the flashback reminded me a bit of Batman: Year One, even. By story’s end, I wanted to go back and re-read all of Miles’ time as Spidey from this new perspective.
Unfortunately, I don’t have all of Miles’ run as Ultimate Spidey, having checked out a good portion of it from the local library. I did flip thru what I have digitally before I wrote this and found an interesting scene from issue #6 of the first volume. Miles is sitting at the table talking to his mom, Rio. He’s recently found out that his dad and uncle had a shady past. He’s pondering the fact that often his mom says how he is half her and half his dad. He’s just started being Spidey and he’s worried that maybe he’s half bad, too, half criminal. Now we know that unlike his uncle, who isn’t a good person, his dad wasn’t just acting the fool in that part of his life, he was doing it for the greater good.
This “Secret Origin” (to borrow a phrase from the Distinguished Competition) gives Miles a new parallel with the original Peter Parker. As we find out in Amazing Spider-Man annual #5, Peter’s parents, Richard and Mary Parker, were S.H.I.E.L.D. agents when they died. In addition to that, Jefferson did have a run in with Hydra back when they were overtly trying to take over the country in the Divided We Fall/United We Stand storyline. If we ever do see a Spider-Men 2 story, I’d like to see Bendis have Miles bring up with Peter the subject of their secret agent parents.
There are a lot of sub plots in this book right now. We have the Fly Twins, their crime spree and who’s behind them, the Goblin fallout, the death of Jonah, whatever Peter is up to, Ganke and Gwen’s relationship, Miles revealing his secret to Kate, the revelation that Kate’s parents are with Hydra, which should make for a very Romeo and Juliet type situation given this issue’s revelation, and a little thing called Spider-verse going on. I’m sure I’m forgetting something. Bendis pushes ALL this aside to focus on why Jefferson seemingly abandoned Miles once he learned of his dual identity and it’s a story that is JUST getting started. I can understand if a reader is upset that all that is ignored this month. However, once I started reading, all that went away and I was enraptured with the story we were given. It made me think of when Bendis did a similar thing in the the first volume of Ultimate Spider-Man when he had an issue focused solely on Aunt May and it was such a good character issue that I didn’t care that Peter was really nowhere to be found. He captured lightning in a bottle again this issue, adding more layers to an already deep universe. If you can push preconceptions aside and have a little patience, there’s a lot to love in this issue.
My Grade: A