Friday, February 07, 2014

Marvels: Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos #2

"7 Doomed Men!" by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby & Dick Ayers
(July 1963)

For their next mission, Nick Fury and the Howlers are going behind enemy lines to Heinemund, where the Nazi scientists are working on a new weapon similar to, as Captain Sawyer says, America's Manhattan Project. He can't tell Fury what the weapon is, but the Army needs him to stop a shipment of heavy water coming in.

The commandos go in disguise on a merchant ship, quickly get stopped by a Nazi boat, take over the Nazi boat, go in disguise as Nazi sailors, and then get stopped on the pier before fighting their way out. It's that kind of book, folks! We don't need no stinkin' passwords! They're just going to punch and shoot and bomb their way through Nazi Germany. Dum-Dum Dugan stays behind to hold off the Nazis so the rest of the Howlers can get away, and it takes a literal pile of Nazis to hold him down and capture him.

Fury and his men rescue Dum-Dum, then allow themselves to be captured so they'll be sent to the concentration camp at Heinemund, taking them right to their goal. This issue doesn't shy away from the kind of human misery the Nazis dealt in, and Dum-Dum seems especially disgusted. He's always the one providing the commentary on the cruelty.

In a lot of ways, it's Dum-Dum and Nick Fury's intense anger over this kind of thing that drives the rest of the issue. The Howlers quickly break out and liberate the camp, the prisoners turning on their captors while Fury and his men carry out their mission, breaking into the weapons lab and destroying everything involved in the Nazi atomic experiments while Fury just openly spews his disgust.

The men blow up the tanker trains carrying the heavy water, while Dum-Dum goes the extra mile and rams a fuel truck into a V-2 rocket on its launchpad, and then the commandos escape to rendezvous with a sub, leaving a mushroom cloud behind them. The narration asks: is this the reason Hitler ordered a halt to atomic experiments before the war ended?

That was an easy issue to describe, but a hell of a lot of fun to read. So far, I really love this comic!

Stray observations:

:: This issue opens with the Howlers taking down a group of Nazis at a French port, apparently just for fun. It's a great way to start the story, getting us back into the characters and their key quirks and setting the tone for the action. The second issue of a Marvel comic usually opens with something to refresh our memories before diving in--not a bad idea since a lot of these comics start with bi-monthly schedules.

:: Stan goes nuts with the Nazi accents; lots of phonetics, you know, "ve haff" instead of "we have" and stuff like that. He also writes out Reb's Southern accent. It's pure cartoon, like a reconstituted version of WWII propaganda crossed with the idealism Jack Kirby was doing back on Boy Commandos at National (DC) in the forties and that great silly humor Stan was doing with Dan DeCarlo on Millie the Model and Homer the Happy Ghost.

Racial caricaturing right out of an old Bugs Bunny cartoon.

:: African-American Gabe Jones is still mostly colored Caucasian. Apparently Stan Lee had to send a memo to the color separator at the printing plant about it.

:: "Some day you guys will get charley-horses from pattin' yourselves on the back so much!" It's like a squadron full of Ben Grimms.

:: I like that Fury gets a dressing down from Captain "Happy Sam" Sawyer for mouthing off at him. Just a reminder of the chain of command. It adds a little dimension to Nick Fury, stops him from being untouchable. I love how Sawyer sometimes treats him, say, the way Fury treats Dum-Dum.

Great expression on Fury in that third panel.

:: Speaking of Dum-Dum, apparently one of his key character bits is that he doesn't like his wife very much. There are three derogatory references he makes to his wife in this issue. I'll bet he hopes this war never ends.

:: "Hey, Sarge--what kinda mission is this, anyway?" "The usual, stupid! A suicide mission!"

:: The scenes of the commandos riding down a Nazi tank on horseback are pure mythmaking hero stuff.

This is probably, of all the Marvel Universe titles, the most cartoonish. But there are moments of emotional depth that are surprising, which is why a lot of this works so well. It's the most pure comic book, because Stan and Jack aren't trying to make the characters emotionally believable, I think. It's very broad. But damn, it's a lot of fun.

Next time: Johnny Storm faces the combined, er, "menaces" of the Wizard and Paste Pot Pete, and a new player arrives in the Marvel Universe: the Master of the Mystic Arts!

No comments: