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Mondo Marvel #35 - February 1965

A column article, Mondo Marvel by: Paul Brian McCoy

I apologize for the delay this month. Mondo Marvel should have been posted last night, but my computer decided to have a heat stroke, and it has taken me about six hours of trying to just get it to load and stay stable long enough to actually finish the column and then it took a while more to get the damn thing posted.

There doesn't seem to be any kind of coherent theme to this month's releases, although Stan did decide to let somebody else do the scripting on a couple of stories this month.

And those writers were never heard from again!

Well, not at Marvel anyway.

You know what? I'm too tired to jibber-jabber at ya right now. I just want to get this column finished before my computer decides it's time launch missiles at Russia or something.

As you may already know, this is Mondo Marvel, where we are making our way through the origins of the Marvel Universe, one month at a time.

So let's get down to it, boppers.


 

February 1965



Amazing Spider-Man #21
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Steve Ditko
"Where Flies the Beetle...!"

I thought we'd change up the order a little bit this time out, since both this month's Fantastic Four and Strange Tales Human Torch adventure make reference to his run-in with Spider-Man in this issue. There's not really anything of substance that carries over from one story to the others, but change is good, so there.

The opening page of this story is very nicely put together with a six-panel grid, two per row, with each level introducing our main players. Abner Jenkins is up first, being released from prison in the first panel and then getting Beetled up in the next as he prepares to go wreak some havoc on the Torch (who sent him to prison back in Strange Tales #123).

Next we get Johnny Storm hanging out with his girlfriend Doris Evans as he reads that The Beetle has been released. Without a moment's hesitation, he Flames On and goes looking for the criminal. Much to Doris' chagrin, I might add.

Finally, at the bottom of the page we get Peter Parker worn out from studying in the first panel, then leaping through the city sky as Spider-Man in the next as he works out the kinks in his back with exercise!

This opening is a bit of a bait and switch, though, as instead of leading into any action, we're instead treated to a demonstration of just how differently the public sees Spidey and the Torch. Case in point, when people see Spider-Man clinging creepily to a building they shriek and flee, whereas Johnny is applauded and does some neat tricks for the crowd. Meanwhile, The Beetle is slinking around, following the Torch, waiting for an opportunity to get the drop on him.

What he finds instead is Doris.

And Doris is pissed. So much so, that she makes Johnny promise not to flame on for 24 hours. She's tired of being abandoned at the drop of a hat, so Johnny agrees. And just like that Beetle has a plan.

The rest of this adventure is really about young people emotionally manipulating each other. Doris runs into Pete in town and he's so nice and polite, she uses him to make Johnny Jealous. When Johnny confronts Pete, telling him to stay away from his girlfriend, Betty overhears (or course) and has an emotional breakdown. Again. So Pete tears Johnny a new one – verbally, that is.

He's then so upset about Johnny upsetting Betty, he decides to gear up as Spidey and go flirt with Doris just to piss the Torch off. Unfortunately, The Beetle is there, waiting for Johnny to show up.

And then the fireworks start.

Aside from two pages with no costumed battle action (the first where Doris tries to call Johnny for help and he hangs up on her, thinking she's trying to trick him into losing their bet; the second where Betty calls around trying to find Pete and then has another mini-breakdown when she can't, because obviously he's off with another girl!!!), the rest of the book is fight scene after fight scene.

The Spidey/Beetle battle is very entertaining and together they do a ridiculous amount of damage to Doris' yard and home. Not sure where her parents are. Anyway, when Beetle grabs Doris and runs, Spidey follows, and when Johnny stops by Doris' and sees the damage (and the liberal sprinkling of webbing everywhere) he flames on and rushes to find them.

This leads to another nice action sequence as Johnny attacks Spidey, thinking he's to blame for Doris' disappearance. The action is fast and furious, peaking in a three-panel page where Johnny very nearly overwhelms Pete with a huge blast of flame that wouldn't look out of place in a Doctor Strange adventure.

As you might guess, once Beetle is revealed as the real culprit, there's a team-up that leads to his capture. Amusingly, though, the team-up is more of a slapstick affair as Pete and Johnny keep getting in each other's way, practically only capturing the Beetle by accident.

I think my favorite part of the issue is in the last few panels, though. Overwhelmed with hostility and a pretty brutal ennui, Spidey leaves, angry that everyone else seems to have great lives, but his is always turning to crap. The comic ends with him standing alone on a smokestack or a chimney overlooking New York, and wishing he could reveal his identity to the world so he wouldn't have to hide and people would know he's an okay guy.

Be he does not dare!

That's so bleak and awesome. I love it!




Fantastic Four #35
Writer: Stan Lee
Pencils: Jack Kirby
Inks: Chic Stone
"Calamity On the Campus!"

In a nice contrast to how Spider-Man ends, Fantastic Four opens with a clear example of how good the FF have it. Reed and Ben are returning to their Alma Mater, State U, so that Reed can deliver a speech. From the moment they land, the team is swamped with an admiring public.

Well, almost all of them. It seems Johnny's too young for the college girls to notice. That's a nice twist, given how Pete sees Johnny's life.

For some reason, we also get a brief walk-through by Professor X and Scott Summers. They were there to interview some students that may have been mutants (turns out they weren't), are introduced to Reed, and then go on their way.

I'm not really sure what it accomplished, other than emphasizing what a small world Marvel New York really is. These super folks are stumbling all over each other, whether they realize it or not!

Johnny also bumps into Peter Parker, who's here looking into State U as his college of choice after graduation. Although if Johnny's going to enroll, Pete has second thoughts about the school.

Meanwhile in Transylvania...

Yes, I know how that sounds.

But seriously, meanwhile in Transylvania, Diablo escapes from his underground prison (where the FF trapped him back in Fantastic Four #30), and I will admit, he looks fairly demonic. At least, until the smoke clears and he seems to be bare-legged and wearing red underpants.

Then, with "one powerful pellet from [his] glove", Diablo disappears in a cloud of smoke. I'm not sure what it really did. If was some sort of teleportation, then he probably should have used it to get out of the trap, rather than causing a mini-volcanic explosion in the forest. Anyway, he ends up in America, at State U!!!

Imagine that!

Once there, he uses his alchemy to bring The Dragon Man to life! What's the Dragon Man, you ask? Yeah, I did kind of skip that. You see, there's this scientist who has designed a huge model Dragon Man that, if brought to life, would be more powerful than anyone – even the Fantastic Four!

Now why would someone even try to do that? He should know that nothing good will come of it.

And, as I said, Diablo, in civilian clothes thank goodness, brings Dragon Man to life and uses him to attack the Fantastic Four. Luckily, Sue has a brainstorm and decides to treat the beast with kindness instead of fighting it, and she wins it over. It's all very sweet.

Of course, the examples that she uses to support her approach are from mythology (Romulus and Remus) and the movies (King Kong), so it's not the most well-thought-out plan, but it works, so we'll let that go. Plus we get a fairly creepy moment where the Dragon Man strokes Sue’s golden locks (which she seems to be growing out – I approve!) and we can practically hear him purring.

Dragon Man then turns on Diablo and the two of them disappear into a hole in the floor of a lake, never to be seen again. Yeah, right.

It's all very inconsequential, ultimately. Although it does make for a nice ending that's a little different from your usual Marvel Punch-Out and can I just say right now that I LOVE the Dragon Man design. Kirby outdid himself here. You can kind of tell he misses drawing monsters on a regular basis.

The only thing of real note that occurs here is that Reed finally declares his love for Sue and she for him. Sure, we all knew they really loved each other, but now they've told each other and we can all move on. They did it in front of a tree on campus that is carved into the shape of a heart, and according to tradition, any couple who holds hands and kisses in front of the tree will be married within a year.

I guess we should start looking forward to that wedding, eh?




Strange Tales #129
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Dick Ayers
Inker: Frankie Ray
"The Human Torch and The Thing: The Terrible Trio!"

Was anyone clamoring for the return of the Terrible Trio? I know I wasn't.

Anyway, they escape from prison and Ben immediately starts calling Johnny, so they can go track them down. This interrupts Johnny's date with Doris, however. Poor Johnny. Not only is Doris upset that he's cancelling their golf date (??), but she's now comparing his angry outburst after missing a put to that "gentleman" Peter Parker, who would never lose his temper like that.

Ha ha!

The rest of the story takes place in a train yard, which allows for the obligatory "tied to the railroad tracks" moment at the end. This is after Johnny gets his foot caught in the train switch like a genius. He is knocked unconscious (off-panel), but not before he signals for Ben's help.

Ben arrives crying, because he thinks Johnny might be dead, lying there on the tracks.

For reals.

Then he's attacked by a boa constrictor that is dropped on him by Yogi Dakor. For some reason, Ayers chooses to keep this action off-panel, too. I'm really not understanding the artistic choices here. When we do get a shot where we can see Ben being attacked by the giant snake, it's all in silhouette!!

Then, after being trapped in a line of train tracks – yes, I know – Ben falls onto the train tracks next to the still unconscious Johnny just as a train is approaching. And then, in another inspired narrative choice, the story cuts away to later as Ben and Johnny are flying away in the Fantasti-Car where Ben is telling Johnny about what happened.

Seems he kicked the train away, saving Johnny's life, and assumingly doing horrible amounts of property damage and possibly injuring anyone on the train. Then while the Terrible Trio were congratulating each other on defeating them, because they are apparently deaf as well as blind, Ben snuck up and beat them all to a pulp.

The end.

Seriously. That's the end.

Only five more months of this nonsense, though! Then we get some good stuff!

Editor: Stan Lee
Script: Don Rico
Artist: Steve Ditko
"Doctor Strange: Beware...Tiboro! The Tyrant of the Sixth Dimension!"

For some reason, Stan Lee doesn't actually write two of this month's adventures. This is the first one, with scripting duties being taken on by Don Rico.

The last time we saw Don Rico taking over the scripting was back in Tales of Suspense #52 and #53, where the world was introduced to the Black Widow. Well, he doesn't get to introduce nearly so enduring a character this time out.

In fact, Tiboro is yet another other-dimensional despot that Strange has to take down. From what I can gather, he appears a few more times over the years, but there's really not much special about him.

It is odd, though, that he uses a strange wand that emits Electroplasmic rays rather than using some sort of magical ability. And I kind of like the fact that he appears whenever civilization reaches a point of crisis, so he can take over and rule the world. The last time he was around he was worshipped by a primitive South American tribe as the "Lord of the Seething Volcano" and mysteriously disappeared, somehow banished back to the Sixth Dimension, wherever that is.

When all is said and done, though, he doesn't seem to be much of a threat. Strange defeats him easily, leaving him threatening to return when he detects the further decay of civilization.

Yeah, whatever, dude.




Tales to Astonish #64
Editor: Stan Lee
Writer: Leon Lazarus
Artist: Carlos Burgos
Inker: Paul Reinman
"Giant Man and the Wasp: When Attuma Strikes!"

Oh for Pete's sake.

Once again, Hank and Jan provide what may be the most overused plot device in the Marvel Universe. Sure, we haven't seen it in a while. Actually, now that I think of it, we haven't seen this particular variation on the "alien invasion" theme in quite some time.

It's still tired, though.

Aliens attempt to invade, they capture humans for study, superheroes show up, kick everybody's butts, and aliens flee, vowing never to return if humans have these ridiculous powers. The only variation on this is that Attuma, the warlord who attempted to overthrow Namor a couple of months ago in Fantastic Four #33, is the alien.

He captures Jan, as well as a planeload of others, in order to study them and prepare for his invasion of the surface world. Jan is traveling alone because Hank, dick that he is, verbally abused her when she accidentally broke some equipment in his lab.

So in a crying huff, she abandons her Wasp identity and leaves Hank.

Except that once she's in danger the first thing she does is scrounge through her purse for Shrinking Pill crumbs – yes, I know – and though she can't find enough crumbs to actually shrink, there's enough to allow her to communicate with an ant, who then alerts Hank that Jan is in trouble.

Hank then flies out to the island where Jan is being held and proceeds to go all Gigantic on their asses. It's a little disturbing, really, given how clumsy and useless Hank usually is. He's really rather effective here.

We just won't mention the little psychotic freak-out he had when he found out Jan had left him, where he grew and shrank like a madman until he tangled in some electrical wires and nearly killed himself.

Yeah, moving on.

I don't know about you folks, but I really don't think the Hank and Jan relationship is a healthy one.

Oh well. It's only six months until they get booted from this title to make way for something that is hopefully a little more interesting.

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Steve Ditko
Inker: George Roussos
"The Incredible Hulk: The Horde of Humanoids!"

In more entertaining news, Banner is in military prison awaiting trial for treason. Or something like that. He's locked up, anyway, and can't prove that he's not a traitor without revealing that he's The Hulk. Major Glen Talbot and General Ross are both practically salivating at the thought of locking Bruce up and throwing away the key.

Meanwhile, Bruce is eating tranquilizers like they were candy in order to keep from Hulking Out.

Things look bad for him until Rick Jones shows up. Since they're in the White House for some reason, Rick runs off to see President Johnson.

I shit thee not.

He flashes his Avengers I.D. Card and gets to walk right in, where he tells Lyndon Johnson that Bruce Banner is The Hulk.

Again, I shit thee not.

President Johnson uses "all the power and prestige" of his office and gets Banner cleared and released, since Banner is one of America's most important scientific minds. Go Avengers Connections!

So Talbot is forced to eat crow and take Banner directly to the big, regularly scheduled Atomic Test on the world's first Atomic Absorbatron. This device is designed by Banner to absorb atomic radiation, providing the perfect defense against nuclear holocaust.

Or something like that.

Before the test can begin, however, Talbot threatens and upsets Banner so much he triggers a change. And Banner's HUGE bottle of tranquilizers are All GONE. I told you he was eating them like candy.

I'm surprised he can even stand up, to be honest.

So he runs away, tries to hide, but instead turns into Hulk just in time for the titular Horde of Humanoids to appear on the scene.

There's just something strangely appealing about watching Hulk uselessly beat about on a bunch of weird pink rubber men. The absurdity of the entire back half of this story just completely won me over.

I can't wait to see what happens next time.

Weird.




Tales of Suspense #62
Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Don Heck
Inker: Dick Ayers
"Iron Man: The Origin of The Mandarin!"

If the note on the first page here is to be believed, this story was written in response to over 500 requests for "Mandy's origin", so that's kind of cool.

It's not a bad story, really. It would be stronger if there was some way of sympathizing with Mandarin and seeing how he became such an evil bastard, but it looks like he was mainly just born bad. Then he was raised by a hateful aunt who swore to teach him to hate the world.

I guess that might promote some sympathy, but he's just such a dick to everyone from the very first time we see him that he's just impossible to relate to. And there's really nothing about him that makes him special besides his supposed lineage.

If we are to believe it, he is descended from Genghis Khan. If only his father hadn't married a high-born Englishwoman, then maybe the gods wouldn't have forsaken him and killed both of them shortly after he was born.

The most interesting part of the story is the fact that Mandarin (if that is his real name) found a spaceship and the corpse of a dragon-like alien (that was probably the origin of the Chinese Dragon mythology), then discovered ten rings with various powers in the alien craft. It was using this technology that he became the Mandarin that we all know and love today.

There's something vaguely familiar about the whole finding a dead alien and getting his rings story, but I can't quite put my finger on it. Oh well, I'm sure it'll come to me.

The rest of the story is about how Mandarin supplies a missile test for the Chinese government with the intent of betraying them and starting World War III, but Iron Man escapes his death trap and saves the day. Well, actually the Communist Chinese save the day. They're the ones who show up and force Mandarin to retreat.

Then it's a quick jaunt home in a military jet, because he's just too tired and short on power to fly home, and Iron Man will have to face the music of faking Tony Stark's death last time out. Meanwhile, Mandarin broods and vows to destroy Iron Man.

Yeah, haven't heard that one before.

Writer: Stan Lee
Artist: Jack Kirby
Inker: Chic Stone
"Captain America: Break-Out in Cell Block 10!"

This was one of my favorite Captain America stories when I was a kid. It was reprinted in some collection I had, and I thought it was awesome.

You see, Cap is invited to Cell Block 10 to demonstrate his fighting techniques in case of a prison break when it turns out to be an actual prison break! Surprise!

After a standard Captain America vs. a huge group of enemies all coming at him at once scene, Cap is actually overwhelmed and forced into a cell with the real prison warden. He makes a quick escape (thanks to a chewing gum wrapper slipped into the door as it closes, that actually seems pretty inconceivable given the shot of him being tossed into the cell) and discovers that the reason they summoned him to the prison in the first place, was because they couldn't get out of Cell Block 10 thanks to a new-fangled lock on the door.

They think it's magnetic and that the magnetic trinkets and gadgets Iron Man added to Cap's shield will open the door. But you see, those gadgets threw off the balance of the shield, so Cap ditched them.

It wouldn't have mattered anyway, because the gate wasn't magnetic; it was voice-operated. With the proper code-word, the door would spring open, easy peasy. And that code-word?

Captain America, of course.

Which makes for a nicely satisfying ending when you're seven years old. Forty-three year old me is too busy noticing that the bad guys said "Captain America" at least twice in front of the door and nothing happened. Plus, I'm wondering how Cap got in if the convicts couldn't get out.

Huh.

At least the action is good, as once again we see Captain America take out a horde of villains while barely breaking a sweat.

Really, this stuff is just too easy for him. Lee and Kirby need to figure out what else they can do with Cap beyond just composing page after page of acrobatic fight scenes.

Don't get me wrong. I love this story, warts and all, but it wouldn't hurt them to try and stretch a little.




Journey Into Mystery #113
Writer: Stan Lee
Pencils: Jack Kirby
Inks: Chic Stone
"A World Gone Mad!"

I don't really get the title of this adventure. The world doesn't go mad. Thor just decides that he's had enough and he's going to tell Jane who he really is. This, of course, outrages Odin, who removes Thor's power. This leaves Dr. Blake looking like a nutter, banging his cane on the floor and wailing about how he's lost his power.

It really just seems like Blake as gone mad, not the world.

Meanwhile, some pesky scientists have dug up a remarkable statue from the bottom of the bay and before they can say “Don’t turn me to stone, you madman!” they are turned to stone by The Grey Gargoyle, who then sets out to destroy Thor again by tracking down Blake (he remembers that Blake is somehow connected to Thor).

But with no Thor powers, Blake and Jane have to high-tail it out of there, leading GG on a crazy chase through New York, with GG turning people to stone right and left.

It’s a good thing the transformation only lasts an hour or this would be horrifying!

At the last minute, though, Odin sends help and allows Thor to have his power back for thirty seconds. Either Odin has that much faith in his son’s ability to beat the crap out of a stone man (again!), or he’s just being a dick (again!). Regardless, Thor quickly beats Grey Gargoyle.

By fusing his body together into a weird lump with a head!!!!

That’s some hard-ass shit right there.

In the end, everybody learns a lesson. Odin learns that he loves Thor too much to take away his power for good. Loki learns that until Thor is dead and gone, Odin won’t give him the time of day. Thor’s friends learn that Loki is a bastard (he sends them all on ridiculous missions in Odin’s name to keep them from skipping off to Midgard to help Thor). Thor learns that he loves being Thor more than he loves Jane, and immediately claims he was having a bout of madness when he claimed to be the Thunder God. Jane learns that Dr. Don Blake might be crazy, but she still loves him.

And poor Grey Gargoyle learns that it’s best not to screw around with Thor.

Really, that was just a horrible way to end up.

I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy.

Well, maybe my worst enemy.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention that the first couple of pages of this story are just crazy Asgardian action scenes as Thor and Odin ride in on a flying boat and kick the butts of the Demon Men of Jotunheim!

There’s no reason for it, and the narration says plain as day that it’s in here because they promised Jack Kirby the chance to draw some crazy battle action!

Awesome.

I just wish they’d devote an entire book to this sort of stuff.

Writer: Stan Lee
Pencils: Jack Kirby
Inks: Vince Colletta
"Tales of Asgard: The Boyhood of Loki!"

Man, Loki was just always a little jerk, wasn't he?

This whole story is pretty short, but sweet. It's all about setting up the dichotomy that is the Thor/Loki relationship.

We have young Thor and young Loki watching what is essentially a combination gladiator match, training exhibition between two big sweaty Norsemen. The keen-eyed Thor can tell by watching who is the stronger of the two fighters and predicts the winner.

Loki, unable to keep from contradicting his brother, claims that the other fighter will definitely win. And then when it becomes obvious that he was wrong, Loki uses a little bit of witchcraft that he learned while hanging out with some Norn Witch Women (!!) to make the staff of Thor's choice explode.

We won't bother going into the phallic imagery here. It's just too obvious.

Anyway, the Asgardian warriors immediately know witchcraft is to blame and prepare to heap some punishment on little Loki, however Thor steps in. Since they were there together, Thor declares himself just as responsible as Loki, and whatever punishment they want to hand Loki, Thor will take as well.

In a combination of overt pride in Thor's nobility, and an undercurrent of anxiety about laying hands on Odin's true son, the Asgardians let the boys go, praising Thor and mumbling to each other about what a dick Loki is and how no good can come from having him around.

This story's main purpose is to lay the groundwork for the sibling rivalry that will constantly threaten to tear reality apart as Thor and Loki become men and arch-enemies. It's a pretty strong little piece and one of the reasons that Loki becomes one of the most intriguing and textured villains in the Marvel Universe.

He's right up there with Dr. Doom, if you ask me. And mainly because of stories like this.




The Avengers #13
Writer: Stan Lee
Art: Don Heck
Inking: Dick Ayers
"The Castle of Count Nefaria!"

This is another one that I loved as a child. I had a battered, coverless copy of Marvel Triple Action #7, with this one reprinted in it and I read it to death.

Marvel was so good at providing reprints of classic material when I was a kid, it's no wonder I was able to jump into the current runs without feeling lost. I was reading early sixties comics in a monthly format alongside my seventies comics.

Anyway, this issue introduces Count Nefaria, a European gentleman who also happens to be a high-ranking member of the criminal organization, The Maggia. He's actually called the most powerful crime-lord on Earth, so it seems kind of odd that we're just now hearing about him.

Oh well.

When The Avengers start busting up his criminal enterprises and his Maggia henchmen are useless to stop them, he picks up and moves to America. Literally. He packs up his ancient castle, brick by brick, and has it transported to America and rebuilt.

He's that rich.

And thanks to his crazy three-dimensional light technology, he is able to make duplicates of the gang and send them out to threaten the Pentagon. All this is done while The Avengers are trapped in trances during their visit to Castle Nefaria under the pretense of a making a charity appearance.

Once released and none the wiser, The Avengers find themselves under attack by the US military and being declared traitors.

It doesn't take them long to put two and two together and they are soon back at Nefaria's castle breaking up his stuff.

There are some nice moments here, as Nefaria has also perfected some sort of paralyzing trick that almost stops the whole team in their tracks. Cap is clever enough to avoid the traps and he frees the captured Rick Jones and his Teen Brigade before he himself is captured. But by then, the Brigadiers have freed the rest of the team and a full-scale battle ensues.

Actually, it doesn't last very long. In no time at all, the Avengers wrap up the Maggia goons, but in the final panel we discover that Wasp has taken a stray bullet during the melee!

That was some serious shit when I was seven! It's still pretty serious, although I know that she makes it through, I'm actually very interested in seeing how they get out of this one. I never had the reprint to the follow-up issue!




Daredevil #6
Writer: Stan Lee
Art: Wallace Wood
"Trapped By... The Fellowship of Fear!"

This is a much better way of introducing Wally Wood to the Marvel audience. I don't know who thought the Matador was a good idea. This time, the "Man Without Fear" goes up against a couple of already "established" villains who have been enlisted as henchmen for Mr. Fear.

Finally, after six months (twelve, really) Lee decided to play a little with the concept. If you're gonna put that in your tagline, why not try to establish a little bit of fear in the adversaries?

And there's definitely something creepy about Mr. Fear. Creepy, but not fear-inducing. I think it's the costume that pulls him up short. The purple weirdness and that strange boxy hood just don't work for me.

But that mask! There's nothing like a mouthless skull face to trigger nightmares in young readers!

There's also nothing like a guy with an insane urge to create a chemical compound that will bring his private wax menagerie to life so they can do his bidding, to leave no room for doubt; Mr. Fear is a full-blown nutjob.

And in a month where we already had Diablo bringing the Dragon Man statue to life, and the Leader sending an army of plasticy people after Hulk, Lee bobs when we think he's gonna weave, and instead of bringing a waxy army to life, we get the discovery of Fear Gas!

Using this Fear Gas, Mr. Fear "convinces" Ox (last seen in Amazing Spider-Man #14) and Eel (last seen in Strange Tales #117) to work for him. It seems that the Fear Gas not only induces fear, but makes people suggestible, which is a nice little bonus. Sure, their big plans are pretty much just robbing banks, but hey. You've gotta start somewhere.

I admit, I enjoyed the bits where Matt Murdock, after getting dosed with the Fear Gas, began to question himself, wondering if he had turned coward. To be honest, there are quite a few nice bits in this issue.

Ox and Eel trying to fool DD by pretending to be wax statues, without knowing that he can hear their heartbeats, so it's no surprise at all, was clever. Almost as clever as DD pulling the same stunt on them at the end, only this time it works. We also get a glimpse of what could be considered a running Daredevil theme as Foggy gets his brains knocked out and ends up in the hospital with a concussion.

And the funny bit is that he and Karen think that because Matt didn't come to see Foggy, that he's just a cold, heartless lawyer, not realizing that it was Matt who kept Mr. Fear, Ox, and Eel from killing him.

Ah, the life of a costumed superhero who bothers to maintain a secret identity.




Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos #15
Writer: Stan Lee
Art: Dick Ayers
Inking: Steve Ditko
"Too Small to Fight, Too Young to Die!"

Ditko’s inking is a little restrained here, allowing Ayers’ art to really shine through unaltered. Well, almost unaltered, anyway. What I’m saying is that the art looks good and doesn’t seem to be imitating or influenced by anybody else in the bullpen. Ayers is coming into his own on this title.

There aren’t really any of the bad framing choices that we saw in Strange Tales and this is just a solid little story.

It’s meaty, too. Lee packs a boatload of characterization, action, and plot into these pages and I find myself once again impressed by how every issue of Sgt. Fury has enough story for a feature film.

Reading this makes me want to go watch The Dirty Dozen or Kelly’s Heroes.

The story is a bit odd. It seems the Nazis are massing along the coastline of Holland, ready to surge across the sea and invade England. The only option the Allies have is to send in Fury and the Howlers to blow Holland’s dikes in what is called Operation Deluge.

No jokes, now. This is serious stuff.

Unfortunately, only the mysterious Agent X knows just where to plant the explosives to wipe away the Nazis without flooding out most of Holland. Plus, he’s so valuable that nobody can know who he is, so our boys have to sneak into Holland and wait around for Agent X to find them.

That makes nobody happy.

Anyway, the real thrust of the story isn’t so much about the Howlers as it is about Hans Rooten, the fourteen year-old son of the turncoat mayor who goes around kissing Nazi boots for a living. Poor Hans is mortified by his father’s behavior and wants to run away and join the Howlers.

So, naturally, they bring him along on the mission.

After your standard Sgt. Fury twists and turns involving almost being captured and killing a buttload of Nazis we discover that there’s just no more time to wait on Agent X to show up. The boys need to blow the dike on their own, but where should they plant the bombs?

At the last minute, Agent X arrives, popping up from the sea in a diver’s outfit that masks his true identity. He guides the Howlers to the right spot and they wash the Nazis away at the last minute.

Agent X also implores the boys to take Hans away from Holland, so they do. Although there is some discussion and supposition that Agent X just may be Hans’ dad in disguise. Honestly, I didn’t see it. Mayor Rooten seemed a little heavy and old to be the dashing Agent X, but I suppose he really is the guy.

Especially the way he says that until the war is over, Hans has no father! And the way Hans wishes that his dad could be an awesome patriot like Agent X. Seems kind of obvious, but as Dum Dum says when Dino starts to wonder, “It ain’t our business!”

Does this mean the Howlers are going to have a kid side-kick from now on? I really hope not.

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