Cover Date: January 1964
Cover Artists: Jack Kirby, George Roussos
“At the Mercy of Baron Strucker”
Plotters: Stan Lee, Jack Kirby
Scripter: Stan Lee
Penciller: Jack Kirby
Inker: George Roussos (credited as George Bell)
What’s Going On?
Nick Fury accepts a challenge to fight the skilled German combatant, Baron Strucker, one-on-one.
- Nick Fury is taking the death of Junior Juniper (last issue) personally. Seeing it as a failure to prepare his men, Fury doubles-down on drilling the Howling Commandos.
- The Howling Commandos are not happy with Fury’s reckless and insistent commands.
- Meanwhile, behind German lines, Baron Strucker has been tasked with defeating Sgt. Fury to prove the superiority of the Aryan race. Strucker doesn’t think it will be a challenge.
- Strucker decides to issue Fury a one-on-one challenge. He delivers it behind Allied lines, and Fury takes the bait. Unfortunately (for Fury), Captain Sawyer (sensibly) orders him to ignore the challenge.
- While Fury stewed over Sawyer’s order, he spent some free time with Pamela Hawley, who appears to be a good influence on him.
- Fury chooses to disobey orders, and sneaks off to meet Strucker at their appointed meeting place. There, Strucker challenges him to a duel; it’s not a fair fight, though, as he makes sure to have Fury drugged before the fight.
- Fury puts up a good fight, despite his lack of finesse, but the drugs eventually take their effect. When he falls, Strucker’s Nazis get to work on spinning their match-up into propaganda.
- Instead of killing Fury, though, the Nazis drop him off behind Allied lines. Fury is demoted to Private for disobeying orders and handing the Nazis a propaganda victory.
- The rest of the Howling Commandos are surprisingly sympathetic to Fury’s demotion. Fury is predictably abrasive to their kindness.
- Later, the Commandos are on a special mission and they run into Strucker. He and Fury agree to settle things, once and for all, in a one-on-one fight. Before they start, Dino helps Fury realize that Strucker drugged him before their last fight.
- Fury easily knocks Strucker out, and he is made Sergeant again by the end of the week.
Was It Good?
This was pretty good. Focusing on a single character made for a nice change of pace. A lot of the Howling Commandos staples were still present (dangerous practice maneuvers, easily overcoming massive odds, etc.), but they were pushed to the background. Instead, the indomitable Nick Fury is shown having (gasp!) emotions, and that adds depth to a title that has always felt pretty emotionally thin.
- This is the first appearance of Baron Wolfgang von Strucker. His first name isn’t mentioned here. At this point, Strucker appears to be simply a Nazi, albeit the head of the “Death-Head Squadron.” Many of the things he is usually connected to (Hydra, the Satan Claw, etc.) are not present in this appearance.
- Baron Strucker’s fate is not revealed in this issue. He was fighting Fury to the death, but Fury stopped after KO-ing the Nazi. You would think they would at least take Strucker hostage, if they didn’t outright kill him.
- This is the first time we’ve seen Nick Fury get demoted.
- We have another pin-up dedicated to the weapons of WWII.
Comics Are Goofy:
- Baron Strucker flies a lone Nazi fighter plane behind enemy lines and risks getting blown from the sky, just to throw a message at Fury’s team? Ignore the incredible odds against Strucker knowing where the six men that comprise the Howling Commandos would be at that moment. What are the odds of a lone enemy plan getting that far behind enemy lines unnoticed and unscathed? This seems like a ridiculously risky plan. And he does it all by himself! He doesn’t even send an underling! I call shenanigans.
Well, That Aged Poorly:
- Yet again, Dum-Dum complains about his battle-axe wife.