Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Zodiac - Who Remembers Scorpio?

When Scorpio shows up in the pages of the Defenders it's almost a legit question as to whether anyone remembers him. This Scorpio is Jake Fury, who has been thought dead since Avengers #72 when the Zodiac itself debuted.

The Defenders are at a transition when Scorpio shows up, Doctor Strange has temporarily quit the non-team and remaining members Nighthawk, Valkyrie and newbie Hellcat are joined by Moon Knight to form the basis of the Defenders through the multi-part Scorpio saga in Defenders #46-50. The story was written by David Anthony Kraft and Roger Slifer with a fill-in issue written by David Warner. The artwork in these issues is what makes them memorable in that we see a fledgling Keith Giffen in full-blown Kirby-copy mode with some potent inks by Dan Green among others.

The story ambles but essentially Jake (Scorpio) Fury seems to be suffering from depression and has been hiding out for many years since his seeming death at the hands of his brother at the end of Nick Fury Agent of SHIELD #5. We learn that Jake was in fact the second Scorpio taking over after the first was killed in the debut SHIELD issue. While he's been hiding out in a very high-tech lair he's been using LMD technology to create a doppleganger of his brother as well as a complete set of Life Model Decoy Zodiac members for his own use. The Zodiac Key inexplicably and  literally falls out of the sky and eventually into his hands and he makes good use of this most powerful weapon.

The Defenders are drawn into the affair properly when they are simultaneously made aware that Jack Norris (the estranged husband of Valkyrie) has been kidnapped by Scorpio and are alerted by Moon Knight who has battled Scorpio and nearly been killed at his hands.

Moon Knight gathers up the ragtag team who trick the bellicose Hulk into chasing them to Scorpio's lair. The find Nighthawk trussed up having been captured when he went to save Norris.

In a ferocious fiftieth-issue fist-fight the hastily assembled Defenders battle two-thirds of the revived LMD Zodiac (three of didn't survive the activation and Libra doesn't feel like fighting).

The fight is kinetic and occupies most all the issue but in the end the Defenders are victorious when Scorpio uses a gun to seemingly end his own life. The LMD-Zodiac are trundled off to the care of SHIELD who show up at the end to clean up and Nick Fury is informed his brother is now well and truly dead, something he'd assumed was the case for a few years.

It's a hectic adventure with Scorpio's quixotic personality being the most interesting part. The writing seems a bit too self-aware at times as folks who followed Steve Gerber always seemed in this book to want to somewhat imitate his commentary style.  The LMD-Zodiac are distinctive Giffen creations but their advent marks a real downslide for the Zodiac cartel as real villains in the Marvel Universe. Going forward writers and artists will confuse the LMD group with the originals and it all becomes a bit of a mess, undermining the potential of a great gang of baddies.

And that wraps up our look at the Zodiac cartel. After this it all gets so confusing I cannot tell them apart anymore, and often don't care to try.

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  1. As a writer I always enjoyed Dave The Dude Kraft. He could get a little overly wordy & convoluted at times in Defenders but his concepts were usually pretty original. Specifically, thought he really peaked with some of the crazy stuff that went down in the Man-Wolf series in Creatures On The Loose….Learned much from your Zodiac columns Rip. They were a joy to read. I had no idea their evil machinations stretched over quite so many books in the Marvel line.

    1. Nor did I. I learned I'd missed a few stories along the way and forgotten about a few others and was happy they were in some Essential volumes I happened to own.

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