Captain America #320
Issue(s): Captain America #320
...and led to the Bar With No Name where the Water Wizard found the results of last issue's massacre (note that the Wizard says that there are actually multiple Bars).
Captain America gets the idea to lure the Scourge out by having the police leak a fake fact that one of the villains, Mirage, survived. Although uncomfortable about lying to the media, Cap dresses up as Mirage...
...and lays in wait for the Scourge to arrive.
The Scourge, meanwhile, gets an update from his assistant Domino (first seen as Scourge's assistant in this issue, but as Walter notes in the comments, he has appeared before).
Domino's information is pretty extensive; he's tracking the movements of Kraven, Puppet Master, and Diamondback, and he purports to know the Hobgoblin's "true identity" (which implies that they know they made a mistake going after Flash Thompson in Amazing Spider-Man #278 although it doesn't seem to be giving them any pause). Interestingly, Domino is talking about Project Pegasus (where Solarr was killed) as if he hadn't heard of it before, showing that there is a limit to his knowledge. If Scourge ever did get into Project Pegasus, there likely would have been a massacre roughly equal in size to his "coup de grace" last issue.
Scourge goes after Diamondback, who luckily was in the process of being removed from the hospital by Cobra, and they manage to get away. Scourge is wearing a skull-faced mask during this attempt.
After that, Scourge takes Cap's bait, falling for what cap calls "the oldest decoy in the book -- the stuffed costume trick". Scourge's thought bubbles make it clear that he does not want to fight Cap because he's "one of the biggest names in crime smashing".
Thanks in part to Scourge's reluctance, Cap is able to defeat Scourge and unmask him.
He turns out to be the Enforcer's younger brother, and he originally set out to kill his brother because of the shame that he brought upon the family.
After killing his brother, he decided that it "felt real good" and he took the family wealth and poured it into his information, hiring a private detective to locate the villains for him.
Note that in two places above, Scourge says that he's only killed convicted criminals. That's a debatable point. First, Scourge did attempt to kill Flash Thompson, who wasn't convicted of anything and was in the process of being framed. And second, as Michael pointed out, even if we look at the people he successfully killed, that includes the Hate-Monger, who was a new villain not convicted of anything. He was also an artificial construct created by Psycho-Man, so maybe Scourge squeezes by on a technicality. That said, when Scourge is done with his explanation, Captain America tells him, "You are a very sick man, Scourge. You need professional help...". So maybe we shouldn't be looking for him to be telling the truth. We'll later learn that his story is not true, anyway.
And Scourge is killed at the end of this issue by someone using the MO of the first one.
If Marvel never returned to the Scourge concept, this might have just been written off as Domino or maybe a villain friend of someone Scourge killed, but it did leave open the opportunity for a second (etc.) Scourge, and after the effort put into drumming up interest for this it's not surprising that Mark Gruenwald took that opportunity.
After such a build up it would be easy for the conclusion to be a let-down, but Gruenwald does a decent job with it. Cap's "Without your mask you're nobody I've ever seen before!" is a bit clunky, but the given story of Scourge being the brother of the Enforcer makes sense and is a nice Gruenwald-y use of the Enforcer's backstory. Frankly, i was pretty annoyed when i found out later that there were multiple Scourges, but i'll talk about that more when we get there. For now, it's definitely been a cool book.
I noted in Amazing Spider-Man #278 but wanted to repeat here that the MCP attributes the Scourge appearances in that issue and Marvel Fanfare #29 to a second Scourge - the one that kills the first one in this issue, actually. The Marvel Appendix does the same, and makes the case, as Michael did in the comments for Thing #33, that the Scourge that killed Titania had a female body shape, and that the Scourge would have to be quite a jetsetter to make it to all of the killings in time. However, unless there's a comic actually contradicting it, i prefer to answer those objections with "it's comics, where costumes are flawless and time is flexible", and keep all of the original Scourge appearances as the original Scourge.
The new Neary/Janke relationship on art has been working fairly well. Last issue was finished by Sinnott, but Neary has been doing breakdowns instead of full pencils since #316. I don't feel like there's been a decline in quality, and the art is clean with good storytelling and clear action and nice pacing.
Quality Rating: C+
Chronological Placement Considerations: Scourge says his massacre at the Bar With No Name happened "last night". I do have him appearing in Amazing Spider-Man #278 between last issue and this one, though. Note also that my entry lists all of the dead Scourge victims as Characters Appearing (which i guess is appropriate since some of them, at least, are eventually resurrected by the Hood, and the Ringer comes back separately). Based on the information from Domino, we know that Kraven the Hunter is in police custody at this point and that the Puppet Master was in Omaha and moving east, placing this after Thing #34.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (6): show
Note that Scourge states this issue that he checked the bodies to make sure all the villains were really dead. That makes the retcon that Ringer wasn't dead extremely difficult to explain.
Posted by: Michael | December 4, 2013 8:37 PM
Domino previously appeared in Rampaging Hulk's Bloodstone feature, http://www.marvunapp.com/Appendix/domino1.htm .
The Enforcer's real identity--Delazny or Collier?--makes my head hurt, but it seems to be a plot point in Delazny's story that he was an only child. So readers who knew their Spider-Woman/Ghost Rider history may have known that Scourge's story was a cover. Presumably Gru intended that.
But it gets weirder. The US Agent limited series that delves more into the Scourge program introduces a guy named Bloodstain who may or may not be Walker's long-presumed-dead brother. I wonder why Gru would have another Scourge-franchisee be somebody's hitherto unseen brother?
But then, the mastermind behind the program is eventually revealed as a guy who also has a brother who has cropped up in odd contexts. If I were Nathan Adler, I might even read some significance into Scourge's "evil twin brother" joke to Cap when he gets unmasked in this issue.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | December 4, 2013 10:56 PM
Of course, this could also be foreshadowing a the "evil twin" angle to Cap 350 two-and-a-half years down the line.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | December 4, 2013 11:04 PM
It seems like most of the Scourges use some story about brothers when they are captured. The Scourge that the US Agent busts that tries to kill the Power Broker says his "brother Jake" was mutated by the Broker.
Posted by: Michael Cheyne | December 5, 2013 10:17 AM
A pity scourge missed the Water Wizard, he was much lamer than many of the others scourge shot.
This should have been the last mention of scourge. As you point out, it was a nice mystery with a slow burn and left on a questionable ending. Much like the Elf with a Gun, its better if it is never explained.
But Marvel writers could never leave well enough alone so we got multiple explanations of the Scourge organization that detracted from the original.
Posted by: kveto from prague | December 5, 2013 4:05 PM
I prefer to think that wasn't a 2nd Scourge that shot the first; maybe it was a potential target acting to protect himself and yelling "Justice is served!" just to throw Cap off.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | December 7, 2013 4:01 PM
Hey Walter, how would you propose the Scourge's "evil twin joke"?
Posted by: Nathan Adler | December 13, 2013 4:13 AM
It seems like such a self-consciously "meta" thing to say, and the conclusion of the Scourge arc leaves so many questions unanswered, that it gets me wondering. But my best guess, if it means anything, is that Gru was foreshadowing the Skull's return in Cap's cloned body. But...I dunno, it just seems like the resolutions we get to the Scourge program are never satisfying.
Posted by: Walter Lawson | December 13, 2013 7:16 PM
So, at the time, was there much speculation to who the Scourge might be?
Posted by: Berend | March 9, 2014 9:49 PM
The Punisher was a common guess in the lettercols. You can see some related speculation about the second Scourge / Scourge killer in the portion of the lettercol i posted on Cap #326.
Posted by: fnord12 | March 9, 2014 10:06 PM
I love this issue. It has a great vibe like the first HALLOWEEN movie; near misses, characters not sure if they're more afraid of what they know or what they don't know, an ambiguous ending that suggests the evil is still out there. Even the art style during the final showdown suggests a mysterious autumn night.
Posted by: Thanos6 | September 1, 2014 1:33 AM
There was a Scourge organization? Well, that's not "Alicia was a Skrull" dumb, but it's not a good idea.
Scourge was a good way to get rid of a bunch of low level villains (except The Melter - I felt he deserved better) and a good storyline.
Posted by: Erik Beck | June 18, 2015 8:12 PM
This whole Scourge crossover is a good example how in the pre-Internet days the unified Marvel Universe, which was mostly a cool thing, could be a bit confusing for people living outside the US, where many titles were not available. Here in Finland, the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Secret Wars and Thor issues where Scourge appeared were published in Finnish by the local Marvel affiliate, but this Captain America story was never translated. (Cap was never that popular in here, and he never had his own ongoing book, though some of his best-known stories were published in specials and anthology titles.) So as a kid I was aware that there was some guy running around the Marvel universe killing bad guys, which was intriguing, but I never found out what his deal was. It was only in the 00s that I learned the whole Scourge story while browsing some comics site,
Posted by: Tuomas | January 11, 2016 3:29 AM
If Scourge had succesfully killed Diamondback, that would have been another contradiction to his "kill only convicted criminals" code.
According to Diamondback's entry in OHOTMU Deluxe #3, she has no criminal record. That issue was published several months before Cap #320 (Feb 86 cover date vs. Aug 86 cover date).
Posted by: Rick | July 29, 2016 4:55 PM
Someone might have pointed out the contradiction to Gruenwald, because the dialogue in Captain America 345 suggests that Diamondback has been convicted of misdemeanors but never a felony. Maybe she was charged with a felony, pled it down to a misdemeanor and Scourge decided it counted?
Posted by: Michael | July 29, 2016 11:06 PM
I think Scourge is just a jerk. Personally I think he's a bit hypocritical, and this is obviously intentional, he's killing criminals by criminal acts. So I don't see him breaking his own rules as a mistake as much as it is further proof he is not to be admired.
With the eventual revelation that there as multiple Scourges, it's kinda easy to say one or two of them weren't quite as discerning if you want.
Also, Domino provided Scourge with most his targets and research. So it could be Domino who doesn't really care if they were convicted or not instead of Scourge.
Posted by: AF | July 30, 2016 4:08 AM
For some reason, I've always been amused that Water Wizard tooled around town in a VW Beetle. If creative wanted to play up WW's insecurities, they could've saddled him with a Pinto, a Vega, or (God forbid!) an AMC Gremlin.
Posted by: Brian Coffey | January 21, 2018 4:56 PM
Comments are now closed.
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