Thursday, September 1, 2016

The Clothes Made The Man

It's been a long road of frustration and disappointment for Alexander Gentry, the super-villain known as the Porcupine--and no one knows that better than himself, having designed a weapons suit that he maintains is one of the deadliest ever created and yet handed one defeat after another in his search for fame and riches. Finally, he decided to improve on the suit's look and weapons and attempt to sell it to the Secret Empire so that it could be mass produced for that organization's operatives; but the Empire first demanded proof of the suit's capabilities in combat, which Gentry agreed to provide by promising to defeat the ultimate soldier, Captain America.

That attack failed. And after more fruitless attempts to market his suit to criminal organizations, we now find Gentry taking stock of his misspent life.

As written here by Mark Gruenwald, the Alex Gentry that we see in this story is a far cry from the villain who pursued his life of crime with ambition and bitterness and was willing to ruthlessly destroy his enemies in his climb to the top. Whatever setbacks he experienced always made him even more bitter, more determined; so even though he's now hit rock bottom, the fact that he's become so despondent and lost much of the resentfulness and rancor that characterized his drive as a criminal seems more like his writers giving up on him, though that would be understandable. No matter what Gentry may have thought, "the Porcupine" was probably never going to be seriously regarded in criminal circles, especially since his bravado when going up against a foe has never translated to a notch in the Win column.

And so we find Gentry at the end of his rope, assessing his future in a run-down hotel room and realizing that he's now run out of options.

(Good lord--you know you've hit bottom when even the Tinkerer deems your suit un-tinkerable.)

Grasping at straws, Gentry decides to approach another source for selling his suit, made all the more easy by his decision to abandon his criminal life. Even more of a surprise is the man he approaches to hear him out. Luckily for Gentry, he has recent connections to a criminal group which this particular crimefighter has an interest in bringing to justice.

Cap has had prior dealings with the Serpent Society, most recently since they killed M.O.D.O.K. and then stole his body and delivered it to A.I.M. Gentry is lying to Cap when he says he never saw the Society's members in person, since he bumped into them at A.I.M.'s regional headquarters while trying to sell the organization his weapons suit. (And honestly, chances are the Society doesn't just leave their business card lying around for anyone to find.) Yet Gentry seems sincere about helping Cap--and perhaps he simply doesn't want to become any more involved in Cap's hunt for them beyond providing information.

Unfortunately, Cap needs Gentry's participation in his plan to nail the Society--which involves having Gentry call their number and inform them that he's captured Cap and doesn't have the nerve to finish him off. And for the sake of authenticity, Gentry also has to do the one thing that he'd resolved to avoid:  donning his Porcupine suit one last time.

Soon, the trap is sprung--and the members of the Society that have come in response to Gentry's call discover that their easy kill has other ideas for how this meeting will end.

While Cap battles his foes, Gentry flees the scene, with the member known as Diamondback pursuing him in the (correct) belief that he set up the whole thing. And while the last thing that Gentry wanted to do is engage in another fight, Diamondback sufficiently riles him so that he turns to take her on.

The fight takes place off-panel, as the bulk of the story pivots to Cap in battle with the three remaining Society members on the scene. It's only after he's dealt with them that he gets a chance to discover what happened to the Porcupine--and he soon comes upon a tragic scene, made all the more lamentable by Gentry's final accounting of his life.

It's not clear how Cap intends to make good on his promise to Gentry; a memorial, however well-intentioned, would perhaps be a bit much. Yet the solution Cap chooses is likely something Gentry would have appreciated, since it not only serves to pay tribute to the man, but more importantly to the suit he so highly regarded with pride--now displayed in esteem and respect by those in a position to substantiate its worth.

The business card of the Serpent Society. (Check out that phone number!)


George Chambers said...

When I read this run, I thought that Cap's later relationship with Diamondback was doomed from the start, since she killed Gentry and never faced any kind of reckoning for it. (I know - Gentry fell on his own weapon, but the fact remains that Diamondback started that fight and ran off rather than do anything to help Gentry after he fell, so that's manslaughter at least.)

Poor Alex Gentry. Sure, he was a goofy villain, but nobody deserves to die believing himself a total failure.

Anonymous said...

Deaths in comics can be very poignant - if only they'd stay dead.

Anonymous said...

There was a quiet, private ceremony, attended by Plantman, Unicorn, Scarecrow, and the Eel. Nefaria sent flowers and a card.
Drinks were consumed later and "Danny Boy" was sung.