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A.I.M. has finally found a weapon that can defeat Nick Fury…stink lines! – Strange Tales #147

August 11, 2010

This is the first issue of Strange Tales to come out after Steve Ditko’s departure from the Doctor Strange half of the book. More on that in a second. First we have the grizzled Nick Fury story — now there’s a man that knows how to sport a cigar, eyepatch, and five o’clock shadow. I know he’s got it together as a man and a hero, but to me he’s always had the harried look of someone who’d appreciate a deep gulp of A.M. Ale:

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“The Enemy Within!” comes to us from the able hands of Stan Lee, Jack Kirby (cover and layouts), Don Heck and Dick Ayers (Mike Esposito is credited as the inker but the Grand Comics Database indicates that this is an error). Fury and the boys return from a mission, Fury catches hell from a superior, and soon A.I.M. agents raid S.H.I.E.L.D.’s barber shop HQ — quite a day, and this last event sends Fury and his boys into action. In the battle to recapture the shop Dum Dum Dugan shows that not every S.H.I.E.L.D. gadget has to be high tech:

Who needs helicarriers and gizmos when you have a metal cap on your noggin?

The A.I.M. agents are soon sent packing (and btw, those aren’t stink lines on the cover, they’re emanations from a vibration weapon — but they look like stink lines to me). The captured S.H.I.E.L.D. agents are freed, and this provides an opening for some light-hearted sexist banter:

I’ve always had a mental image of Flo Steinberg running around the 60’s Marvel offices as if she were being chased in a Benny Hill sketch. Panels like those only reinforce that. I’m guessing Flo’s bottom was piched a few times back in those days.

The Doctor Strange half of this book, “From the Nameless Nowhere Comes… Kaluu!” is a bit of an oddity. The script duties are split between Stan Lee and Denny O’Neil and Bill Everett debuts as the new Doctor Strange penciller. The entire story has the feel of a sitcom clipshow. You know what those are — when the writers are out of ideas or out of time and they toss together a few framing segments and recycle old clips from previous episodes. They’re sort of lame and hollow.

This story isn’t that bad, but there’s not much to it. It’s kind of a buffer chapter between two longer arcs, so I suppose that’s part of the problem. A lot of old Ditko panels are shoehorned in as Strange recalls some prior experiences, and there’s some nuttiness about money troubles and maybe becoming a nightclub act. There’s also a nice sequence in the beginning that has the good Doctor foiling an everyday mundane robbery with his magic. It’s overkill on his part and it leaves the crooks thoroughly befuddled, but it’s kind of neat to see him do some regular crimefighting. Plus there’s this opening page:

That little bit (maybe it’s the red cape and blue outfit) reminds me of this amusing moment from the original Christopher Reeve Superman:

Woo!

I suppose there’s also an element of this in there:

I’ve always liked the double feature aspect of these old Marvel titles and this issue is no exception. You can’t pick two characters more different than Nick Fury and Doctor Strange, but variety is indeed the spice of life. Add to that the volume of talent on display and you get a scenario where, even when the pistons aren’t firing at full capacity, there’s a lot of fun to be had.

Not even the Hoary Hosts of Hoggoth can negate that.

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