While I have never been a big fan of the “Golden and Silver Ages” of comics in terms of storytelling aspects, I will point out that this man without fear has some great plot points worked out in his tales, even if some of them have huge holes the size of a gravitational effect. Even before the time when the United States entered into World War II, this comic (as well as others at the time) painted a picture of superheroes charging into battle to defend the weak (oftentimes being referred to as Britain during the “blitz”) from the tyrannical machinations of the original Axis of Evil. And, while I am aware that stories of this time period are very self-patriotic and often are in the “good vs. evil” aspect of basic storytelling, there were also a lot of judgments made based on prejudice and uncovered facts.
The first section of the archives seem to focus almost exclusively on Daredevil’s adventures against the Axis Powers, as well as some minor, yet helpful, assistance from other characters and heroes. During these stories, the portrayal of the Axis Powers' personnel is, in my opinion, very controversial and seemingly bigoted: German troops are shown to be very incompetent, military leaders are displayed as being cowards willing to hide behind the deaths of their troops, and the Imperial Japanese troops are colored differently in a yellowish-hue as though a different species. While this might be considered indicative of the storytelling and feelings of the time, I consider it to be a historical showing of just how people saw those who were not their own, a feeling and practice that they were willing to pass along to the people reading the comic books.
Despite the prejudice and bumbling portrayal of “evil” characters, there was actually some good information concerning the background of real-life counterparts used in the comics. For each Axis-related story, a small biography concerning the central protagonist was given with well-researched facts; in fact, there was a huge section concerning the background of Hitler himself, including a comic-drawn rendition of his life up to that point that included some of the most seminal moments from his past, painting a picture of introspection and thoughtfulness I hadn’t expected from the time period. In addition, the forward to the volume gives more information about the times and their impact on comic books, making these archives not just an entertaining bit of enjoyment, but also a historical supplement to sociological and anthropological interests.
Another aspect throughout the archives I noticed was the naming conventions applied to heroes. All this time I thought Stan Lee held the cornerstone on same-lettered names such as J. Jonah Jameson, Bruce Banner, Reed Richards, and so on, but apparently this has been going on for a long time (including the names of Lois Lane and Lana Lang from Superman fame). Of the many characters and superheroes shown in the volume, Pirate Prince, Whirlwind the Blonde Bomber, and Pat Patriot stand out just from the tip of my tongue. Never mind the fact that it might make it easier to remember for readers, I just think that it shows a lack of imagination on the part of the creator/writer to have names that are far too simplistic and somewhat juvenile (despite the fact that it is a comic book from the 1940s).
In addition, I have to once again go back to the storytelling aspects of the times. While I can understand the desire to wrap things up in a nice, little package to make everything happy, I always felt as though comics of this time period didn’t do enough to keep people hooked; cliffhangers might make some people crazy, because they want to know what happens, but by doing so it keeps those people interested and wanting to come back next issue, so they find out just what did happen. The action sequences were always much smaller, with less-involved fights, and it was almost always clear who would win in the end. While I enjoyed reading this volume from a historical point of interest and would probably look to it for research in the future, I doubt I’d read it for anything else (especially considering I had never heard of these characters before I picked up the volume). Be wary, readers; if you’re not into the classic form of storytelling the likes of which dominated DC Comics for a few decades, you won’t enjoy this.