The Marvel Cinematic Universe seems to be setting up a S.H.I.E.L.D. replacement in Phase 4; could Nick Fury now be working for the organization known as S.W.O.R.D.? Fury vanished from the MCU in 2015's Avengers: Age of Ultron, finally returning for a brief moment in Avengers: Infinity War. Tie-in comics have revealed that he's been operating as an independent operative for the last few years, working with Maria Hill to deal with crises after the splintering of the Avengers in Captain America: Civil War.
And it looks as though Fury will play an important role in the future of the MCU. Captain Marvel is essentially Fury's origin story, which will set the scene for his inevitable return in Avengers: Endgame. Both Fury and Hill will then star in Spider-Man: Far From Home, next year's Spider-Man sequel that's set minutes after the events of Endgame. Given this is the first MCU Phase 4 movie, it's generally believed that the small role indicates just how significant Fury will be to the MCU going forward. There are even rumors that Fury could then star in his own TV series on Disney Plus, but that hasn't been confirmed yet.
But what role will Nick Fury play in the MCU after the dust has settled from Avengers: Endgame? The evidence is building that he's working with a new organization - and it's possible that they could even be S.W.O.R.D., another one of Marvel Comics' secretive organizations.
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Nick Fury Has A New Organization In Spider-Man: Far From Home
As noted, official Captain Marvel tie-in comics have revealed that Fury and Hill have been working independently for the last few years. They've been acting as global troubleshooters, using resources Fury had hidden away against this eventuality while he was Director of S.H.I.E.L.D.. It looks as though he still had a lot of connections; there was a reference to Klein, a S.H.I.E.L.D. loyalist who apparently now works for a company called Transpo and has been helping cover Fury's tracks. One scene in the comics also suggested that Fury is still in touch with James Rhodes, aka War Machine.
But Avengers: Endgame looks set to change Nick Fury's status quo considerably. A batch of set photos from Spider-Man: From Far Home showed a fleet of S.H.I.E.L.D.-style cars pulling up to surround Jake Gyllenhaal's Mysterio, What's more, descriptions of Spider-Man: Far From Home's first trailer have stressed that Fury gives Peter Parker some alternate costumes over the course of the movie (he's left his actual Spider-Man suit back in the United States). One of these, a stealth-type Spider-Man suit, is reminiscent of a costume S.H.I.E.L.D. gave to Spider-Man in the "Secret War" event in the comics. So it looks like Nick Fury is back in a position where he's playing with considerable resources - presumably acting as a key agent (if not leader) of an all-new organization. Their remit appears to be fairly similar to S.H.I.E.L.D.'s, given they recruit Spider-Man to help deal with the threat of mysterious elemental forces wreaking havoc in Europe.
As Far As The Movies Are Concerned, SHIELD Is Over
It's commonly assumed that Fury's new organization is a resurgent S.H.I.E.L.D.. In reality, though, that doesn't currently seem to be particularly likely. It's important to remember that Marvel Studios and Marvel Television operate independently now, and that frankly relations between the two Disney subsidiaries don't seem to be good. As a result, Marvel Television tend to only have access to properties that Marvel Studios have no plans for. And Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has now been renewed for two more seasons by ABC, which will air in 2019 and 2020. That strongly suggests Marvel Studios has no interest in S.H.I.E.L.D. at all; as far as the films are concerned, S.H.I.E.L.D. might as well have shut down completely in the aftermath of 2014's Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
It's possible that Marvel Studios will simply create a brand new organization from scratch, one that serves a similar purpose to S.H.I.E.L.D.. After all, the MCU is gradually moving away from its comic book roots, allowing writers to do their own thing (in addition to leaving Earth behind to go more cosmic); Avengers: Endgame has been described as an entirely original story, for example, while there's certainly no comic book precedent for anything that's been described in Spider-Man: Far From Home. But Marvel may not need to take that approach; instead, they could take inspiration from another organization in the comics, S.W.O.R.D..
Page 2 of 2: Could Nick Fury Be Working For S.W.O.R.D.?
S.W.O.R.D. Could Enter The MCU In Phase 4
In the comics, S.W.O.R.D. is the Sentient World Observation and Response Department. They were created by Joss Whedon in his popular Astonishing X-Men run, and were envisioned as an agency who handle "external" matters. While S.H.I.E.L.D. concern themselves with home-grown, human threats, S.W.O.R.D. is interested in aliens and - yes - elemental beings. They're typically run by Agent Brand, a half-mutant, half-alien with a serious attitude. Under Brand's leadership, as Whedon quipped, S.W.O.R.D. make S.H.I.E.L.D. look like the Girl Scouts. But that's largely because they're working on a scale even S.H.I.E.L.D. doesn't like to dream of.
The Avengers movie saw the general public learn about aliens in the universe for the first time. Since then, a number of major incidents have surely left the world terrified; the Dark Elves struck London in Thor: The Dark World, and Thanos and the Black Order attacked both New York and Wakanda in Avengers: Infinity War - which resulted in Thanos' snap, aka the Decimation. It's logical that humanity will seek to find a way to protect itself - and an organization like S.W.O.R.D., presumably reporting to the United Nations and thus democratically accountable after a fashion, would be ideal. What's more, Nick Fury would probably fit in quite well with S.W.O.R.D.; he's been at the forefront of protecting the Earth from alien threats since 1995, after all. Fury wouldn't be trusted as Director after the fall of S.H.I.E.L.D., of course, but he would still work as a high-ranking field operative.
How S.W.O.R.D. Could Appear In Spider-Man: Far From Home
There's just one catch; the film rights to S.W.O.R.D. are generally believed to sit with 20th Century Fox. That always seemed likely, given the organization was introduced in the X-Men comics, and has continued to play a major role in that franchise; in fact, Agent Brand even dated the Beast for several years in the comics. And this was confirmed by Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. VFX supervisor Mark Kolpack back in 2017, when rumors began to circulate that season 5 could introduce the MCU version of S.W.O.R.D.. "As cool as that would be," Kolpack said, "that is part of the X-Men universe." The rights will revert to Marvel upon completion of the Disney/Fox acquisition, but until that time, Marvel will be unable to use S.W.O.R.D..
There may be a way around this problem, though. The Disney/Fox purchase looks almost inevitable at this stage, and indeed there have been reports it could close by January 2019. This seems a little more unlikely at present; the deal is currently being examined by international regulators, and Brazil's antitrust regulator Cade has raised some concerns. It has until March to recommend remedial measures, which Disney and Fox will presumably acquiesce with in order to get approval. Still, for all this will hold things up a little, the fact remains that the acquisition is still expected to be completed in early 2019 - well before July, when Spider-Man: Far From Home will be released.
It wouldn't actually be too difficult for Marvel to edit S.W.O.R.D. into the film. Let's assume, for example, that no explicit dialogue says the name of the organization Fury is working for. That would mean Marvel could edit it in pretty easily, using simple CGI to add the circular S.W.O.R.D. logo to some of the uniforms or vehicles. Attentive viewers have already noted that Spider-Man's stealth suit has a convenient circular shoulder-panel that's perfectly suited to adding a CGI logo on during post-production. So Marvel could edit S.W.O.R.D. into the film, leaving Fury's organization mysterious at this point but setting the stage for them to become increasingly important.
Captain Marvel And The Future Of S.W.O.R.D.
It's interesting to note that S.W.O.R.D. would fit well with the little we know of MCU's Phase 4. Prior to his departure from Marvel earlier this year, James Gunn revealed that Marvel was working on a number of cosmic scripts. Those plans are no doubt in a state of flux; they were intended to be launched by Gunn's Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, which is currently on hiatus. Still, progress on The Eternals strongly suggests that Marvel still want to take the MCU in a cosmic direction (with The Eternals even replacing the Guardians of the Galaxy), and S.W.O.R.D. would work tremendously well in this context. Meanwhile, it's generally assumed that Brie Larson's Captain Marvel will be a major figure in Phase 4 and beyond. Significantly, in the comics, Captain Marvel has become closely tied to S.W.O.R.D.; in fact, she even replaced Agent Brand as Director of the organization, and runs its Alpha Flight rapid response program.
All this means there's tremendous story potential for S.W.O.R.D.. What's more, this idea would essentially turn Nick Fury into the Agent Coulson of the MCU's Phase 4 - the field operative who helps the heroes out and organizes them. It would explain just why Fury seems to be such a prominent figure in the post-Avengers: Endgame MCU, and even provide the potential for a Nick Fury TV series on Disney Plus to explore S.W.O.R.D.'s day-to-day operations, or perhaps even how it all came together without anyone noticing.