With the ninth issue Sgt. Fury and the Howling Commandos enters a new phase. To begin with, the title proves so successful that it goes monthly. But sadly that means that it becomes impossible for Jack"King" Kirby to stay on as regular penciler and those chores are handed off to longtime inker Dick Ayers. Ayers is an artist with a venerable and illustrious record but there's no doubt that his arrival is a step in a different direction. But in this transition issue there is still plenty of Kirby to discuss, for one thing the cover is a dandy. It features a Nazi villain named Baron Zemo and this story is is debut, sort of.
|Sgt. Fury by Dick Ayers|
But as it turns out this is the first in what is a double debut for the notorious Baron Zemo. In the pages of The Avengers by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby with some delcious Chic Stone inks, Baron Zemo is still alive in the modern Marvel Universe and we learn that he is the man responsible for sending Captain America and Bucky Barnes on their epic rocket trip which ended up with Cap being frozen for years before being found and thawed by the Assemblers. Zemo now wears a hood, one bonded permanently to him by dint of his own invention "Adhesive X". He holds a grudge against Cap and has long feared his return as he lords it over some natives in the wilds of South America. He learns that Cap is back and quickly organizes the first Masters of Evil conclave to fight the Avengers who protect Cap. The Radioactive Man, the Black Knight and the Melter all attack New York City using both their own powers and Adhesive X guns and the Avengers try to intercede. Giant-Man and Cap get stuck to some pavement and must contact the imprisoned enemy of the Human Torch, Paste Pot Pete to get access to a chemical which will undo the effects of Adhesive X. He comes through and they confront the Masters of Evil again, switching up opponents and using the Teen Brigade led by Rick Jones to substitute tear gas for the Adhesive X remedy.
When the Masters of Evil are finally defeated, Baron Zemo and Cap face off before the villain tries to escape in his weird helicopter with what he thinks is a cure for his situation but soon his aircraft appears to fall out of the sky presumably the tear gas having taken effect.
But apparently the Avengers did not capture him as he shows up the very next issue, again back in his little South American kingdom where he recruits the Execution and the Enchantress to become the new Masters of Evil and they confront the Avengers again.
Later he is instrumental in giving power to Wonder Man, a creation he hopes will give the Masters the edge with the Avengers, but of course Wonder Man turns on the villains especially Zemo.
Zemo is a thorn in the Avengers' side for several issues of the early run.
But finally he and Captain America face off in a final battle which proves deadly for the notorious Nazi scientist and justice is served at long last.
Now to see an alternate version of the mighty battle from Avengers #6 check out this Marvel Super Heroes adaptation from 1966. Likely this was the first version of the story (which eliminates Bucky, Rick Jones, Giant-Man and the lovely Wasp) I ever encountered. The ending is a bit different too. But that delicious Kirby artwork is fully on display.
Now that Jack Kirby is gone from the Howling Commandos comic, it does lose a little steam. I admire Dick Ayers, but his ability to inject the excitement into the series falls far short of what Kirby had done with the book. This title had some of Kirby's best work and though Ayers will become a mainstay with the title and to some extent develop his own more muscular style (and is later joined by the great John Severin) which proves quite successful there is always the question of what might have been.
But Kirby is not quite done. There is one more Kirby drawn Howlers issue and it co-stars a certain Living Legend. One more to come.