Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Justice is Served!: The Scourge of the Underworld Files 16: Wraith (also Failed Hit: Flash Thompson)

This is part sixteen of a series of posts examining the original Scourge storyline in the 1980s to 1990s, in which an organization devoted to the assassination of super-villains, usually with a modified submachine gun with explosive shells went into action, usually uttering the catch-phrase "Justice is served!" just after killing the villain. Adapted from material I previously wrote in the 1990s on an older website. Previously I was going from memory but in 2014 I purchased the Scourge of the Underworld trade. I also have the most recent Marvel Index volumes. I am therefore editing this series accordingly. This series covers Iron Man#194 to USAgent#4. It does not cover subsequent appearances of characters called Scourge as all subsequent appearances deviated in key ways from the original concept. On the other hand, hits that were considered unsuccessful even at the time are covered. For successful hits, postmortem uses of victims are now noted.

AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #278 by Tom DeFalco, Peter David, & Jo Duffy (writers) and Ron Frenz & Vince Colleta (artists)
Would-Be Victim: Flash Thompson
Actual Victim: The Wraith (Brian DeWolff)
Disguise: Jack Brennan (police officer)
Synopsis: A man disguises himself as a police officer while listening to a news broadcast of the Bar with No Name massacre. He arrives at the prison at the same time as Peter Parker, who is there to visit Flash Thompson. While not an immediate threat to Parker he mildly triggers Parker's spider-sense, but Parker attributes this to the police officer's gun. Brian DeWolff puts on his Wraith costume, preparing to seek vengeance on the police force for their role in his sister Jean's death. Police officer Jack Brennan enters the men's room and the fake cop follows, emerging soon after with his ID. After visiting Flash Thompson, being held for allegedly being the Hobgoblin, Parker enters the men's room after the imposter triggers his spider sense again, and he finds the real Brennan. Parker changes to Spider-Man. Unaware that Thompson has been framed, fake Brennan is about to shoot him and starts to utter the Scourge catchphrase, but Spider-Man intervenes. SWAT cops see the fight and try to stop Spider-Man. Scourge takes advantage of the chaos to try to escape. He opens the cells and announces that he is Scourge. He tells the the prisoners that he'll kill them if they don't leave. The prisoners run towards the SWAT team and Spider-Man. With the good guys distracted. He escapes to the roof top just as the Wraith is breaking in, knocking out a guard. Scourge decides his trip wasn't wasted here after all and tells the Wraith, "I am the Scourge. Learn my name... and die!". He shoots the Wraith dead and declares "Justice is served!"  Spider-Man and the SWAT team find Wraith's body and Scourge's disguise just before the guard wakes up.
Is it a key part of the overall Scourge storyline? Marginally. Next month's Captain America #320 more or less confirms this is a hit by a second male Scourge, though earlier hits have subsequently been attributed to this Scourge as well.
Is it part of the main story in this issue? The attempt on Flash Thompson definitely is the main plot of the issue. The actual hit on the Wraith is more incidental, with the Wraith going on a revenge trip and being at the wrong place at the wrong time.
Postmortem use of victim: Brian DeWolff's mind was transferred to a new body and he was killed by Morbius. He was revived a third time by the Hood and killed once more by the Punisher. There are other characters called Wraith but none using Brian DeWolff's costume or motif.
Other comments: This issue came out the same day as the massacre issue of Captain America (#319). However, the announcement of the massacre at the beginning of the story means it takes place after. Chronology it has to takes place after page 9 of Captain America #320, when Domino offers the Hobgoblin hit to the first Scourge.  Likely it starts closer to page 14: the news report in this story mentions "17 or 18 victims", suggesting that Captain America's fake story of one victim surviving was starting to hit the news. One of the SWAT team members resembles Lt. Howard Hunter, played by James Sikking on Hill Street Blues.

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