Tuesday, October 26, 2010

84: Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos #3

Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos #3
July 2, 1963

  • After capturing a squad of Nazi saboteurs on the English coast, Sgt. Fury and his boys drop them off with a nearby platoon before heading into Stratford-on-Avon for a night of R&R. And it's an interesting start, because for the past two issues we've seen Nick Fury and his over-the-top group of fighting men strike fear into the hearts of their enemies, but this time out we see their legend by way of the awe and agitation they instill even in other Allied troops - first, when a neighboring sergeant hurriedly quiets his men from grousing about the Howlers too loudly, and then the following morning when the bruises and devastating ruckus from their night on the town is being gingerly cleaned up...

    Only the third issue, and already their reputation precedes them.


  • But then, the way that the Howlers are perceived in this war is something of a minor theme this issue. When Dino Manelli is sent ahead to scout out a ruined town, an old Italian gentlemen recognizes him as an American and asks, "You have come to rescue us, si??" Moments later, Dino is surprised by three other men, who turn out to be U.S. correspondents covering the war. In the midst of the Commandos' mission, the lead journalist keeps pestering Fury as to his heroic plans, which annoys Nick to no end - but the question of the media's role in wartime, and how the embedded journalists sometimes risk as much as the fighting men, has nevertheless been raised. Not bad for a kids' comic magazine!

    Stop wastin' the sergeant's time, mister - or you'll run outta time to waste!


  • As punishment for their wild night in town, Fury's squad is sent to Italy to liberate a division stuck behind the unwisely-named Massacre Mountain. Every attempt at approach keeps getting repelled, however, almost as if the enemy knew where to expect them - until Fury outs the pestering journalist as a double agent (real name: Hans Schmidt) working for the Germans! Fortunately, after Fury's men deal with this traitor - permanently - they're then able to lead the errant division out of captivity, breaking free from the Mountain in yet another victorious assault on the Nazi forces....

    Sgt. Fury meets a certain someone for the very first time ... and it certainly won't be the last.


  • But hey, who are we kidding? This definitely counts as burying the lead, as there's one thing and one thing only that makes this third issue stand out to most readers - and that's the surprise cameo appearance (indicated nowhere on the cover, impressively) of Reed Richards, years before he would become Mister Fantastic of the Fantastic Four. This shouldn't be too much a surprise for canny readers, Ben & Reed's service being first mentioned when they discussed their younger days, and the eagle-eyed may have also caught the reference to Reed's WWII stint in the "Questions and Answers about the Fantastic Four" page in the Fantastic Four Annual #1, on sale that very same week! And Stan was certainly shrewd enough to realize that having the leader of his flagship title appear - even briefly, even in a different form - might lend this new war comic of his a bit of respectability to readers who might otherwise pass it by. So it would be only natural for Nick Fury to return the favor to the FF just a few months later - and in a new form of his own....

    If not for the vital information relayed by Major Richards, the platoon might have
    never escaped - and this mission could have been the Howling Commandos' last....