Saturday, February 21, 2015

Justice is Served!: The Scourge of the Underworld Files 28: Decker; also Failed Hits: USAgent, Priscilla Lyons

This is part twenty-eight and the conclusion 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.

USAGENT #4 by Mark Gruenwald (writer) and M.C. Wyman & Keith Williams (artists)
Would-be victims: USAgent (John Walker), Priscilla Lyons (formerly Scourge, occasionally Vagabond)
Actual victim: Scourge (Decker)
Disguise: Decker targeting USAgent: in his underwear; Bloodstain targeting USAgent the first time, Caprice targeting Priscilla: white trenchcoat/skull cowl/hat;  Bloodstain targeting USAgent the second time, female nurse, then blue Bloodstain costume.
Synopsis: While in Bloodstain's gun sights as Bloodstain talks to a Scourge in shadows, USAgent arrives at Minister Ned Nordstrom's place; Bloodstain mentions the bug he has planted on USAgent. Ned complains about the prisoner not having been fed in days. USAgent agrees to feed him. USAgent brings food to the door of the room Scourge (Decker) is being kept in and Priscilla Lyons tells him that Scourge has been silent of late. USAgent opens the door and can't see anyone. As he enters, Scourge, having untied himself, tries to choke him with the rope. USAgent easily subdues him and ties his wrists again. When USAgent asks Scourge who Bloodstain is, Scourge tells him Bloodstain is his trainer, but when asked about the Scourge organization having government sanction, Scourge tells him he doesn't know about that; USAgent believes him. USAgent and Priscilla take Scourge to USAgent's car, which won't start. Another Scourge appears and demands they make the Decker Scourge get out of the car. They toss him out and the new Scourge kicks the door shut, but USAgent tears the roof open and flings his shield at the new Scourge before he can kill Decker. As USAgent and Scourge fight, Priscilla tries to get Decker to safety, only for a third Scourge to point a gun at her, much to the dismay of Ned, watching through his window. The standoff ends when Priscilla attacks the third Scourge, then the Scourge fighting USAgent throws a grenade at him, knocking him out before killing Decker. He tries to shoot Priscilla but misses, hitting the third Scourge. Priscilla uses his Scourge as a shield, and the second Scourge's thoughts reveal the third one to be Caprice. Priscilla shoots the second Scourge in the abdomen but he gets away. USAnget tells Priscilla to go inside and call an ambulance for Caprice. Inside, as Ned tends to Caprice, USAgent picks up the phone and calls "Mike Walker"/Bloodstain, who proves to be the remaining Scourge, reaching his van. He answers the phone and USAgent pretends to agree to join him. Bloodstain tells him to be at the warehouse he was interrogated in in three hours. USAgent, uncertain if Mike is the Scourge he just fought, asks Caprice who is behind the Scourge program. Caprice tells him to ask Domino. USAgent tells her to tell him Domino's location. As the ambulance arrives, USAgent tells Priscilla to go with Caprice to protect her. Two hours later USAgent smashes into Domino van and forces Domino to drive him to his employer, a Mr. Halloway. A guard lets Domino and USAgent through with Halloway's permission. They meet with Mr. Halloway (in a wheelchair) and his apparent nurse. Halloway tells him he was the 1940s superhero the Angel who retired after an innocent died taking a bullet meant for him. He relates that he met with Dominic Dunsinane (Domino) and the two started the Scourge program, with Halloway providing the money and Domino providing the personnel. USAgent tells Halloway he'll be back with the police. The nurse shoots USAgent in the shoulder and the removes the nurse disguise, revealing the Bloodstain costume underneath. As they fight, Domino tries to get Halloway to safety. Bloodstain's attempts to shoot USAgent causes the stone angels in the yard to fall like dominoes, one landing on Domino, killing him. Another statue pins USAgent's feet. Two more statues start to fall towards but hit each other instead. USAgent, now free leaps towards Bloodstain who tries to shoot him. USAgent protects himself from the bullets with his shield and some of the ricochet kills Bloodstain. USAgent walks away as Halloway rants. Priscilla and Ned visit him in the hospital and Priscilla tells him Caprice is expected to recover. USAgent plans to seek salvation.
Is it a key part of the overall Scourge storyline? Definitely. It is conclusion of the storyline that reveals many of the Scourge secrets. This issue reveals the origins of the organization. Domino and Bloodstain getting killed and Halloway being revealed as the financier effectively shuts down the Scourge operation
Does it tie into the main story in these issues? Other than a few bits about USAgent's past, the story is largely about Scourge.
Posthumous use of victim: Decker remains dead. A brainwashed Jack Monroe borrowed elements of Scourge but was not a true successor to Decker et al, and Frank Simpson even less so. Dennis Dunphy recently became a brainwashed Scourge not unlike Monroe.
Other comments: There is a religious theme running through this series and it's particularly strong in this issue, particular as a light seems to shine throne the stone angels that colliding with each other and USAgent thinks, "I'm... I'm saved!" This is the only time a character previously targeted by Scourge under one name was targeted again under another: John Walker (USAgent) was previously targeted by the rogue Scourge while he was Captain America. It is ambiguous whether Bloodstain really was Mike Walker; Caprice seemed to suspect he may of been but USAgent concluded he wasn't. Halloway's first name is later revealed to be Thomas. After this issue was published, Mark Gruenwald later learned about an earlier then-modern appearance of the Angel. In Captain America #442, that Angel was revealed to be his brother who substituted for him; this brother was then killed by Zeitgeist. The same story revealed that Halloway was released due to lack of evidence. However, other than appearances from his time as the Angel, he has not appeared since. If Caprice is the same one as Kendra Louise Price, she was killed by Bullseye in Thunderbolts #121. This is the final appearance of the original Scourge of the Underworld organization and the last time the late Mark Gruenwald used Scourge.
This ends the Scourge files. PUM-SPAK Justice is served!

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