(CNN) — Nick Fury started out in comics leading a group of soldiers known as the Howling Commandos. In “Secret Invasion,” the latest Disney+ series, the SHIELD chief, a.k.a. Samuel L. Jackson, fronts a mostly entertaining game of Marvel-supporting-character Bingo, seeking to thwart a plot by shapeshifting Skrulls with their cinematic roots in the “Captain Marvel” movies.
It’s a different kind of series for Marvel/Disney+, kicking off with promise based on the first two episodes by feeling as if it’s equal parts “Mission: Impossible” and “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” given that the Skrull ability to mimic others makes it extremely difficult to know who to trust.
The series also adds impressive new faces in support of Jackson, including Emilia Clarke (“Game of Thrones”), Oscar winner Olivia Colman and Kingsley Ben-Adir as the Skrull leader bent on literal world domination, telling his underlings, “Earth will be our home. Because I will take it.”
Although Fury occupied a sizable role in “Captain Marvel,” Jackson has appeared content to serve as needed in the Marvel universe – assembling the Avengers and then getting out of their way – in the process padding his Guinness Book of World Records resume (also buoyed by the “Star Wars” prequels) in terms of co-starring in a roster of blockbusters that have amassed several billion dollars.
Here, Jackson has an opportunity to flesh out the character, in a way that by happenstance echoes the latest Indiana Jones movie. In both cases, people seem to keep telling the protagonist that despite his credentials as a warrior, he might be past his prime for this sort of Earth-saving action, especially in Fury’s “post-blip” condition.
Under showrunner Kyle Bradstreet (whose credits include “Mr. Robot”), “Secret Invasion” reunites Fury with SHIELD agents Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) and Everett Ross (Martin Freeman) as well as the Skrull Talos (Ben Mendelsohn) in trying to identify and stop the Skrull threat, which involves sowing the seeds of chaos through acts of terrorism and destabilization around the globe. Don Cheadle also parachutes in as James Rhodes/War Machine, which is as close to Avengers territory as the opening episodes come.
Unlike the Marvel series for Disney+ that have pursued a lighter tone, there’s a dark streak to that premise, and a seriousness to the stakes established early on. There’s also a strain of ’50s paranoia in the nature of the foe, which explains why the show plays more like an exercise in Cold War espionage than superhero fare, at least for starters.
Ultimately, “Secret Invasion” is distinguished primarily by creating a more expansive showcase for Jackson’s fast and Fury-ous side, meaning the series rises and falls on the simple pleasure of seeing him moved front and center – one of the bonuses of having brought an actor of his stature into the Marvel fold.
“This is my war,” Fury says, when it’s suggested they might need to call in bigger guns.
He’s definitely the right guy to lead the fight, with the disclaimer that how well that battle plan goes from the opening salvo still remains to be seen.
“Secret Invasion” premieres June 21 on Disney+.