Saturday, February 21, 2015

Justice is Served!: The Scourge of the Underworld Files 26: Blowtorch Brand & ???; also Priscilla Lyons (Failed Hit)

This is part twenty-six 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.

by Mark Gruenwald (writer) and M.C. Wyman & Keith Williams (artists)
Would-be victim: Priscilla Lyons (formerly Scourge, occasionally Vagabond)
Actual victims: Blowtorch Brand (Peter Brand) and unidentified homeless former super-villain
Disguise: Businessman (hit on homeless victim), movie goer (hit on Blowtorch Brand), trucker (failed hit on Lyons)
Synopsis: USAgent visits a former Scourge training area but finds it abandoned. When Lisa Winters enters after him to act as backup, USAgent scolds her, saying he needs her alive as she's his only lead, Driving off after an incident with a would-be hubcap thief, USAgent tells Lisa to tell her story from then beginning. Lisa admits to being Nomad's ex-partner Priscilla Lyons, aka Vagabond.. He tells USAgent a bit about her pre-Scourge life, then reminds USAgent that they'd actually met before, during the earlier Scourge's attack on Power Broker. Priscilla relates how she had attempted to leave town but was approached by a representative of the Scourge operation, Caprice. She says she was trained by the best fighter she'd ever seen other than Captain America, who taught her martial arts, firearms, surveillance and eavesdropping, and escape techniques. She relates how she followed a Scourge do a hit undetected before being given her first hit, the failed hit on Manuel Elongato.  Domino over a van radio tells the active Scourge to proceed with his mission. Disguised as a patron, Scourge enters an adult movie theatre and sits behind Blowtorch Brand. He shoots Brand through his seat and says, "Justice is served." Priscilla tells USAgent about her abandoned van. As part of a trap, Lyons contacts Domino through the van radio and asks to come in. The Scourge who killed Blowtorch Brand arrives and shoots at disguises placed around the van steering wheel to appear to be a sleeping Priscilla. USAgent jumps at Scourge. Scourge uses tear gas to try to get away, but USAgent manages to capture him with Priscilla's help. As Priscilla drives, USAgent strips Scourge to his underwear and puts tape over his mouth, then has her drive them to Reverend Ned Nordstrom's church. Ned reluctantly agrees to let USAgent store Scourge in the basement, and USAgent tells Priscilla to guard him. USAgent returns to Scourge's van to find it being towed away before  he could search it. He instead goes to Priscilla's van and, pretending to be Scourge, contacts Domino and arranges for a pick-up; he puts on a disguise. Ned gives Priscilla food; she tells him she won't open the door for any reason, not even to give Scourge food, drink, or amenities. A woman USAgent doesn't recognize picks him up, calling him Decker. After they drive off, the woman shoots him, telling him she knows he's not Decker.
Is it a key part of the overall Scourge storyline? Definitely. It is part of the storyline that reveals many of the Scourge secrets. It also has Scourge's final successful hit on a villain not connected to 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.
Postmortem use of victims: The homeless victim has apparently never been revived and it is unknown if anyone ever took up his super-villain identity. Peter Brand has never beenn revived nor has anyone else taken up the alias Blowtorch Brand.
Other comments: The woman who picks up USAgent resembles Caprice in the flashback and is confirmed to be her next issue. While never confirmed in-story, some Handbooks claim she was the Scourge who killed Golddigger. This is her first appearance as Caprice. With Decker, this is the first time real names of a Scourge is revealed; Caprice, assuming she's the woman in Thunderbolts #121, is another alias. With Mark Gruenwald's death, we'll likely never know who if anyone he had intended the homeless victim to be; no subsequent writers have revealed his identity either. Priscilla's trainer is identified in the next issue. It is unclear why Priscilla's radio is intact after she shot it in the previous issue. Perhaps she had multiple vans. It appears from next issue that Caprice's goal was to incapacitate USAgent, not kill him, hence his not being listed as a would-be victim.

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