Strange Tales #154: "Beware... The Deadly Dreadnought!"

Strange Tales #154
"Beware... The Deadly Dreadnought!"
March, 1967

Edited By: STAN LEE
Scripted By: ROY THOMAS
Plotted and Drawn By: JIM STERANKO
Lettered By: SAM ROSEN

The Supreme Hydra has adopted the identity of SHIELD agent Bronson, who
is now perceived as a trusted ally to Nick Fury.  The AUTOFAC (Analytical
Unit For Tabulation Of Origin Factors And Computation) is the latest
invention in the war against the hordes of Hydra, who seek to rule the
world.  Dum-Dum Dugan wonders how the machine will be able to tell them
who the Supreme Hydra is when all they have is photos of him as Don
Caballero.  With Laura Brown in protective custody, SHIELD is preparing
for Hydra's next move.

SHIELD agent Bronson is to take Laura to the western headquarters for her
protection.  The saucer-ship will be the chosen method of transportation.
Nick Fury is confident that Hydra can be beaten, no matter who is at the
head of the organization.  Miss Brown hopes to be of assistance to the
western division, with Bronson assuring her that she'll get there in one
piece.  Dugan, Sitwell, and Jones are ordered to return to the infirmary.

As AUTOFAC is being readied for operation, the SHIELD director checks in
with Boothroyd, the tailor.  Since Hydra is familiar with Nick's
wardrobe, some new pieces are being added to his personal arsenal.
Nick's new suit is more bulletproof and flameproof than ever.  The shirt
buttons contain a special compound which will provide the director with
an added five-minute oxygen supply.  An eavesdropper pen is able to
receive sound waves a hundred times, and a pair of cuff links are
actually electronic absorbers.  The right cuff link is an ionic
de-generator and the left cuff link is an atomic battery capable of
coping with high voltage.  The new batch of cigars contain special
chemical substances for every occasion.  The repulsor watch with its
streaming negative magnetic energy will provide Nick Fury with added
protection from bullets.  The last item is a ring which contains an
auto-destruct device, but the SHIELD director is concerned that it might
turn his finger green.  As Nick tightens his belt, Boothroyd assures his
client that it will serve its true purpose of keeping his pants up.

The Supreme Hydra is actually closer than the SHIELD director suspects,
in the form of Bronson.  The time has come for Plan D and the arrival of
the Dreadnought.  With the Supreme Hydra's communi-beam, Hydra is able to
pinpoint the location of the Heli-Carrier, and ready their deadly cargo
for delivery.  As the order goes forth, once more are the following words
heard in the halls of Hydra.  "Hail Hydra!  Immortal Hydra!  We Shall
Never Be Destroyed!"  Cut Off A Limb And Two More Shall Take Its Place!"
"We Serve None But The Master... As The World Shall Soon Serve Us!  Hail
Hydra!"  Peering into a mirror, Nick sees that he's getting a little grey
around the temples, and remembers that he's been a fighter since his days
in Hell's Kitchen.  He wonders if it would be a good idea to turn over
the reins to someone else and get involved with Laura Brown.  As the
director of SHIELD makes his way to the chamber housing AUTOFAC, Nick
Fury is unaware that he has about two seconds left to live.

KRAAAK!  The entire Heli-Carrier receives a massive jolt, as a metallic
nightmare breaches through its hull.  The Dreadnought has come for Nick
Fury, and the eight-foot tall robot is prepared to follow its programmed
mission for his impending death.

As cabin pressure is slowly being restored and repair-bots work on the
damaged hull, Nick samples the buttons which will enable him to breathe
in the meantime.  The Dreadnought allows the director to forestall his
own death, then watches as Fury rushes him.  THWAK!  The massive metal
form is unfazed by the force of Nick's attack.  WOOOSH!  PFFIT!  The
deadly automaton unleashes death in the form of a streaming liquid fire
set at 3500 centigrade.  The director of SHIELD is unimpressed by the
Supreme Hydra's walkie-talkie, then hurls a carbon dioxide cigar to
smother the flames.

ZIK ZIK ZIK  The Dreadnought raises its arms and fires off the deadly
darts of doom, but Nick Fury has enough time to use his watch, and repels
the nasty needles.  Sparks begin shooting from its head, as the
Dreadnought is slowly building up an electrical charge.  The SHIELD
director pulls out his cuff links, then dives towards the towering robot,
and feels the voltage through his silica-steel jacket.  ZZPKT!  The
electronic absorber has begun its function of draining enough energy to
knock the Dreadnought off its feet.  It is aware that Nick Fury is about
to run out of defenses.

He is ready for some hand-to-hand combat, just as the deadly Dreadnought
has begun to emit gamma rays in the locked cabin.  With his death, the
Hydra automaton will continue its programming, and deal with the other
agents of SHIELD.  At the SHIELD infirmary, Gabe Jones just learns that
Dum-Dum's real name is Timothy Aloysius Cadwallader Dugan.  As Dum Dum
issues a warning to his fellow Howler, Jasper Sitwell works on the route
for Laura Brown.  When Gabe cracks wise about Dugan's real name, Dum Dum
takes a swing at him, but misses his fellow agent.  KLAAANNNG!  They hear
the security breach bell and although they've been ordered to the
infirmary, each man is eager to learn what's been happening.

Laura Brown is determined to find out what AUTOFAC has learned about the
identity of the Supreme Hydra.  After bluffing her way past a sentry, she
enters the chamber, and checks out her suspicions about Agent Bronson.
If she is correct, Laura will be able to catch him before he realizes
that his cover's been blown.  After AUTOFAC deals with the problem, Laura
Brown learns that Bronson is the Supreme Hydra, and the Supreme Hydra is
---  Agent Bronson sneaks up on the girl and uses some chloroform to
render her unconscious.  He has stayed behind in the AUTOFAC chamber to
make sure that her suspicions would be dealt with.  Now with her as his
prisoner, Bronson will be able to catch suspicion throughout SHIELD
before destroying the organization.

Within the confines of the sealed cabin, Nick reaches for a repair-bot,
and hurls it into the face of the Dreadnought.  Since it carries a
lead-based paint, the gamma rays are halted, and the robot's scanner orbs
are now blinded.  KWAM!  The deadly Dreadnought starts swinging out, with
the oxygen pill's time about up.  Seeing Dugan, Jones, and Sitwell at the
other side of the plasti-barrier, the SHIELD director tells them to stay
out of the fight.  WOOSH!  In his haste to warn his fellow agents, Fury
has just given away his location, enabling the Dreadnought to employ his
frigi-breath.  The moisture in the air has turned to ice, but Nick Fury
has got one last tri-sodium cigar to use.  With the lowering of the
freezing point, the SHIELD director tightens his knuckles in an attempt
to knock the robot assassin off-balance.

Nick finds himself being lifted in the air by the Dreadnought, then
remembers that he does have one more weapon left.  The auto-destruct ring
is set to explode in three seconds after being removed, and Fury aims for
the base of the automaton's skull.  One...Two...Three... KUH-WOOM!  There
is a blinding flash of light as the deadly Dreadnought suffers a series
of explosions, and the director of SHIELD is send backwards.  With the
destruction of the deadly assassin, SHIELD has prevailed in this latest
round against Hydra.

After refusing to head for the infirmary, Nick leads his fellow agents to
the AUTOFAC chamber. Once inside, the SHIELD director assures the armed
sentries that with the Supreme Hydra on the loose, he will not spend his
time in a hospital bed.  When he asks what's happened to Laura Brown,
Agent Bronson informs Nick that she had vanished during the battle with
the Dreadnought.  AUTOFAC is activated and Nick Fury is startled to learn
when it reveals the identity of the Supreme Hydra as none other than
Laura Brown.  Jasper Sitwell begins to suggest that the attempts on her
life may have been faked, and Nick realizes that this has gotten her onto
the Heli-Carrier.  Bronson is sure that Brown must be working on another
attack, but Sitwell reminds them that the Dreadnought had come from
outside.  Technicians inform the SHIELD director that the force field was
down prior to the attack on the Heli-Carrier, and this was done by
someone aboard the ship.  This would seem to confirm AUTOFAC's findings
to Nick's satisfaction, but Jasper reminds him that she had saved his
life once before.  Bronson tells them that this must have been so that
Laura could inherit her father's mantle as Supreme Hydra by betraying
him.  When learning of her entry from the sentry, Nick Fury is sure that
she must have wanted to get her hands on AUTOFAC, but was unable to do
so.  As the director of SHIELD orders a thorough search of the
Heli-Carrier for the daughter of the former Supreme Hydra, Agent Bronson
is counting down to his final vengeance on Nick Fury and Laura Brown.

AUTOFAC is a giant bank of computers with an enormous viewscreen, and a
humanoid figure can be seen within.

SHIELD sentries wear yellow helmets, yellow holsters, yellow boots, and
orange uniforms.

The map of the Heli-Carrier reveals: a radar nullifying electronic force
field designed by Tony Stark, an ICBM with detachable nuclear warhead,
missile drone control, aircraft communications tower, jet runway, rear
defense armament, crew's living quarters, aircraft hangar, hydraulic
lifts, inertialess drive generators, solar engines, VIP apartments and
lounge, super-advanced weapons design workshop (authorized personnel
only). communications room, cipher code chamber. conference room, forward
observation room, world map and file center, chemical lab, electronic
research (includes surgical center, photoanalysis lab, main arsenal, and
auxiliary power plant) weapons ammo, Heli-Carrier defense refactory,
tracking dome, missile launch pad (rocket exhaust thrust deadened by
ultra-mufflers), and gyro-complex Heli-Carrier stabilizer.

The rent must be cheap if you're living near a nuclear warhead and can
sleep with all that noise.

I can see Tom Orzechowski working in the cipher code chamber, J.K.
Carrier in the aircraft communications tower, Jen Contino in the
communications room, Robert Faires in the world map and file center, Bob
Hughes, Hoy Murphy, & Bob Buethe in the file center, and Jack Selegue in
the chemical lab.

The GCD (Grand Comics Database) is the latest and greatest method in the
cataloguing of comic books and creator credits throughout the world.

Paul Gambi is the noted tailor who keeps the Flash's Rogues Gallery in
tip-top fashion.

In the 1970's, writer Tony Isabella would bring back the Deadly
Dreadnought and the hordes of Hydra in the pages of Daredevil.

Gamma rays have been involved in the creation of the Incredible Hulk, the
Abomination, and the Leader.

This Review Is Dedicated To The Members of S.A.R.
Honorary S.H.I.E.L.D. Agents, all.

Steve Chung
"Beware... The Deadly Review!"