Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos (Vol. 1) #22

Credits:

Cover Date: September 1965

Cover Artist: Dick Ayers

“Don’t Turn Your Back On Bull McGiveney!”

Plotters: Stan Lee, Dick Ayers

Scripter: Stan Lee

Penciller: Dick Ayers

Inker: Carl Hubbell

What’s Going On?

The Howling Commandos are sent to Romania to ensure the success of Operation Tidal Wave.

Details:

  • Operation Tidal Wave was an Allied air strike on Romanian oil facilities. The Howling Commandos were tasked with eliminating a “flak train” —- a train filled with anti-aircraft guns —- to protect Allied bombers. Bull McGiveney’s Maulers were given a separate mission to take out the stationary anti-aircraft guns.

  • Both squads infiltrate the city of Ploesti, and since they were unaware of each other’s mission, they almost killed each other trying to sneak past the Nazis.

  • The commando groups were soon discovered by the enemy. A fight ensued, and Fury and McGiveney wound up getting captured while their troops continued the mission.
  • While they were being interrogated, the German officer realized how much Fury and McGiveney hated each other. He hatched a plan: he would have the two soldiers fight to the death —- and Fury and McGiveney agree to do it!

  • It’s all a trick, though. As soon as the Germans let their guard down, the two American soldiers start punching Nazis instead of each other.

  • They manage to escape when the bombing raid starts, and Fury and McGiveney both help their squads accomplish their missions. Before the Howling Commandos can get to their extraction point, though, Baron Strucker and his Blitzkreig Squad attack!

  • Not surprisingly, the Howlers make short work of their German counterparts.

  • Showing a surprising amount of respect and concern for McGiveney and his Maulers, Fury offers to take the Howling Commandos on a rescue mission when his squad arrives back at base first. It doesn’t last long, though; as soon as it is apparent that McGiveney and his men reached base safely, they immediately go back to antagonizing each other.

Is It Good?

It’s not great, but it is different enough to be refreshing. I really liked the choice to show McGiveney and his men as heroes and nearly the equals of the Howlers. Until now, they’ve been one-dimensional bullies that consistently got their asses handed to them by the Howling Commandos; this isn’t the same as actually developing the characters, but it’s nice to see some acknowledgement that you don’t have to be Nick Fury’s friend to be brave.

The choice to make this issue about a real military mission was questionable, though. It’s not like Operation Tidal Wave looked like a major success at the time, either, so it’s curious that Stan and Dick decided to spin it that way. On the other hand, they didn’t make this a “war is hell” story; having fictional characters struggle with the tragedy of a real-life battle would have been a poor choice.

Continuity:

  • Stan Lee and Dick Ayers appear as characters in this comic. This is Dick’s first appearance as a character; Stan’s last appearance as a character was in Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1, although this is his earliest appearance chronologically.

  • This is the first time Bull McGiveney and/or his men are shown to be tough soldiers. Until now, they were just the jerks that the Howling Commandos beat up from time to time.

  • We have another hard date in the adventures of the Howling Commandos. Issue #1 took place just before D-Day (early June 1944), #6 showed Rommel in Africa (so, no later than March 1943), and Operation Tidal Wave took place on August 1, 1943.
  • This is the first time Bull McGiveney’s squad is referred to as the Maulers.
  • Baron Strucker and the Blitz Squad last appeared in Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos #20.

Comics Are Goofy:

  • “We’all”?!? That’s not a real thing. Nothing is being contracted! It’s “we” plus “all,” period.

  • Why is Pinky’s umbrella open as he scales a moving train?

  • You’d think that the Allies attacking the city would be enough to get Strucker fighting mad, right? But, no, it takes jazz music.

  • “Hold your fire”?!? That is a horrible instruction, but also…it looks like the Blitzkreig Squad didn’t shoot, either? What kind of war are these guys fighting?

  • For the record, Operation Tidal Wave was considered a costly failure. A lot of bombers were lost or damaged, and Axis oil refinement was barely impacted. And it didn’t take years to come to this conclusion; Allied reports from just over a month later indicated that the objective had not been met.

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