Justice is Served: The Scourge Files - Chapter Six

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Justice is Served: The Scourge Files - Chapter Six

Postby Capes (Optional) » Fri Aug 28, 2015 5:47 pm

This is part six 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.

THE OFFICIAL HANDBOOK OF THE MARVEL UNIVERSE (vol 2) #11, #19 and (vol 4) #33
(October 1986 & December 1987)
by Mark Gruenwald or Peter Sanderson (writer #11), Peter Sanderson (writer #19), Glenn Herdling, Peter Sanderson, or Murray Ward (writer #33), John Byrne & Josef Rubinstein (artists #11), Tom Palmer & Josef Rubinstein (artists #19), Keith Pollard & Josef Rubinstein (artists #33) (credits only for new material)

General Comments: Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe #11 is subtitled Deluxe Edition while Official Handbook of the Marbel Universe #19 is subtitled Book of the Dead Deluxe Edition. Official Handbook of the Marbel Universe #33 (Master Edition) is strictly speaking beyond the USAgent #4 cut-off point but was published not long after so is an exception to the rule. Handbooks after the 1990s are not covered. The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe Deluxe Edition series concluded prior to Scourge's next hit, hence its placement after Captain America #320. The Master Edition came later, but I've opted to let it piggy-back on the earlier Handbooks.

Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe (November 1988)v2 #11 Comments: Only handbook entry for Scourge noted. This is a rare instance in the Deluxe Edition where a deceased character appears in the main section and not the Book of the Dead. Scourge trenchoat/skull cowl/hat are all white, which wasn't the case for the Scourge discussed here (in Captain America #320 he wore a black variant of this) but was the costume most frequently used by his successors. This entry outlines why Scourge could not have been whom he claimed to be (in short, the director he mentioned was Coot Collier while the Enforcer was Charles Delazny). One note suggests that originally every Scourge victim was going to get an entry in the Book of the Dead, which did not prove to be the case. The retroactive Marvel Fanfare #29 story had not yet been published.

v2 #19 Comments: Only handbook entry of Scourge's Victims noted. This entry summarizes Scourge's history more briefly than in Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe #11, then gives headshots of Scourge's victims to date, including alter ego if known, First Appearance, Final Appearance (at the time). By this time Marvel Fanfare #29 had been published, and Hammer and Anvil are placed between Basilisk and Fly.

v4 #33 Comments: Only Scourge is entry noted. Roman numerals given for many of various Scourges are now considered false for known former members (e.g. Caprice is now considered to be the second or third Scourge due to her hit on Titania), not sixth and at least one hit in the Bibliography is considered to be wrongly attributed (Scourge I is listed as Titania's killer)
(November 1988)
by Mark Gruenwald (writer) and Kieron Dwyer & Al Milgrom (art)

Victim: Red Skull (Albert Malik)

Disguise: Helicopter pilot.

Synopsis: Mercenaries break Albert Malik out of prison and get him to a helicopter. One mercenary tries to join Malik in the helicopter, but Malik kicks him off. After the helicopter takes off Malik dons the cowl of the 1950s Red Skull. The pilot literally shoots him out of the helicopter and declares "Justice is Served". Shortly thereafter he calls up a man in a red light to tell him what happened, which causes the mysteryman to laugh in delight.

Is it a key part of the overall Scourge storyline? Somewhat. It shows that the Scourge operation is back in business in some fashion. It also begins a lengthy red herring.

Does it tie into the main story in this issue? Yes. The mysteryman, whose identity is revealed in the Scourge's next appearance, Captain America #350 had been behind the scenes regarding many of Captain America's recent problems when this story was written.

Portmortem use of victim: Albert Malik has never been revived. Sinthea Shmidt has since assumed the identity of the Red Skull, but she is more a successor to her father, the original Red Skull than to Malik.

Other comments: This is the first appearance of a Scourge working for the man in red light. At least retroactively, the Red Skull is Scourge's oldest victim.
(February 1989)
by Mark Gruenwald (writer) and Kieron Dwyer & Al Migrom (artists)

Victim: Red Skull (Albert Malik)

Disguise: White trenchcoat/skull cowl/hat

Synopsis: The employer of the Scourge from Captain America #347, revealed to be the original Red Skull claims that the Scourge operation was his idea. He has Scourge and other agents of organizations who had fought Captain America (Steve Rogers and/or John Walker) of late attack Captain America (at the time John Walker) who defeats Scourge. Scourge is not captured, however.

Is it a key part of the Scourge storyline? Only marginally. It makes for an interesting red herring, but Scourge is basically used as a token gunman here

Is it part of the main story in this issue? Scourge is part of the main plot, but mainly as window dressing.

Other comments: Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe Masters confirms what one can extrapolate from the US Agent mini-series: the Scourge in the Red Skull plot thread is a renegade, and the Red Skull lied about coming up with and running the show. This makes sense since while one can see the Red Skull taking advantage of the Scourge operation to eliminate the competition, had he thought of the idea on his own, he most likely would have targeted heroes first. While a darker version of the Scourge costume had appeared previously and the all-white version in a Handbook entry, this is the first time the all-time costume is used in a story. This is the first time a Scourge made a full attempt at killing a hero, though the first one threatened to shoot Steve Rogers previously.
(March 1989)
by Mark Gruenwald (writer) and Kieron Dwyer & Al Milgrom (artists)

Victim: Government agent posing as Watchdog (real name unknown)

Disguise: White trenchcoat/skull cowl/hat

Apparent Synopsis: A member of the Watchdogs kills Captain America (John Walker) while Captain America (Steve Rogers) is present. The Watchdog is then shot in the head by Scourge who drives off before Rogers can reach him.

Actual Synopsis: The government arranges for an agent disguised as a Watchdog to pretend to shoot Captain America (John Walker) so that Walker can assume the identity of USAgent. Unaware of the ruse, Scourge kills the agent and then drives off before Captain America (Steve Rogers, also present) can reach him.

Postmortem use of victim: The unidentified government agent has never been revived, nor has anyone else taken on the mantle of "government agent posing as Watchdog".

Is it key to the overall Scourge storyline? Somewhat; it's the return of the Scourge who killed Wraith and the first Scourge after a lengthy absence. At the time the return didn't seem so dramatic since it was then possible that he was the Scourge the Red Skull was using.

Is it part of the main story in this issue? Only in the sense of inadventently helping the government's deception, which is followed up more in later issues of this title and West Coast Avengers.

Other comments: This is the only time Scourge inadvertently killed an innocent, though a case coul;d also be made for the Wraith. The ruse is revealed in Captain America #354. This Scourge was probably lying low to take the heat of Captain America's search. It's possible that the renegade Scourge's actions resulted somehow in this Scourge returning to action.

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