By Cefn Ridout & Charlie Adlard (Marvel)
Don’t be fooled by the title and brace yourself for a disappointment if you’re a huge fan of the World War II Howling Commando and irascible leader of the planet’s most advanced espionage agency. Although he gets top billing, Nick Fury is largely absent from the post-Cold War proceedings in this well-intentioned if erratic thriller that is in actuality the spiritual conclusion to the sage of the mysterious Night Raven.
As seen in Night Raven: the Collected Stories (ISBN13: 978-1-85400-557-3), Night Raven: House Of Cards (ISBN13: 978-1-85400-288-4) and as yet un-collected illustrated prose adventures from various British Marvel publications, Night Raven was a masked vigilante who fought crime in New York and Chicago in the years between World Wars I and II. In later years he became locked in a bloody, relentless vendetta with the immortal villainess Yi Yang, Queen of the Dragon Tong.
When a S.H.I.E.L.D. asset is murdered inside the US embassy in Moscow soon after the fall of the Soviet system, expatriate Russian super agent and Avenger Natasha Romanoff is dispatched to unravel the secrets the new rulers don’t want revealed.
What she discovers is the incredible fate of the fearsome urban legend now known as Black Bird as he slaughters his way through bureaucrats and Russian Mafia alike in his single-minded mission to destroy the woman who kept him from a peaceful grave.
Superbly illustrated by Charlie Adlard this is nonetheless an uncomfortable blending of genres, with a strange pace to it: almost as if there’s been some savage trimming and pruning with no thought to narrative cohesion. Pretty and adventurous, it’s probably only of real interest to real aficionados.
© 1995 Marvel Entertainment Group/Marvel Characters, Inc. All Rights Reserved.