Tuesday, February 22, 2011

114: Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos #5

Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos #5
November 5, 1963

  • Last issue, "Junior" Juniper was killed in action, and this one opens with Fury laying into his men like a maddened bull, forcing them through training maneuvers with a fierceness that lives up to his name. They hate it, of course, but understand (and even commiserate) that it's because he's so torn up over Juniper's death, as they are too. Stan's a canny judge of character, after all, and he has enough of an understanding of human psychology that he can show someone raging in denial over a loss, without having to belabor the point.

    The epic struggle with which Kirby portrays Dugan's climb - all part of training,
    nothing more - delivers the extra comic punch.

  • But this issue is most noteworthy for the introduction of villain Baron Strucker, later to become Nick Fury's major archenemy. Strucker is the first WWII baddie we've seen who will later return in the modern times, the "Marvel Age" - but before that, he will be seen in this book again and again as an irritant thorn plaguing Nick and his crew. The first few issues of the comic have been enjoyable thus far, but perhaps Stan realized that to ensure its success he needed to put into place some continuing elements, like the character subplots and returning nemeses to be found in his superhero fare.

    In future appearances, Strucker will become far more proactive in his designs.

  • Along those lines, we also see more of British Red Cross worker Pamela Hawley, who Fury met just last issue but is already described - in the narration, at least - as "the lovely light of his life." Aside from the Commandos themselves, the only recurring character to date has been that of their commanding officer, "Happy Sam" Sawyer. But here we get a second member of the supporting cast, and one from outside their ranks, at that - and her refined, cultured ways make her pairing with the brazen, uncouth Fury an interesting one.

    As with last issue, we're shown how vitally important the perception of winning
    was to each side - something harder to relate to today.  Also, Fury gets reamed.

  • As mentioned, at the beginning of the story Sgt. Fury takes out his rage over Juniper's death on the Howlers, punishing them as much as himself. Later, he's disciplined by Captain Sawyer with a demotion, forced to march alongside the Commandos not as their leader but simply as one of the men, and he rightly fears retribution for their earlier treatment at his hands. But instead, aware as they are of the grief that's directed his actions, they take care of him and look out for him - which, in his typically stoic and repressed style, seems to just confound and annoy him even further. But make no mistake, these men love their Sarge as they do each other - and we can only imagine how losing one of their own makes this all the more sharp.

    And yet seventy years later ... he's still around and fightin'!