Saturday, February 21, 2015

Justice is Served!: The Scourge of the Underworld Files 27: USAgent's Interrogation

This is part twenty-seven 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 #3 by Mark Gruenwald (writer) and M.C. Wyman & Keith Williams (artists)
Victim/Disguise: While the Scourge organization is heavily involved in this issue, no one is actually targeted.
Synopsis: USAgent has a nightmare about being in a war in southeast Asia with his brother Mike. He wakes up chained in a steam room as Caprice and a man in a blue suit. Caprice asks USAgent what his brother's name is and he correctly tells her Mike; when asked what his own real name is, he tells her John or Jack Daniels, John being his actual real name and Jack Daniels being his cover identity. Caprice lets USAgent rest and the suited man leaves the steam room to contact Domino, who identifies him as Bloodstain. Bloodstain tells Domino what they know. Domino is annoyed that they haven't learned more. Bloodstain replies that it took hours to get the right dosage of sodium pentathol with USAgent's metabolism. Domino runs the surname Daniels through his computer but only comes up with Drew Daniels, the Texas Twister. Dismissing a connection with that hero as not probable, he pulls up a list of patriotic heroes and starts playing with that list. USAgent has a nightmare about his parents' deaths at the hands of the Watchdogs. When USAgent wakes up, Caprice learns from the hero that his parents' names were Caleb and Emily. At the church, Reverend Ned Norstrom expresses to Priscilla Lyons his concerns about holding Scourge without food or water. Through the door, Scourge begs for water but Priscilla tells him to shut up. Ned tries to calm Scourge down and asks him to be patient. Scourge complains that his treatment is Unamerican and demands a lawyer, threatening to sue. When Ned starts to consider his point, Priscilla tells him Scourge will say anything to get out and suggests to Scourge he tell Ned about his victims. Scourge refuses to say anything without an attorney present even with an offer of water from Priscilla. US Agent has a nightmare about killing Left-Winger and Right-Winger. As he awakens Caprice considers the possibly that USAgent might before one of their best Scourge. Having learned that someone died, she asks him who and learns his friends Hector and Jerry died. Bloodstain contacts Domino, who has already pieced together USAgent's identity from his parents. Domino contacts another person and tells them they may be able to create the best Scourge ever. Bloodstain frees USAgent over Caprice's protests. He appears to unmask as USAgent's brother Mike Walker, claiming that his death was faked and he joined the CIA. He further claims that the Project Scourge was a CIA operation. He offers USAgent a role in the Scourge operation, pointing out that USAgent has killed before. When USAgent asks about Priscilla, Bloodstain claims they weren't really going to kill her, just give her a new identity. Bloodstain gives USAgent a card with contact info and lets him leave. Ned agonizes over what to do with Scourge and gets a call from USAgent, who admits he is feeling confused. He promises to get back when he can but that he might be an hour or two yet. After he leaves the phone booth Caprice offers him a ride to his car. Bloodstain contacts Domino and says he's ninety percent certain USAgent bought his story and points out that even if USAgent doesn't join, he'll lead Bloodstain to the other Scourges. He says he'll handle this personally.
Is it a key part of the overall Scourge storyline? Definitely. It is part of the storyline that reveals many of the Scourge secrets; this issue focuses on their information gathering and recruitment techniques.
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. In this part in particular the bits about USAgent's past largely blend into the Scourge storyline.
Other comments: Bloodstain seems surprised by the names of USAgent's parents, suggesting he may in fact be the real Mike or someone who knows him. However, this is never followed up on. While he appeared last issue in flashback as Priscilla's trainer, this is Bloodstain's first appearance in costume as Bloodstain. The CIA story was false, however. The person Domino contacts is revealed next issue. Not counting afterlife appearances, this is the only Scourge appearance where no Scourge is trying to kill anyone.

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