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Since it was launched in 2013, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has introduced us to new versions of classic characters, ranging from Deathlok to Quake, from Jeffrey Mace to the Absorbing Man. But Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 4 Episode 13, aptly titled "BOOM", introduced us to one of Marvel's staple supervillains — a character with a rich history, who's actually responsible for the deaths of heroes. Yes, it's time to meet the MCU version of Nitro!
Who is Nitro?
Although Nitro is hardly one of the best-known #Marvel supervillains, he's actually a pretty important one. In the comics, he was responsible for exposing Kree superhero Captain Marvel to a carcinogenic nerve gas, ultimately causing the hero to die from cancer. He was also responsible for what was known as the 'Stamford Incident': a destructive event where scores of schoolchildren were killed during a battle between superheroes and supervillains. This was the instigation for the Super Hero Registration Act, and the trigger for the original "Civil War" event.
In the comics, Nitro is a ruthless mercenary who started out life as an electrical engineer. He was experimented on by the Kree group known as the Lunatic Legion, and gained the ability to self-detonate — he's literally a human bomb, exploding at will and then reforming to strike again. Nitro has battled countless superheroes, from Spider-Man to Iron Man, and has a lethal reputation; at Stamford, he showed he was willing to trigger his powers (then enhanced by Mutant Growth Hormone) while stood next to a school bus.
The MCU Version of Nitro
The #MCU origin of Nitro is very different; played by John Pyper-Ferguson, he's Terrence Shockley, one of the Russian soldiers who campaigned against the #Inhumans. "BOOM" kicked off with his exposing Senator Nadeer to Terrigen, aiming to trigger Terrigenesis and use her as bait to trap S.H.I.E.L.D.. It turned out that Nadeer hadn't inherited the Inhuman gene after all — but Shockley had, and an Inhuman cocoon formed around him. The next thing we knew, Nadeer had died in a mysterious explosion.
It soon became clear that Shockley has the powers of Nitro; he can accelerate the vibrations of his molecules until he's transformed into a flammable gas, which then detonates in an explosive release of kinetic energy. As Mace observes, he's become the ultimate weapon; an undetectable suicide bomber who can walk away.
This is the brilliance of the Inhuman concept, of course; just as with Quake, Marvel has used Terrigenesis to avoid a long, drawn-out origin story. In Nitro's case, it's a fairly logical switch; his comic book origin is already tied to the Kree, who are also responsible for creating the Inhumans.
A Smart Nod
Returning to the comics, in Iron Man #15, Nitro was hired to kill Tony Stark — which, inevitably, led to a battle between Nitro and Iron Man. Iron Man was able to detect a high-frequency pulse that was emitted every time Nitro exploded; unable to resist the temptation, Stark duplicated the pulse to see what happened. The result was explosive, to say the least, and Iron Man found himself able to trigger Nitro's explosions at will. It didn't take him long to exhaust the supervillain.
In a smart nod to Iron Man #15, "BOOM" featured Fitz detecting high-frequency vibrations whenever Shackley detonated. Although S.H.I.E.L.D. initially hoped to get Quake to counteract these vibrations, she ultimately settled for duplicating them - triggering Shackley's explosions, and wearing him down. Yes, not only did Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. introduce the MCU version of Nitro, they also dealt with him using an approach lifted straight from the comics!
"BOOM" ended with Shackley defeated, his gaseous form imprisoned in such a way that he can't reform. It's a smart solution to the problem he poses, and it's one that, again, is lifted straight from the comics; at one point, he battled the mutant Skids, and became trapped inside her force-field, unable to reform.
For now, Shackley's story seems to be over; but I won't be surprised if he returns. Pyper-Ferguson plays the role well, and the MCU version of Nitro poses a pretty unique threat; an Inhuman who hates Inhumans, and would do anything — including launching terrorist strikes — to cause a moral panic against the Inhuman race.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has done it again, transporting one of Marvel's B-list supervillains into the MCU. The show's take on Nitro is a fascinating one, comic-book-accurate in terms of the powerset but giving the villain a totally different context. It makes this version of Nitro a unique, and potentially devastating, threat!