per the standard in other Marvel titles, Stan Lee eventually
departed and left the reigns to another writer, in this case,
Roy Thomas. Issues #29-41 featured the first major creative shake-up
since the departure of Kirby as penciler.
Despite these changes, the trend with Thomas' issues are average, but exciting adventures, with only #35-37 rising as classics in his run.
Supporting characters begin to make more of an impression in this run, with more appearances by Bull McGiviney and his second-in-command Ricketts Johnson, Captain "Skipper" Savage, and love interest for Dino, Ilsa Koenig.
Fury and his Howling Commandos #29 "Armageddon!"
Picking up directly from last issue, Fury and the Howlers are caught in a gambit with Von Strucker and his men in the town of Chebeux. Evacuating the town, Von Strucker unleashes a string of explosions in the town setting a fiery backdrop to Fury and Von Strucker's battle.
the rather insightful script that was the last issue, Thomas busies
himself with wrapping up the story without delivering anything really
special. The last-minute rebellion by Von Strucker's officer ignores
Von Strucker's act of letting the townspeople go and seems to be thrown
in just to remind readers that Von Strucker is a nasty character (yes,
I realize he was willing to sacrifice the town, but he didn't). The
last half of the issue, the "final" mano-a-mano" between
Fury and Von Strucker with a blazing town burning to hell around them
although not boasting the best dialogue (contrast it with their Strange
Tales battle), remains impressive visually and would later inspire
many a flashback in other Fury stories. Although the original issues
themselves (and Von Strucker's later return) hardly peg it as the milestone
that the story has gone on to enjoy, the final words from Von Strucker
do however gain a strong resonance in light of the future.
Fury and his Howling Commandos #30 "Incident In Italy!"
The Howlers parachute into an impossible battle in Italy where much to the surprise of the squad, Sgt. Fury orders that they all surrender. Taken to a nearby prison camp, Fury reveals the mission to the rest, make contact with prison commander, secretly a partisan, and steal Mussolini's secret cache of gold. The partisan prison camp commander is found out and the Howlers have to make an impromptu break out of the camp. Outside they are aided by teenaged partisan, named Sophia (Loren?) who helps them drive the gold out of Italy.
Great Escape is mined once again for this tale's first half with the
last half not quite living up to the description of "one of
the most unique
motorcades of all time". Plenty of action ad quips galore, although
Pinkerton's action spotlight is uneven and just exposes the silliness
of his umbrella antics when its overdone. The surprise 'guest-star'
is certainly a surprise, although the idea of Howlers hitting on a
16 year-old girl is a bit awkward. And the classic line in this
story has to be, upon Fury learning that the
young partisan leading to the gold is in fact a 16 year old girl (and
Sophia Loren no less) and not a boy, Fury exclaims, "Well
chalk up another boner for knucklehead Nick Fury!" Indeed.
and his Howling Commandos #31 "Into The Jaws Of...Death!"
Happy Sam is jumped by Nazi agents outside of Allied headquarters in London and smuggled to Gestapo headquarters in France where the enemy pump him for info on Operation Overlord. The Nazis give word that they have Happy Sam and Fury leads the Howlers in for a rescue mission.
Solid, but average issue features the Howlers in battle over land, sea, and air. With the exception of seeing Happy Sam in action with and without the Howlers, there's really nothing here you haven't seen. Major Frobisher is another in a long line of inept goose-steppers and it all seems status-quo. Even Izzy seems to realize the repetition of the issue when comments on the Nazi message denting his helmet again. Not really worth it unless you find it in the quarter box.
and his Howling Commandos #32 "A Traitor In Our Midst!"
Dr. Daneeka infiltrates the First Attack Squad headquarters as a doctor sent to give the Howlers their physical. There he implants one of them with a hypnotic suggestion which comes into play on the Howlers next mission, to retrieve a shipment of heavy water in Norway.
The Manchurian Candidate meets The Heroes of Telemark in this exciting story which spotlights our favorite Flatbush mechanic. Thomas wrings out some nice humor from the familiar army physical routines (Percy keeps his scarf on!) and Dum Dum quips one of his best marriage joke. Some minor suspense is maintained for the final act and gives Izzey a juicy part to play. Also worth noting for aviation fans, a Messerschmit jet puts in a nice appearance.
Fury King-Size Special #2 "A Day of Thunder"
The Howlers initiate a complex plan a day in advance of D-Day to cripple Nazi defenses along Normandy. Capturing German officers, blowing up Luftwaffe air bases and ammunitions dump. Along the way they are captured and nearly executed, but a rescue by French underground allows the Howlers to continue their wave of demolitions. Eventually the Howlers meet up with Allied soldiers landing on the beaches of Normandy and guide them in against the enemy.
A day of thunder indeed; the Howlers engage in a full two days of grueling combat that wraps up in the midst of D-Day. Thomas easily weaves in the historical with the fictional exploits of Fury and Howlers very well. Frenchie and the French underground score a rare rescue of the Howlers from imminent death. The thoughts of the Howlers at the end of the invasion are appropriate to the moment. Dugan's attack on his captors with the pole still tied to his back is classic Howler action. Nonetheless, the story itself doesn't feature anything spectacular but it's an enjoyable read.
Fury and his Howling Commandos #33 "The Grandeur That Was Greece!"
The Howlers are assigned
to accompany Peter Kazantis of the Greek resistance. Ferried to the
Greek mainland by Captain Savage and his submarine crew, the Howlers
run into a trap set up by a traitor in the ranks of the resistance.
Capture and escapes later, Fury is forced to leave his men behind as
he escorts Kazantis away from the Nazis.
Thomas' jewel in the crown of his run on the title, adding new life to the tile with the reintroduction of the Koenigs, Eric and Ilsa and a flashback issue that answers some long asked questions about the origin of the Howlers. Substantial back story is given to Fury, Happy Sam and Dum Dum with #34, a must have issue for ALL Nick Fury fans. The Guns of Navarone offers more then a little inspiration to #33 and #34 is a classic Howlers escape, on television no less. The addition of Koenig is hands down one of the best innovations in the team, besting even Pinky as his character's German background and his sister Ilsa went on to add considerable story material in the future. These issues are a must in every Fury fan's library.
and his Howling Commandos #36 "My Brother, My Enemy!"
Rookie Howler, Eric Koenig faces an emotionally charged mission as he must square off against his childhood friend, Wilhelm Hauser; now an SS officer guarding a Nazi strategist aboard an Italian-bound train.
Espionage laced-tale makes excellent use of newbie Howler Koenig, with Thomas milking his German roots for all its worth. Koenig's inner turmoil of having to prove himself to the rest of the team and somehow make up for his nation's atrocities makes for a healthy dose of drama into a title which too easily settles just for humor and lite-action. The story cleverly foreshadows the future spying that Nick Fury, Dum Dum, and Gabe will do in their SHIELD careers, and in fact the entire team seems well-suited for more missions of this sort. The only drawback that prevents this from being a guaranteed classic is a silly last-minute change to their army uniforms before the fisticuffs, truly a silly development in an otherwise stellar issue.
and his Howling Commandos #37 "In The Desert...To Die!"
The Howlers parachute into North Africa to learn the mystery of the Desert Hawk, a nomad warrior who is leading raids against English forces. There the Howlers learn that the real Hawk is a prisoner of the Nazis, who are forcing the warrior's daughter, Sheila, to lead the desert warriors against the Allies.
Roy Thomas's spin on Lawrence of Arabia makes for an exciting change-of-pace issue with plenty of action for most of the cast (except Gabe). Reb's horsemanship and lasso tricks actually seem natural for once and he even gets the company of desert babe (with sexy British accent even!) Sheila, although by issue's end the privileges of rank earn Fury her affections. Also Dum Dum once again proves he's the best Howler to get captured, but sadly Percy's involvement in the story seems like a missed opportunity for some good fun.
and his Howling Commandos #38 "This One's For Dino!"
Writer: Roy Thomas
Pencils: Dick Ayers
Inks: John Tartaglione
Letters: Bob Agnew
After a letter from a recuperating and nearly paralyzed Dino, the Howlers hop a plane for an unauthorized mission behind enemy lines to find the only doctor who can save Dino's legs.
Another rescue mission, another daring raid on an enemy stronghold, more dumb goose-steppers for the team to butt heads with, its all status-quo with this one. Thomas wisely enliven the tale with plenty of supporting players like Dr. Warren Parker and recent nisei recruit Jim Morita, but in the end its less then the sum of its parts. If anything this issue is worth reading for Izzey trying to pass off 'pig Latin' as German to a Nazi sentry, otherwise, this one is only worth it from the quarter box.
and his Howling Commandos #39 "Into The Fortress Of...Fear!"
The Howlers break into a Nazi fortress, under the command of Colonel Klaue, where a new jet plane is being tested and built.
Notable for the first appearance of the future steel-fisted leader of the Blitz Squad, this issue is fun, but nothing you haven't already seen before. Another Messerschmit jet shows up and the Howlers somehow manage to cram themselves all into the cockpit. Koenig pulls a Dino with a group of pretty, young frauleins and the rest of the team get their moment of action. Confrontation between Fury and Klaue is hardly earth shattering and lacks the tension of those with Von Strucker, but its nice to see the Howlers get a regular foe again.
Fury and his Howling Commandos #40 "...That France Might Be Free!"
Frenchie is captured and the Howlers hightail it to France to rescue him. Along the way they run afoul of a Nazi ploy for the Howlers to break out an imposter instead.
Excellent issue with plenty of Howler one-on-one action and a plot with some surprises in store. Frenchie makes a welcome return to the comic and the plot involving his imposter is quite good. In fact, while reading it I was expecting the German-hating Frenchwoman to reveal herself to be a traitor. Dino's return at issue's end is also another welcome surprise. Thomas captures the Howler formula well in this issue; pitting the Howlers in close-quarters action that involves allot of improv and daring escapes. The mention of Eric's sister foreshadows future issues well.
and his Howling Commandos #41 "Blitzkrieg In Britain!"
Dino's back and he's got the Howlers for his Army training film. Meanwhile, Dino's latest lady love is really a double agent and she is the key to Colonel Klaue's and the Blitz Squad's revenge on Fury and his men.
Fast paced issue juggles Dino's return to the Howlers, his ill-fated romance with Nina, and a return appearance by Colonel Klaue AND the Blitzers. The last half features one of the best Howlers/Blitzers showdown, with only Fury's bout with Klaue a tad on the under whelming side. Also Fury's little speech where he invokes Junior and Pam seems a tad much for the occasion, but oh well. All in all, this is certainly one to go out and get.