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READING LIST: SHIELD & The Howling Commandos

by  in Comic News Comment
READING LIST: SHIELD & The Howling Commandos

Marvel Cinematic Universe fans left disappointed by the lack of Howling Commando action in this year’s “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” got some good news this past week when one of the first official photos from the second season of “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” revealed a trio of blasts from the past. World War II-era Marvel characters Peggy Carter, Dum Dum Dugan, and Jim Morita all appeared locked and loaded in the new still, teasing what looks to be a flashback sequence from the show’s second season premiere.

Considering how closely the Howling Commandos and S.H.I.E.L.D. are linked together in the comics, it’s actually a bit surprising that it’s taken this long for the characters to cross over in the MCU — or maybe not, considering how different the live action version is from the original team. Big screen Captain America fulfilled the role played by Nick Fury in the comics, and two of the movie Howlers — James Falsworth and Jacques Dernier — were never official members in the source material. Still, Dum Dum Dugan, a definitive member of both S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Commandos, is on his way to the series now, and that’s cause enough to celebrate. And for those of you wanting to live in the S.H.I.E.L.D./Howling Commandos Venn diagram overlap, here are five stories for you to check out.

THE END OF HYDRA (“Strange Tales” #137-140)

After the introduction of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the rebranding of Nick Fury as an eyepatch-wearing super spy in “Strange Tales” #135, his close allies Gabe Jones and Dum Dum Dugan received similar treatment. The two characters jumped into the modern Marvel Universe as secret agents in a story which detailed what was possibly intended to be the grand finale of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s war with the terrorist HYDRA organization. The climax of this four-issue epic involves a dozen HYDRA agents on super-powered skateboards, so you know it’s worth reading. Gabe and Dum Dum would continue to appear in nearly every subsequent issue of the S.H.I.E.L.D.-centric “Strange Tales,” and the two would become the Howlers — aside from Fury — most associated with the super-spy organization.

SKYJACKED (“Captain America and the Falcon” #145-146)

Another former Howler made his way into S.H.I.E.L.D.’s ranks in this “Captain America” two-parter from 1972. Agent Eric Koenig, who had defected from the Nazis in World War II to enlist with the Howling Commandos, made his debut as a S.H.I.E.L.D. pilot in a battle against the definitely-not-defeated HYDRA. Koenig helped out Captain America and Sharon Carter on this high-flying mission, demonstrating that he had grown up a lot in the years since the last World War. If the name Eric Koenig sounds familiar, that’s because this is the guy that Patton Oswalt played in “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” season one.

TOGETHER AGAIN (“Captain America” #273-274)

Much like his movie counterpart, comic book Captain America has a shared history with the Howling Commandos, and while he may have never been an official member of Fury’s squad, he still attended Howling Commandos reunions on a fairly regular basis. This one-two punch from 1982 depicts one such get-together that — of course — goes wrong! HYDRA attacked the veterans, kidnapping the HC’s commanding officer, General Samuel Sawyer. The heroes scrambled to rescue their colleague from Baron Strucker’s clutches, but they couldn’t stop General Sawyer from sacrificing himself to stop the bad guys from gaining access to missile navigation codes.

THE DELTITE AFFAIR (“Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.” #42-47)

Three more original Howling Commandos — Pinky Pinkerton, Izzy Cohen, and Dino Manelli — became temporary agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. at the tail end of a long war between Nick Fury and an infiltrating group of sinister, sentient Life Model Decoys called Deltites. The action kicked off in the late ’80s “Nick Fury vs. S.H.I.E.L.D.” miniseries before continuing into — and forming the through line for — the director’s early ’90s ongoing series. With no one to turn to and every agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. possibly replaced by a scheming LMD, Fury suddenly became thankful that a handful of his old World War II buddies never traded in their fatigues and bandoliers for black zip-up jumpsuits and white holsters.

LAST RIDE OF THE HOWLING COMMANDOS (“Secret Warriors” #17-19)

The entirety of Jonathan Hickman’s “Secret Warriors” volume could really be considered a love letter to both the Howling Commandos and S.H.I.E.L.D., but this arc really hammers that point home. With S.H.I.E.L.D. replaced by Norman Osborn’s malevolent H.A.M.M.E.R. and HYDRA poised to strike again, Fury and his two helicarriers full of Howling Commandos and ex-secret agents initiated a war. The good guys succeeded in destroying the HYDRA base Hell’s Heaven, but they did not maintain their upper hand for long. The Gorgon, a mutant killing machine and high-ranking HYDRA officer, retaliated quickly, taking the lives of two long-serving Howlers in the process.

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