Justice is Served: The Scourge Files - Chapter Five

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Justice is Served: The Scourge Files - Chapter Five

Postby Capes (Optional) » Fri Aug 28, 2015 5:31 pm

This is part five of a series examining the original Scourge storyline in the 1980s to 1990s, in which an organization devoted to the assassination of super-villains, typically with a modified submachine gun with explosive shells went into action, usually uttering the catch-phrase "Justice is served!" after killing the villain. Adapted from material previously written in the 1990s on an older website, it was put together from memory, but in 2014 I purchased the Scourge of the Underworld trade. Along with the most recent Marvel Index volumes, I am therefore editing this series accordingly. This series covers Iron Man #194 (May 1985) to USAgent #4 (June 1993). 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 included. For successful hits, postmortem uses of victims are noted.

(July 1986)
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 his 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 where he finds the real Brennan. Parker changes to Spider-Man. Unaware that Thompson has been framed, the fake Brennan is about to shoot him and starts to utter the Scourge catchphrase, but Spider-Man intervenes. SWAT officers 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 again 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.
(August 1986)
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 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 it 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 brainwashed 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 Sourge Files Chapter Four, 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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