Strange Tales (1) #137 - 140
Writer: Stan Lee
Layouts: Jack Kirby
Finishes/Penciler/Inker: John Severin
Letterer: Artie Simek, Sam Rosen

The interception of a vital microfilm thwarts S.H.I.E.L.D.'s task to stop Hydra's launch of its latest super weapon, the Betatron Bomb, throwing the free world into a panic. Fury joins forces with Tony Stark to launch a counter-weapon, the Brainosaur, but Hydra attacks Stark's lab and kidnap Fury. At his secret base, the Imperial Hydra's attempts to interrogate Fury in hopes of learning the secret of the Brainosaur all end in failure. Laura Brown, daughter of the Imperial Hydra sees Fury as her chance to stop her father's mad scheme and she helps free the agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. Together they take on Hydra's agents.

Meanwhile Tony Stark and S.H.I.E.L.D. launch the Brainosaur from the helicarrier and the super weapon disables the Betatron Bomb in space. Dum Dum leads a rescue squad of agents using a captured Hydra flying saucer, arriving in time to help Fury and Laura put down Hydra. In the course of events, the Supreme Hydra is killed while unmasked, as his men do not believe that a man like he could have been their leader. Afterwards, Fury lets Laura Brown go free.

  • Continuity Notes
  • Cover appearances on issues #137-139
  • Reprinted in:
    • Nick Fury: Agent of SHIELD (1) #16-17
    • Marvel Masterworks: Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. Volume 1
    • S.H.I.E.L.D.: The Complete Collection Omnibus
    • S.H.I.E.L.D. by Lee & Kirby: The Complete Collection

First mega-storyline pitting S.H.I.E.L.D. against Hydra does not disappoint. Stan Lee once again excels at pitting impossible odds against Fury and indeed the free world, with a plot that truly feels like a global battle. The pace is furiously fast, giving the impression that indeed this is a race against time, from the opening sequence involving the microfilm delivery to the endgame where the security council watches as the Hydra weapon is disabled. The Kirby layouts are stellar as always, well complemented by John Serevin's artwork. The Brainosaur reigns as the most ridiculous looking weapon to feature in a S.H.I.E.L.D. story. The characterization is well handled for its time, including the introduction of Laura Brown, and guest star Tony Stark.

Some continuity confusion follows these issues as Hydra lives up to its famous motto, "cut one arm, two more shall take its place". Although Arnold Brown is depicted to be the founder of Hydra, a product of his desire for world domination to provide for his daughter (call it Darth Vader syndrome), subsequent stories in both Strange Tales and Captain Savage and his Leatherneck Raiders feature Baron Von Strucker as the brains of the organization. It seems odd to reconcile Von Strucker and Brown's ambition for world domination within the very same organization. Even the creative team itself seems confused, as Brown referred to himself as the Imperial Hydra while Von Strucker called himself the Supreme Hydra, which at first seems like a way out of the confusion (Supreme is a higher "rank" then Imperial), but falters when in later issues, Brown is described alternately as the first Hydra "chief" or the first Supreme Hydra. Further adding to the confusion is the exact relationship between the Red Skull's THEM and AIM, all of which seem to be extensions or in some way related to Hydra. As the Silver Age came and went, the origin of Hydra simplified itself to the Red Skull being the original planner of Hydra, with the Baron as his aide-de-camp in actually organizing it (call it the Palpatine syndrome), leaving Arnold Brown as a minor, often ignored footnote.