Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Justice is Served!: The Scourge of the Underworld Files 17: Scourge (also Failed Hits: Cobra, Diamondback & "Mirage")

This is part seventeen 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.

CAPTAIN AMERICA #320 by Mark Gruenwald (writer) and Paul Neary & Dennis Janke (artists)
Would-Be Victims: Cobra (Klaus Voorhees), Diamondback (Rachel Leighton), "Mirage" (Steve Rogers disguised as Desmond Charne)
Actual Victim: Scourge (real name unknown)
Disguises: Blond-haired woman (while talking with Domino); Man in trenchcoat and hat with skull cowl (attempt on Cobra & Diamondback); camouflage gear (attempt on "Mirage"); unknown (Scourge's killer).
Synopsis: Captain America evades an attack by Water Wizard, demanding to know why Water Wizard attacked him after calling him. Water Wizard apologizes and explains he had to confirm Captain America was genuine.  Water Wizard takes Captain America to the Bar with No Name and shows him the bodies. He explains that he had met with Greg Gilbert about attending the meeting to deal with Scourge, only a flat tire delayed his arrival until after the massacre had happened and Scourge had left. Captain America promises the scared super-villain to keep him safe. Captain America briefs a sheriff that evening but leaves out the Water Wizard to prevent word from getting back to Scourge. Scourge hears a video phone ring and puts on a fake woman's cowl on before answering. Domino briefs him on various super-villain sightings. After hanging up, Scourge removes his disguise and decides to target Diamondback. Cobra breaks Diamondback out of the hospital and takes her to a Serpent Society hovercraft. Scourge shoots at the craft but it only sustains minimal damage. Diamondback wants to get Scourge but Cobra, piloting the craft, decides they need reinforcements. Captain America arranges with the sheriff to pretend to be Mirage and report that he survived the massacre in order to smoke Scourge out. After the fake news is leaked, Domino sees "Mirage" leaving the police station in protective custody and follows them to a cabin. After the police leave, Scourge attempts to kill Mirage and finds himself in a conflict with Captain America. Captain America captures Scourge, who turns out to be an anonymous white haired man. Scourge claims that he has only killed people convicted of a crime, and that he was the son of a famous movie director and the Enforcer's brother. He says he killed the Enforcer to end the shame to the family, then continued the killing spree with the help of a private detective. Scourge is then shot to death by an assailant hiding in the bushes, who declares, "Justice is Served!" Captain America unsuccessfully tries to save the Scourge who was shot rather than pursue his killer.
Is it a key part of the overall Scourge storyline? Yes. Domino, a former member of the Conspiracy, is revealed to be working with Scourge, giving Scourge info on various villains' whereabouts. The Scourge responsible for most of the original killings dies in this story. This is the first irrefutable proof that there is more than one Scourge, and by extension the first time two Scourges appear in the same story.
Is is part of the main story in this issue? The whole issue is devoted to the hunt for Scourge
Portmortem use of victim: A Scourge later appeared in the afterlife in Pluto's realm; while other Scourges were dead by then, it is probable that it is the Scourge who died here who appeared, being the most worthy of being with other combatants in the afterlife. Two other Scourges were already active at this point (a woman later revealed to be Caprice and the first Scourge's killer) and four more confirmed Scourges are examined in later Files. Subsequently a brainwashing Jack Monroe became a Scourge but was not part the true Scourge operation. Frank Simpson (Nuke) also went by Scourge but was even less connected to the Scourge operations. No dead Scourges have been revived.
Other comments: Scourge's assailant, according to various Marvel Handbooks starting with Master Edition, is the same person who killed the Wraith. It's debatable whether Scourge is telling the truth about only killing people who have been convicted of a crime. Some victims such as Hate-Monger and Wraith had no criminal record, but it's possible that this specific Scourge only targeted people who were convicted (though his "Go ahead and check" line about the convictions is an obvious bluff). Enforcer's bogus story coincides with inaccurate info in the first Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe as to whom the Enforcer really was (both the original Ghost Rider stories and The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe Deluxe Edition get the true alter ego correct; the latter even used the true scenario to point out why Scourge had to be lying, which was not clear from this issue. Domino apparently did not know what this Scourge really looked like. It's possible given Scourge's willingness to work with Domino that he really did think Domino was a private detective, albeit a costumed one rather than a Conspiracy member. Given that this is the third time that this Scourge dressed as a woman (previous times being when he killed Enforcer and shot at Constrictor; Titania's murderer was a real woman) he may have had a taste for cross-dressing. As noted in Files 15, Ringer's body is still present, making his revivial in Lethal Foes of Spider-Man rather unlikely. Other than the hat and trenchcoat being black here and white elsewhere, the costume Scourge used when shooting at Cobra and Diamondback becomes the standard Scourge costume in most subsequent appearances.

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