Note the ornate hinges on the trapped door. Another indication of Sivana’s old-fashioned-ness or a hint that the underground levels are old, perhaps older than the fortress?
Page 11: The panel where Captain Marvel is being bound with chains is masterfully done. Note how Captain Marvel’s face is turned away from us, dehumanizing him at the same time his captors subject him to humiliating subjugation.
We also know from this that, unlike some later superheroes with alter egos, Capt. Marvel does not turn back into Billy Batson when he loses consciousness.
This is the first time Sivana uses his token nervous laugh and he will not again for ten more issues. Later mad scientists in comics, notably Alan Moore’s Prof. Gromolko from Top Ten, will have a similar nervous laugh.
It is not clear from Captain Marvel’s face if he is looking defiant or groggy.
The close-up of Sivana is almost identical to the one on page 9 of the previous issue, only flipped around.
It is not clear how Sivana can “show Marvel his newest machine” only “when the others have gone.” Captain Marvel is chained to the same wall the whole time and the machine is too huge to have been missed! Either the machine was concealed behind a sliding panel or some such thing before, or the text means simply that Sivana is just now drawing Marvel’s attention to it.
The atom smasher, or particle accelerator, was invented in 1929 by Ernest Lawrence. The atom smasher built at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1937 was 37 inches long, replaced by one 60 inches long in 1939. Sivana’s seems to be larger, though much of the dome is probably radiation shielding.
Page 12: We have two clichés of the genre here, the first being the much lampooned one of the villain leaving the hero unattended in a deathtrap and the second being the henchmen turning on their leader and being instrumental in his defeat.
Sivana looking out the window is our first indication that Capt. Marvel has been brought above ground while knocked out.
The image of Capt. Marvel breaking his bonds is identical to the left half of the cover of the ashcan edition, or Whiz Comics #1.
Again, Capt. Marvel jumps instead of flies. He will not be shown flying until Whiz Comics #7, four months later.
Page 13: Although the deathtrap involved Sivana’s atom smasher, the explosion that destroys the fortress is probably not atomic. Of course, the first atomic bomb was tested July 16, 1945, so no one in 1940 knew what an atomic explosion looked like or what its effects were.
It is unclear how many people were in the fortress and died in the explosion. Both Capt. Marvel and Billy seem unconcerned. Hopefully, the fortress was not heavily manned, with most of Sivana’s hirelings surely serving in his army or air force. There was not much time for the returning air force to use the elevator to the underground hangar, so only some pilots would likely have died while the rest flew overhead in a holding pattern.
Billy reports that Sivana died “by his own hand”, a term most often implying suicide. It is true that Sivana’s scheme had clearly backfired, regardless of whether or not Sivana really died. Though Sivana survives the explosion, as revealed the following issue, he is somehow unable to contact both his ground forces in Washington, D.C. and his air force overhead before they surrender. If Sivana could have convinced them to continue their assault without their general, he might still have won. If anything did in Sivana, it was simply bad luck that his soldiers returned and stopped him from leaving the fortress at exactly the wrong moment.