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Strange Tales 139
"The Brave Die Hard!"

COVER IMAGE NOT FOUND December, 1965

Sensationally Written By... STAN LEE
Spectacularly Laid-Out By... JACK KIRBY
Superbly Illustrated By... JOE SINNOTT
Silently Lettered By... ARTIE SIMEK
Subtly Reviewed By... STEVE CHUNG

(Originally Reviewed 04/04/02)

The Betatron Bomb is in orbit above the Earth, a threat placed there by Hydra, and Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. is now their prisoner! The head of SHIELD finds himself in orbit above the Earth, not knowing how he got there, but determined not to tell Hydra about Braino-Saur, which is millionaire Tony Stark's secret weapon for smashing their bomb, and SHIELD won't lose that slim chance on account of Nick Fury.

With The Betatron Bomb in front of him, Nick turns and sees what he takes to be The Braino-Saur, designed to take down the bomb, and as its name suggests, it is a gigantic dinosaur, which shoots fire from its mouth, and blows up the floating bomb before it. Fury realizes that all he has just observed is absurd, for how can he survive in outer space without a special suit, and now he finds himself surrounded by The Braino-Saur's flames. Where he was once freezing in space, he is now burning, and for Nick Fury, this is a mad dream from which he can't wake up from! The head Hydra Scientist tells his assistants to turn off the image-inducer, for they can learn no more from their prisoner, and if Nick Fury knows the secret of The Braino-Saur, his will is too much for their hypnotic devices. Tapes of his visi-dream will be sent to Owl Division for analysis, while another Hydra scientist is confident that SHIELD cannot stop them now!

The Supreme Hydra enters, and the scientists snap to attention. He is told that Nick Fury has revealed nothing beneath the image-inducer, and this means that SHIELD is doomed! Nick is carried to a maximum security cell, with The Hydra Agents grudgingly admitting his mettle at resisting the image-inducer, but consider him not the equal of The Supreme Hydra. Fury is to be publicly executed, as a demonstration of The Supreme Hydra's complete and total power over the world. Elsewhere, Industrialist Tony Stark announces that The Braino-Saur is ready for launch, and this final chance is one they dare not fail!

The board regrets that Nick Fury can't be with them for this important moment, but know that he was devoted to the cause of SHIELD, and now, they can do no less. Tony Stark shows them the model of Braino-Saur, a specially constructed missile which has but one purpose... the rocket-powered mechanical brain is to dock alongside The Betatron Bomb and disarm it! With only a few hours left before they are to give their unconditional surrender to Hydra, Tony prepares to leave for the launch site and supervise the blast-off. As a board member wonders if they've written off Nick Fury and appoint a new director of SHIELD, Stark is confident that the colonel may be alive, and two of his best agents are heading for the meeting, in preparation of spearheading a last-ditch rescue attempt. Tony Stark leaves the heli-carrier, and soon, Gabe Jones and Dum-Dum Dugan arrive, each man determined to find their friend and leader.

Within the halls of Hydra, a figure stands ready before a steel doorway, and watches as electrical bolts corruscate throughout the entry. The Hydra agent recites the entry password... "Cut off an arm and two shall take its place!", then gains entry. Outside the security cell, Hydra guards sent food packets to Fury through a belt. Opening the packet, Nick is surprised to see that when the foil is removed, the contents have regained their original form upon contact with air, and he now holds a sirloin steak in his hands.

As Nick eats his steak, he watches as Agent G, The Supreme Hydra's daughter arrives and demands to speak to the prisoner alone! Agent G insists that they follow her orders or answer to her father for this, and the two guards grudgingly agree. When they have gone, Agent G tells Nick that they don't have much time,especially since her father didn't send her and only he can stop her father's scheme! She only asks that her father not be harmed, and she'll help him. Nick doesn't agree, and tells her to back up against the wall. She does just that, and Nick tells her to cover her face and eyes when he tells her, as he thinks that this may be part of a Hydra trap. Hydra spotted his necktie transmitter and took it from him, but they didn't know that his shirt was more than it seemed. He wraps it around the food tray in the wall, then lights it, and tells the girl to hang on!

The Hydra guards are returning, and see the fire, but figure that he's wasting his time because the cell is fire-proof. WHOOM! Nope, but he can blast his way out with his shirt, which was woven with high explosive threads. Agent G sees him climb out of the cell, and Nick hands her a rifle, while wondering what's taking Gabe and Dum-Dum so long to find him? At a SHIELD airfield, both men and their troops board a captured Hydra-Ram, which they acquired a few months ago, and with its automatic guidance system, the SHIELD scientists were able to find out where it came from!

The Hydra-Ram has been stripped of its weapons, but has enough fuel to get them to where they're going. Dum-Dum tells the men that they've got to hit Hydra hard and fast, for each horde of Hydra is a deadly assassin. One agents knows that their assassin division is called "Tiger", but when SHIELD is through with them, they'll change it to "Pussycat!" (Holy DeCarlo, Batman!) The homing device indicates that they are over the target, and SHIELD will be hitting Hydra with their own ship! At a board meeting of Imperial Industries International, Farrington points out that since he has controlling stock of the company, the board should do as he wishes it to. (Holy Jemas, Batman!) The others aren't so eager for Farrington to run roughshod over them,but are aware that he's broken bigger men than them. ROOMMMM! Wilson whispers to Vandergill that it seemed to be an underground explosion, but Vandergill points out that since they are on the penthouse floor, one can't be sure, but he doesn't like it. Wilson suggests to Farrington that they adjourn the meeting, but Farrington will have none of it. Two other members confide in one another that Farrington is coming off as a cold-blooded pirate, who'd rather talk business while the whole world may blow up, and the other wonders how they can talk about business with Hydra's threat in orbit.

Violent tremors strike the board room, and even Farrington must adjourn the meeting until tomorrow. Once the others have left, the man who is really The Supreme Hydra dons his green garb, then descends the staircase, where he is told of Nick Fury's escape. When he asks why The Tiger Division has not been summoned, The Supreme Hydra learns that his daughter is with Fury, and he believes that it was she who freed him, for there could be no other way the head of SHIELD could have escaped. (Holy Stuffed-Shirt, Batman!) The Supreme Hydra can't bring himself to summon Tiger Division, for it would be sentencing his daughter to death, and instead orders the release of the mechanical hunter. With its radar equipment and built-in weaponry, it is set on automatic homing...

Nick and Agent G make their way through the hordes of Hydra, who fear for their own hides if The Imperial Hydra learns of their failure. They see the hunter approaching and know that The Imperial Hydra has learned of the situation. BLANG! Nick's bullets don't make a dent, but Agent G tells him to fire at its mouth rods so that they can't track them. The hunter shoots out its cables and seizes their guns. Agent G tells Nick about the tanks of sleep gas at its sides, and believes that they have lost, but Nick Fury won't have any of that...

Since the guns didn't work on damaging the hunter's sensors, Nick intends on using his fists, but Agent G warns him about the cables reaching for him again! Nick holds onto the robot's sensors, while The Supreme Hydra watches the tableau on the viewscreen, then hears an alarm from Sector 7, and sees the arrival of his lost Hydra-Ram, moving faster without its extra weaponry! The Imperial Hydra sees SHIELD emerge from the craft and open fire, along with the tradition greeting from The Howling Commandos... "WAH-HOOOO!"

Now filled with panic, The Imperial Hydra calls for Tiger Division to prevent Nick Fury from escaping, even if it means his daughter's life! All he can do now is pray that he has not been the cause of his daughter's death. At a SHIELD observatory, the board watches as The Betatron Bomb continues to orbit the Earth, and wait for Braino-Saur to reach it!

A classic cover, as The Ditko Dr. Strange is catching up on his reading, and Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD's splash page is featured prominently!

On the splash page, The Betatron Bomb is an alien metal creature, whose gaping maw seeks to swallow a startled Nick Fury, who doesn't even know how he came to be lost in space!

Best known for his inks on Fantastic Four, Joe Sinnott is also an artist in his own right, and dazzles the reader with those Kirby layouts.

The Avengers would face The Psycho-Tron, a device similar to the image inducer, but it makes one's fears become reality, such as when The Son of Zeus found himself facing The Seven-Headed Hydra.

The Supreme Hydra is referred to as The Imperial Hydra, and vice-versa. It was later revealed that Baron Strucker was the true leader behind Hydra.

In The Silver Age, Police Scientist Barry Allen had a ring which would release his Flash costume, which would expand upon contact with the air.

Captain America would make the acquaintance of SHIELD Agent 13, otherwise known as Sharon Carter.

Very nice of Nick to give Hydra the shirt off his back.

The Hydra-Ram visually resembles an emerald flying saucer, and The Fantastic Four once captured a Skrull Saucer in Fantastic Four #2, when the aliens were impersonating them.

Spider-Man would be hunted by the likes of Kraven and The Spider-Slayer in the Silver Age, but all Nick got was the hunter, which he would have probably called a Hydra Vacuum Cleaner.

This Review Is Dedicated To Bob Rozakis