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Posted at 09:30 AM ET, 05/04/2012

‘The Avengers’: Is Nick Fury the new face of Black Power?

Regardless of any issues I may have with the current state of corporate comic book properties and all ancillary products, I gotta give ‘The Avengers’ my support. I saw this movie and was truly impressed by director Joss Whedon’s “nerd instincts” and knack for clever banter, but I was still confused as to who was the main character (as a writer myself, I think about these things).

A scene from "The Avengers.” (The Avengers, assembled. | Marvel Studios via Reuters)
This is a challenge with ensemble movies, they generally still need a primary character arc to give the story a spine. I was expecting it to be Captain America, the first Avenger. Or maybe they’d give a lesser known character like Hawkeye a chance to shine like in the original Avengers comic book. Or, knowing Whedon’s female empowerment brand, he’d make it Black Widow’s story.

All of those characters get their chatty due. But then it hit me. “This is Nick Fury’s story!” AND THAT’S PRETTY COOL. A movie about a black guy who’s (more or less) in charge of a group of “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes” is a small revolutionary act that should be applauded.  I’m curious to see if anybody notices.

In a way, ‘The Avengers,’ (kind of like the first season of ‘The Wire’) is a movie about a guy (Fury) with a job who has to fight his bosses in order to do it effectively. I think they call that “The Plight of the Middle Manager.” I don’t want to give too much away – but it’s almost like he’s the GM of a professional basketball team, having to manage egos (and tempers) at every turn. When he’s not trying to recruit talent, he has to wrestle with ownership and their kooky, out of touch ideas. And the team he’s facing is from outer space with a much higher payroll. Yeah it all makes sense. Pretty slick!

Don’t get me wrong though, it’s an ensemble movie that labors hard to give every larger than life character their due. They even have the requisite locker room scuffles and group therapy sessions.

Whedon is good at giving us what we want in that regard. There is lots of money on the screen, and we all want to see ‘Thor’ and ‘The Hulk’ duke it out a little bit. The great thing about such iconic characters is that their issues are familiar to us, and out there for us to enjoy and relate to.

But with all the kaboom, it’s actually a more pedestrian story that holds it all together. (This must be that “super heroes/everyday problems” formula Marvel has trademarked). Where the film is most successful is in giving us a peek behind the scenes at a guy whose job it is to apply power intelligently, and how difficult that can be.  Nick Fury may be my favorite super hero right now!

And they won’t even give the brother any super powers. (Man, they even took one of his eyes). I guess that’s just how it’s gotta to be for the a black man in charge. It just makes him cooler, anyway.

And we’ll see what happens, if anything, with THE BLACK PANTHER (again, no super powers).

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By Paul Francis  |  09:30 AM ET, 05/04/2012

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