Saturday, November 26, 2016

SHIELD - The Second Hydra War!

The SHIELD series enters its second phase with the arrival of Jim Steranko who took the perfectly decent super-spy series and fitted it with modern and sleek designs elevating it from a humble action adventure and making a pure unadulterated slice of pop culture.

The story begins though with the return of Hydra who are led by a dashing playboy named Don Cabellero. In a initial chapter drawn by John Buscema we meet Cabellero and learn that he is not exactly as he presents himself. Aside from the mystery of his true identity we learn of the Overkill Horn, a sonic weapon designed to activate the atomic stockpiles across the globe, creating an apocalypse after which Hydra will emerge and rule.

Jim Steranko arrives inking Jack Kirby's layouts in the first few stories as we meet Cabellero's second identity Emir Ali-Bey. Fury has been tricked into delivering the Overkill Horn on its deadly mission but discovers his error and takes extreme steps to end the threat.

With the Overkill Horn threat ended, the Supreme Hydra and his forces launch their next ploy, which calls upon the mysterious leader to become SHIELD agent Bronson and infiltrate the Hellicarrier headquarters of SHIELD itself. He is able to cause a great deal of trouble even throwing suspicion on Laura Brown, the daughter of the first Supreme Hydra.

But we learn that Fury is one step ahead and eventually the various attacks on the Hellicarrier by the deadly Dreadnought and later the powerful Z-Ray are defeated. But Bronson escapes with Brown in his clutches and heads to the secret Hydra base, the ultra high-tech Hydra Island.

Fury though has faked his own demise yet again and has hidden himself in the ship which carried them to the deadly base. He emerges and the final battle is on as Hydra threatens the world with a new and deadly threat of bacterial warfare with a bomb called the Death Spore supposedly hidden aboard the Helicarrier itself.

Eventually the true identity of the Supreme Hydra is revealed as Baron Wolfgang Von Strucker, Fury's old arch-nemesis from World War II. The two battle ferociously, each using all the high-tech weapons at their command such the deadly Satan Claw. But in the end as you knew he would Fury prevails and bomb explodes but on the enclosed island, and he and girl escape as Hydra Island falls into the sea and Strucker himself seems destroyed once and for all. He of course gets better as these dandy villains almost always seem to do, but that's a story for another day.

During the course of this run, Steranko steps away from merely inking the King and becomes not only the main artist but also the writer. Roy Thomas helped with scripts on the first few, but soon Steranko is revealed in all his glory his techniques improving with each installment of the exciting story. Steranko's storytelling sometimes falls short, but is more than made up by his incendiary designs which dazzle the eye. The series becomes a visually exciting dance as the story propels itself along with a surprising amount of logic despite the never ending hair raising events.

More to come when a new villain appears to menace the world.

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