Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD: Empyre (Published August 2000)
Author: Will Murray
Cover Artist: Joe Jusko
Interior illustrations: Jim Steranko

Nick Fury, Dum Dum, and agent Starla Spacek of the new Special Powers Division investigate a global threat as a series of planes mysteriously crash -culminating in the disappearance of an Empyre Airlines jumbo jet.  Suspicion initially points to the involvement of terrorists in Hydra, but Fury soon learns that the true villain is the insane leader of the nation Quorak - who wants nothing less than world destruction. 

Nick Fury's first foray into paperback print is a solid but ultimately unspectacular affair. Author Will Murray brings to life classic S.H.I.E.L.D. hardware like the Helicarrier, the hovercar, and even the old ESP helmets with fantastic detail that recalls the best Steranko drawings and layouts. However the reader also must tread through Murray's abundant explications of parapsychology, mostly carried through the character of Starla Spacek. The heavy emphasis on Spacek and the new Special Powers Division would be tolerable if this were perhaps one in a long line of Nick Fury novels, but S.H.I.E.L.D. fans are sure to feel slightly cheated that such stalwarts like Gabe, the Contessa, Dum Dum, and even Fury himself get short rift in this adventure. 

Also lacking is the caliber of villains, a one-dimension Hydra goon and the power-mad Nadir al-Bazinda, both of which appear near the end of the novel. The lack of a strong villain akin to Von Strucker or the Yellow Claw makes for a tepid ending devoid of the requisite mano-a-mano showdown that normally serves as the thrilling cap to a Nick Fury tale. Although the plot features all the hallmarks of a larger-then-life  S.H.I.E.L.D. adventure, it never scales back to offer a more personal and urgent showdown. Despite these flaws, the books sports some classic moments, among them Fury's patented driving style which leads him to drive his car off the helicarrier at one point, and at another encourages his passengers to join him in the old Howling Commando rebel yell of "WAHOO!" as he plays chicken with a tank. Fury himself is characterized well, especially in the action sequences and in his banter with Dum Dum, however more time could have spent on him if not for Spacek. All in all, a must have for Fury fanatics simply for the virtue of it being the first (only?) Nick Fury novel, but it could have been better.