For spoilers sake, I’ll leave out as much as I can.
The book contains stories about all the different Scourges. If you’re like me, you thought there was just one. Honestly, they should have stopped at one.
The original Scourge was a vigilante who gunned down costumed villains. He didn’t just go after B- and C-listers. He actually went for Kraven and Hobgoblin, but they got away. The B- and C-listers like Miracle Man weren’t so lucky, probably because the writers saw less potential in them for future stories.
My biggest surprise was that the storyline crossed over into so many books. Often it was just one page. Villain shows up. Bang. Justice is served. The worst issue in the series was in The Thing, where Ben Grimm, Miracle Man and Scourge are all on the same bus.
The best issue in the series has him going after Hobgoblin in Spider-Man’s book. Flash Thompson was just unmasked as the Hobgoblin, even though it turns out to be a trick, so Spidey’s got to protect him from Scourge. These big crossovers tend to be awkward when they sprawl into other books, but this was a real strong way to tie in to the current Spider-Man story seamlessly.
Usually, when you read an older book, it’s a bit dated. Here, not too much felt old, surprisingly. I think the only thing that was glaring was that during this era Steve Rogers made his living as an artist drawing the Captain America comic book. Seriously. I don’t think this would have flown these days. Not with a character like Cap. If Peter Parker was an artist and not a photographer, then I definitely could see Marvel hiring him to draw Spider-Man. Then he’d have to draw Spidey being a bumbling fool or be told by his editor “You’re drawing him too muscular! Everyone knows Spider-man is a weakling!”
The entire storyline was very well done, and could have created a villain with a great future. But, the ending was perfect.
The later Scourge stories were less exciting. Once writer Mark Gruenwald said that there was a Scourge program, and that once one was defeated, another took his place, it started to get old. An organization like this is interesting. But I think an individual acting alone is much more interesting. The later stories tended to be retreads of the old story. I guess that’s the way it is with comics. If you like it once, they’ll try it again over and over until you don’t like it anymore. They played with the toy until it broke.
Several people took on the identity of Scourge over the years, mostly with the same motive. One notable stand-out was that Red Skull had hired someone to be a Scourge to take out his competition. Unfortunately, we don’t see much of this Scourge’s exploits in this book.
Also unfortunately, in the copy I read, the title on the cover and spine of the graphic novel read “SCOURGE of the underwolrd.” Nice job, Marvel editors. Still, it wasn’t as bad as an X-Men collection I read. There were character bios in the back, and they were completely unedited. There was actually a note from the editor to the writer (Write about this for 3 or 4 lines…) that went to print.
WHAT I LEARNED: If you’ve got a good story, know when to end it. I often retread the same thing over and over again. If it can be done once, why not again? Because it’s boring. That’s why not.