|Avengers Two: Wonder Man & the Beast # 2|| || |
Issue Date: June 2000
Story Title: Nightmares and memories
Staff: Roger Stern (writer), Mark Bagley (penciler), Greg Adams (inker), Sharpefont (lettering), Tom Smith (colorist), Tom Brevoort (editor), Bob Harras (editor in chief)
Simon wakes up at Neal Saroyan’s condo after having a nightmare about Mephisto. He wonders if he’s messing with his head again. He’s also concerned that the dream involved Lotus, who is responsible for much of the trouble in his past life. Neal arrives with some posters, and wants to line Simon up with some work. Simon isn’t interested. He is there on a purpose and that doesn’t include self-promotion. He thinks about his ex-fiancé, Alex Flores, and Neal mentions that she’s remarried. Simon and Hank decide to visit her at the home she shares with her husband, Felix Simon. Their meeting is amicable and they both realize how much they’ve both lost. However, times change and, at this moment, they are being spied upon by Bob O’Bryan, the husband of Diane Cummings, who is reporting his findings to Lotus. Simon excuses himself as he has things to do downtown, so he and Hank head towards the courthouse. En route, they are attacked by Armed Response, but they defeat them with some ease. Later, at the courthouse, Simon tries to hand himself in to the police for two deaths he feels responsible for. The cops are having none of it, and Simon flies off to find somewhere he can think. At his own grave, Hank finds him again and has with him two people who help put Simon on the right track again; assuring him that he isn’t responsible for either of those deaths. Feeling better, Simon joins Hank at a charity function, where he notices Lotus amongst the crowd. As he pumps her for some answers, she takes control of Bob O’Bryan and, in an alleyway nearby, a monster wakes. The twenty-foot stone giant comes crashing through the wall. The Colossus lives again.
(Wonder Man’s dream)
Wonder Man and Beast are back in Hades, with Simon fighting for his soul against Blackheart, whilst Lotus eggs him on. They are surrounded by demons, which Beast fends off, but he’s struggling against superior numbers. Simon hits Blackheart as hard as he can and he shatters like a cheap pane of glass. Mephisto grabs Simon and is about to swallow him, which will kill him once and for all, when Simon wakes with a gasp.
Beast is sat at the kitchen table at Neal Saroyan’s luxury condo, trying to fix his image-inducer. Hank jokes that waking in an agent’s digs can’t be much different from being a guest in Hades. Simon is worried that Mephisto might be messing with his head again. When they were in Hades, he or Blackheart, or both, fed him and his brother, Eric, false memories about the deaths of their parents. Hank points out that his mother is alive. Simon tells him that’s something he couldn’t remember until he was reborn. Hank finds this interesting. He’s no idea why Mephisto would have done such a thing… but he does take great delight in twisting lives. He once made Hank a monster - unless that was an illusion as well.
Simon explains that the most unsettling thing the dream reminded him of was Lotus. She’d claimed to have been working for Mephisto, and had caused too much trouble in his past life. But… Mephisto had her killed right in front of them! Hank doesn’t recall this, and doesn’t remember anything about Lotus. Before the conversation can continue, Neal Saroyan arrives and tells Simon that he knows he wants to keep a low profile, but he’ll change his mind when he sees what he’s put together. From a case, he produces a new poster with Simon’s picture on it, and the caption ‘Wonder Man - Reborn.’ Neal’s lined up the talk shows, the toy deals, T-Shirts and his own Happy Meal. He’s even got him invited to all the A-list events.
Simon rips up the poster and replies, “Absolutely not!” He’s trying to make amends for the wrong he’s done. He doesn’t need more reminders of ‘Hollywood Williams.’ Hank says he shouldn’t be so Spartan. Even Avengers need a little fun, but Simon doesn’t think he was much of an Avenger.
He recalls how he originally betrayed them to the Masters of Evil. “Why anyone let me through the door after that…” Hank reminds him that he was being manipulated by Baron Zemo and the Enchantress. He eventually came to his senses and saved them. He’s made up for that weakness over and over - putting his life on the line against Korvac, Red Ronin and Ultron amongst others. Simon agrees with that, but asks if he learned anything. Hank says that, when he first came to Hollywood, he got caught up in the fast lane, but he always came through when the going got tough.
Hank asks Simon to consider that had he not come to his defense when the Rampage Gang got medieval on his furry hide, he doubts he’d be there to deliver this pep talk. That’s why people are willing to cut him some slack. He’s done a lot of good and saved a lot of lives. The good has always outweighed the grievous.
Simon weighs in by adding that somehow, along the way, he managed to screw up a lot of other people’s lives such as Ginger, Spider Beach and Alex Flores. His mind is cast back to Alex, just before he died. They were engaged to be married. He realizes he should have called her weeks ago, but his rebirth was… complicated. Now, the Scarlet Witch is such an important part of his life. “How do I…?” Neal saves him from having to overly ponder this thought, by mentioning that Alex has remarried. Simon is aghast. He didn’t know this. “Oboy,” remarks Hank.
Wonder Man and Beast pay Alex a visit at her rather impressive home. They are shown to the back, where Alex is with a couple of friends. She’s pleased to see Simon and Hank is more than happy to meet the two friends, who he recognizes as being movie star Diane Cummings and director Felix Simon. He bounds over to them, and tells them he’s followed their careers since Star Lords and thinks Diane is great in the ‘All-New That’s Amazing.’
Alex introduces them to Simon. She explains that she met Felix at the studio, shortly after he… passed. They married a few months later. The two men shake hands, and Felix says Alex has spoken of him often. He’s glad Simon made it back, but thinks that the situation is awkward. After all, when he met Alex, Simon was dead. Alex grabs Simon’s arm and leads him away for a tour of the house.
Hand in hand, Simon asks Alex about Jamie. Alex replies that her daughter’s fine. She’s visiting school friends and will be sorry she missed him. She then changes to the more somber subject of his death. She tells him that, when she heard he had cheated death, she wanted to call, but was afraid of what he might say. She hopes he can forgive her. Simon himself asks for forgiveness. The only reason he didn’t get in touch sooner was… well… he’s found someone else too.
Simon’s face appears in the sights of an ocular device held by Bob O’Bryan. He calls Lotus and informs her that it seems like Wonder Man is socializing with Flores. Lotus asks him to use the directional microphone, and thinks to herself that it’s a shame that her power saps her pawns’ initiative. Bob pulls out the microphone, and picks up Alex and Simon’s conversation.
Simon says he’s glad things turned out well for her and Felix, and asks if she hears much from the rest of the Crazy Eight. Iron Man reported that those he met recently were in good health. Alex replies that they keep in touch. Lahoya and Ginger are out of the country right now, having both landed parts in an action adventure series set in New Zealand. Argus is shooting a PBS documentary on late 20th century super heroes. Aundray is now running his own dance studio - and loving it, whilst Gloria is now Spider’s legal secretary, thanks to a few strings pulled by both she and Neal Saroyan. She knew Simon wanted him taken care of.
Simon is pleased, and reassured. He thought he was a jinx to them. She asks him to stay and have supper with them, but Simon takes a rain check. He still has a mountain of unfinished business to take care of, and there’s an appointment he must keep downtown.
Simon is back in his ionic form, and flying through the city with Beast hanging onto his back. Hank jokes that he really screwed up her life. How will Alex cope? As conversation turns to the weather, they are suddenly aware of incoming assailants. A blast hits Wonder Man square in the chest, as armored flying goons Armed Response attack. There are five of them, all using jetpacks to negotiate the skies. Hank falls to Earth, and thinks this is going to hurt… a lot. Luckily, Simon recovers sufficiently to grab his ankle and he hurls him back towards their foes; a variant on the Fastball Special. He connects like a bowling ball hitting the pins.
One of the goons feels that their improved blasters were supposed to stun him, not make him mad. Simon follows up in anger. When Armed Response first went public, they were touted as a for-hire security force. However, that was just their cover story and, from what Lotus said, Armed Response was always working for her. He suggests to them that they surrender, now, before he gets really angry.
As he punches someone close, one of the team circles behind him and blasts him in the back, hurting Simon. He explains, as he lays on hurt, that a few more seconds of his ion-scrambler and Simon will be toast… burnt toast. Beast has other ideas and he heads straight for the attacker, smashing him unconscious.
Seconds later, Wonder Man and Beast stand victorious as Armed Response lie on the ground, all out for the count. Simon wonders what their game was. They came loaded to take him out. Were they trying to ‘avenge’ Lotus’ death? he wonders. Hank figures they should turn them over to the cops. It’ll be a while before they’re in any condition to give a straight answer. They also still have an appointment to keep at the L.A. Courthouse.
Soon, they are inside and Hank is giving his best Jack Webb impression. Two people enter the room, and introduce themselves as Detective Maria Lopez and Lieutenant David Greer. They’re on special assignment to the District Attorney’s office. Greer says he understands they did the city quite a favor bringing in those goons. Hank says that’s their job - they’re Avengers. His theatrics in introducing themselves embarrasses Simon, and he asks him to stop that. He explains that he’s here to turn himself in.
Greer shakes his hand, and begs his pardon. Simon tells him that he’s responsible for two deaths; those of Brother Thommanom and of Freddie Munson. Maria Lopez says he can’t be serious. He was cleared of both those charges months ago. Thommanom was the murderous monster Angkor, and if Simon hadn’t stopped him, there’s no telling how many more he may have killed. Besides, she adds, he died a victim of his own power. Simon’s lucky he didn’t take him with him. As for Munson, that arrogant street punk was responsible for even more murders that Angkor!
Simon agrees that Freddie was arrogant all right. He was grinning as he fired a bazooka, defying Simon to take it from him. Simon knew that he and his gang had been shooting up whole neighborhoods, and he was so furious. If he’d have hit him, he’d have left a bloody smear. Instead, he struck the pavement all around him again and again, trying to put the fear of God into him. It worked all too well.
Greer knows, as Munson died soon after he was brought in. The coroner’s report showed a pre-existing heart condition, which Simon couldn’t have known about. Simon says he’s still responsible. The lieutenant points out that he was also responsible for saving the whole world from the orbital ion-cannon! Everyone thought it had killed him. Simon replies that it did… but that doesn’t excuse the blood on his hands. Without another word, he flies out the window, informing Hank that he needs somewhere to think.
(twilight - Forest Lawn Cemetery)
Simon visits his own grave, marked by a stone engraved with the words, ‘In Memoriam. Simon Williams. Wonders are many and nothing is more wonderful than man. ’ A flame burns on top of the stone. Simon’s impressed. He had been told that the Avengers left a memorial to him there, but he never expected anything like this. The inscription paraphrases Sophocles… from Antigone as he recalls. He wonders who chose it. Captain America maybe? Hank? Wanda?
He thinks that the inscription makes him sound so noble. How could they have thought so much of him after the mess he’d made of his life? How could they forget the mistakes he himself can never forget? Surprisingly, Hank arrives with a couple of people he feels might help. Wonder Man is shocked that he found him so easily. Hank introduces the man as being Father Phim from Thommanom’s order. Phim tells Simon that he understands that he harbors guilt over his death. He assures Simon that Angkor was a lost soul. His death was brought about more by his own rage than Simon’s. In stopping him, he saved many lives. Simon appreciates the comments, but there is more he must answer for.
The woman Hank brought along then speaks up. She asks him to listen to her. She is the mother of Freddie Munson; Claudia. Simon apologizes immediately. Claudia says she is sorry too. She grieves for the baby she carried and for the man she hoped he’d be… not for what he became. Simon doesn’t know how to respond, but Claudia adds that she loved her son and tried to raise him right, but she was alone. Freddie got too big for her too early. He got messed up with drugs and gangs, and he beat her. He beat his own momma! He killed so many people. Claudia covers her face as the painful memories come flooding back.
She holds Simon’s arms and tells him that Freddie didn’t discriminate. He was so full of hate, lord knows how many people he would have killed if Simon hadn’t stopped him. Simon replies that he was out of control. He should have found another way. Claudia finishes by telling him that the world is full of should’ve’s. He has to live with what he did, just like she has to live with what her Freddie did. She asks him not to stop what he’s doing on account of her son.
(twenty-four hours later - Maria Stark Pavilion)
The crowds have turned out to see the stars. Winona Ryder and Chris Rock are amongst the guests. Reporter Mac Sanders is telling his viewers that Diane Cummins is inside, mingling with the rest of Hollywood’s glitterati at this gala event to benefit literacy volunteers nationwide. Wonder Man and Beast make their entrance, and Mac asks Simon for a moment of his time. He tells him it’s good to have him back in town, but asks if his refusal to rejoin the Avengers means that he agrees with the recent protests. Does he agree that the Avengers have gone out of their way to exclude minorities?
Simon can’t believe this line of questioning. He tells Mac he can say what he like about him, but the Avengers have done more for the world than anybody! Hank cuts in and agrees, asking what other group has claimed amongst its members both a Wasp and a Black Panther? Not to mention action-adventure longhairs such as he.
They enter the party, with Simon thinking that confrontation could have gone better. Cindy Knutz recognizes Simon straight away and tells the guy she’s with that Simon’s still so… handsome. Diane Cummins calls them over and she introduces them to her husband, Bob O’Bryan. Simon knows Bob as they worked together on Return of the Living Colossus.
Hank gets starry-eyed again, informing Bob that he created the FX on some of his favorite movies. “Y-You know my work,” he asks, surprised. Hank quotes from The Hands of Hundu, as Simon looks around and notices who he believes to be Lotus. Diane tells him it is her. She’s some sort of independent producer, and she asks if he’s met her. “I saw her dead in Hades!” he replies.
Simon storms over to her and asks what in the name of Mephisto she’s doing there. Lotus asks him to take his hands off her and Hank grabs Simon’s collar, asking what he’s doing. Simon replies that he’s quizzing their ‘old friend;’ the one behind Armed Response and just about everyone else who made his life hell. “Lotus!” exclaims Hank, “You said she was dead!” So was I, replies Simon.
Lotus can’t believe he’s somehow learned her true identity. As Simon pumps her for answers, she activates a hypnotic suggestion in Bob O’Bryan’s mind, and he immediately switches into a trance-like state.
In an alleyway behind the pavilion, a heavy-duty truck suddenly shudders, and then explodes as two massive arms form behind it. The rest of the body follows, and the creature stands. “I hear… and obey!”
Inside the party, Hank wonders what the rumble was. An earthquake? Wonder Man asks Lotus if this is some trick of hers, and she tells him he’ll find out. Suddenly, two enormous fists smash through the wall, and the guests begin to panic. “It can’t be,” says Hank. Simon doesn’t believe it, but Lotus says he will ignore the evidence before him at his own peril. Standing before them is a twenty-foot stone giant. “The Colossus lives again!!”
Elaine Bosco and fellow reporters
Lieutenant David Greer
Mac Sanders and cameraman
Party guests and waiting staff
Diane and Bob O’Bryan
It, the Living Colossus
Argus, Aundray, Gloria, Lahoya, Spider
Angkor and Freddie Munson
Wonder Man and his brother were fed false memories about the deaths of his parents by Mephisto in Wonder Man #25. He saved Hank and defeated the Rampage Gang in Wonder Man #5 - 6.
Mephisto turned Hank into a monster in Mephisto vs. X-Factor #2.
Iron Man met Crazy Eight in Iron Man Annual ’99. The New Zealand adventure might possibly refer to Xena, the Warrior Princess, which was still being made when this issue came out, or Hercules, which finished in 1999.
Armed Response first went public in Wonder Man #17.
Jack Webb played Sgt. Joe Friday in the television show Dragnet, and the speech Hank gives in this issue is a take on the show’s opening monologue.
Thommanom died in Wonder Man #12.
Wonder Man fought with Freddie Munson in Wonder Man #16. He saved the world from the Kree Ion-Cannon in Force Works #1.
Hank’s comment about the Avengers having both a Wasp and a Black Panther is a clever reference not only to their teammates, but to WASP being an acronym for White Anglo Saxon Protestants, contrasting with the Black Panthers which was a radical black political movement, prominent in the 1960’s.
It, the Living Colossus first appeared in Tales of Suspense (1st series) #14.
Issue Summary written by: Fantomex