Thursday, September 03, 2015

Marvels: Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos #8

"The Death-Ray of Dr. Zemo!" by Stan Lee, Dick Ayers & George Roussos
(July 1964)

Earlier this same month, Baron Zemo made his first appearance in Avengers #6, Hitler's greatest scientist who returns to strike at the revived Captain America (and who, it turns out, is responsible for Bucky's death). So it's a neat idea that in the same month he's introduced, we see Zemo in action back in World War II against the Howlers. Time to build up the character's WWII credentials. Hey, since we've established that the 40s Timely comics and the 40s era Marvel comics co-exist, does that mean at some point we're going to get to see Captain America show up in the pages of Sgt. Fury? That would be... that would be pretty cool, and I'm not familiar enough with this book to know if it happens.

(Checks Marvel Database... yes, it does happen, and in five issues!)

But let's not get ahead of ourselves. This issue also introduces us to a new member of the Howling Commandos, replacing Junior Juniper, who died in action way back in Sgt. Fury #4. Say hello to Percival Pinkerton.

Percy, for short. He's a genteel English chap, and he carries that umbrella around everywhere. He's introduced to us by having other soldiers make fun of how... un-stereotypical he is, but they're singing a different tune when he uses his umbrella to knock them around and teach them some manners.

But Percy's real trial by fire is joining the Commandos on their next mission: to enter the heart of Nazi territory in Germany and capture a death ray that's been developed by Hitler's top scientist, Dr. Zemo. In typical Fury fashion, their entry into Germany involves ramming a Nazi sub with a PT boat, clearing out a machine gun nest, and a run-in with a tank. Gabe Jones, badass that he is, deals with the tank by leaping on top of it from a tree and dropping a grenade into the cabin. It takes out the tank, but it nearly takes out Jones, too. There's a tense episode where they have to get him medical help from a Nazi doctor, who they then force to spirit them out of town.

In probably my favorite passage this issue, Fury actually forces the Nazi doctor to treat Jones by holding a lit stick of dynamite in his face. "The master race! What a laugh!!"

And for good measure, they blow up the ammo dump on the way out of town. Actually, they get the town's contingent of Nazis to do it themselves. This is classic stuff.

Zemo is holed up in a castle that's wired for sound and full of booby traps, with Zemo shouting threats into a PA mic. (Aside: Zemo's high intelligence is partially portrayed by having him be literally the only German character in the story who doesn't speak in that pidgin English that the Nazis always have.) Zemo unleashes his death ray, which is basically a laser rifle, but Reb is able to get it away quickly with his lariat and Zemo escapes in his plane. The death ray itself is destroyed remotely by Zemo to keep it out of Allied hands.

So in the end we've been introduced to our new Howler and a new villain. I wasn't sure what to expect in Sgt. Fury, but we're building up an interesting roster of villains, assuming they return. Baron Strucker and Dr. Zemo are both potentially interesting characters who elevate the pulp Nazi villain into the Marvel style. I hope we see them both again soon.

Stray observations:

:: This issue opens with an entire captured SS squad being marched into camp; apparently, this is how Fury's squad spent their furlough. I love it. I'm waiting for the issue where Dum-Dum is literally just sitting around chewing nails to prove how tough the Howlers are.

:: Dum-Dum once again insults his wife in this story, and throws his mother-in-law in for good measure.

:: Well, we almost got through a whole issue where Gabe Jones was colored correctly, but he's accidentally Caucasian in one panel again.

:: This issue introduces the book's letter column, "Tell It to Fury."

:: This issue also introduces us to our new regular penciler, Dependable Dick Ayers. I'm gonna miss Kirby's art on the book for now, but Dick Ayers' style is great, too. I've enjoyed his work on the Johnny Storm stories in Strange Tales, but there's a real exuberance to his style in this issue, and I'm really looking forward to more.

The reason Kirby is off the book is, of course, because both The Avengers and Sgt. Fury are now going monthly, and Kirby can only do so much work in a month. I mentioned that I have some trepidation about The Avengers being a monthly book, but I'm very much excited about monthly adventures of the Howling Commandos.

But first, next Marvels: Dr. Strange enters the Nightmare World once more.

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