Wonder Man #16-18
Issue(s): Wonder Man #16, Wonder Man #17, Wonder Man #18
With one exception, the gang is very violent.
Since Wonder Man is still jetpack-less, i'll note that Lotus has supplied both the gangs and Armed Response with jetpacks.
Lady Lotus also turns out to have been behind the attacks by Goliath and Gamma-Burn in this series, and she's now got Rampage working for her in addition to Splice (who already was).
We're shown that Lotus uses sex to manipulate people into working for her. To convince one Hollywood producer to fund Armed Response, she sleeps with him (and then has him killed after he writes the check) and she has all the gang members thinking that she's attracted to them. She explains to her assistant Andrew that sex is meaningless to her and just a tool. Andrew himself has has some "traumas" in his life that makes him uninterested in sex.
Despite all this focus on Lotus, she really just provides the backdrop for this story. For one thing, in kind of an interesting twist, we've seen for a while now that Lotus is convinced that Wonder Man is on to her, because he keeps showing up in the wrong places. But the truth is that he's completely unaware of her. More importantly, though, this arc is all about Wonder Man going over the edge. We've seen since Operation: Galactic Storm that he's been having doubts and is basically suffering from depression, and, worse, needs to get enraged in order for his powers to work. His behavior frightens Alex Flores, who calls the West Coast Avengers to check up on him. Wonder Man is also told about the fact that his ionic discharge a few issues back has caused all of his friends to develop strange abilities...
...but instead of actually doing anything about that, Wonder Man just adds that to the list of his failures.
The Avengers arrive as Wonder Man is brutally beating one of the gang members.
The Avengers quite reasonably wonder if Wonder Man might really be his Infinity War doppelganger...
...but he convinces them that's not the case by relaying events from Infinity War after the doppelgangers were defeated. USAgent then reminds everyone that Wonder Man's brother is the Grim Reaper.
As Wonder Man jumps off, Jamie Flores, in her new dream state, witnesses one of the Armed Response troops executing the gang member that wasn't sufficiently violent enough. When she returns to her body to tell her mom about it, her mom doesn't want to hear about it, due to a headache because of her own new powers.
Meanwhile, Wonder Man's agent Neal calls Spider, Wonder Man's "sidekick" and tells him to get out into the action for publicity's sake.
Wonder Man has noticed that the gang members' jetpacks look similar to Rampage's, so he's trying to beat information out of them. I don't know how this guy isn't dead.
The Avengers have been following Wonder Man, and attack him after that.
Of course, Wonder Man is on a whole different level of power than the rest of them.
I don't know exactly why water affects Living Lightning this way. I could see it dispersing him or causing him to get conducted along its stream. But it just seems to hurt him.
The fight is temporarily diffused by now in a silly way, because of the arrival of Spider, who also demonstrates powers.
But when Scarlet Witch tries to talk to Wonder Man to find out what's going on with him, he gets insanely violent again.
Wonder Man's talk of "action" is based on a muddle of things that are happening in his head. He's criticizing the Avengers for believing that violence can solve anything while they keep up the facade of believing that they're good guys in control of themselves.
He knows that he's not in control.
He actually sounds a lot like the way Brian Michael Bendis will use Wonder Man during his tenure on the Avengers. When i read Bendis' Wonder Man in realtime, i felt like it came out of nowhere, but this is very similar. The difference is that Wonder Man isn't going to try to stop the Avengers here; he's just quitting.
The Avengers decide that they can't help him right now, and i guess they know they can't stop him, so they let him go.
Later, the ion-affected characters start to get together.
Jamie tells Spider that she saw evidence that the gangs and Armed Response are working together. They decide to tell Wonder Man, but first they want to pick super-hero names for themselves. Jamie picks Dreamer. Spider calls his agent, Neal, who suggests the name "Stat" (from photostat, an antiquated but non-brand name version of Xerox). Wonder Man happens to show up at Neal's office while Neal's on the phone with Spider, because Wonder Man is quitting acting, too.
Among other things, Wonder Man is upset about his very minor part in the Captain America and the Avengers video game (i can't find a clip of that online, but at least Wonder Man wasn't the one saying the notorious, "You will be the one escaping!").
Neal offers Wonder Man a role playing Macbeth. In his current state i expected him to not be interested in even that, but it does cause Wonder Man to hesitate, and then we cut away before we see his response. We later find out that he's "thinking about it", but we also learn that the gig has been arranged by Lotus.
Meanwhile, Armed Response continues to mow down criminals, causing a controversy in the media. And Wonder Man's ionically-affected friends and neighbors continue to get together, with all of them except Alex excited about becoming super-heroes. Wonder Man shows up at the end, but only to dump his costume and say goodbye.
There are moments in this arc that still have the lighthearted humor of earlier issues...
...but the tone for the most part has drastically shifted to something much darker. The "Crazy Eight" characters (as they'll be called starting next issue) don't so much help balance the darkness as cause the book to have weird tonal shifts. Wonder Man is brutally beating people one minute, and goofy Spider is playing air guitar the next. I wasn't too convinced about a Wonder Man solo series to start, but Gerard Jones and Jeff Johnson initially at least carved out a unique space for the book. The dark moody depression we're getting from Wonder Man is less unique, and it feels like it's going on too long (although it may have been artificially extended by Infinity War).
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: This takes place between Avengers West Coast #91-92. Darkhold #2-7 also takes place during those issues, and since i'm splitting those up into two entries, the Wonder Man issues shouldn't take place in between. Wonder Man quits at the end of this arc, so he shouldn't have any generic appearances after this (and when he returns he has a new costume).
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (7): show
Thank you, Wonder Man!
I played a lot of the arcade game at a local Pizza Hut in the '90s. Funny that the comics referenced it, even if Simon's line was actually the inspiring, "Hey, get on!"
At least he had a bigger role than Namor, who just got to point at the water. I bet Oracle's licensing department got fired over that.
Posted by: Mortificator | May 11, 2016 5:24 PM
The guy Simon was beating when the Avengers arrived is later confirmed to have died.
Posted by: Michael | May 11, 2016 8:25 PM
This looks horrible. Unpleasantly violent one moment, cringe-worthy attempts at humor the next. You know how Deadpool manages to combine darkness and humor? This is the kind of comic that makes me appreciate a well written Deadpool comic all the more, proving how bad it could get if you don't strike that exact balance.
Posted by: Berend | May 12, 2016 3:51 AM
This doesn't seem like the right direction to go. This seems like false character drama in lieu of knowing how to build up a good rogue's gallery and interesting plots.
Wonder Man is supposed to be one of the more powerful beings on Earth in the Marvel Universe. That makes it hard to find existing or create new villains that are in his league, but which aren't really Avengers villains. Wonder Man's powers are also fairly basic - he's strong and invulnerable and with a jetpack he can fly. So he's really limited into defeating things he can hit. At the same time, he is fairly smart - although no genius - and was once a businessman so he does have more options than the Hulk would.
The main thing the series need to do is figure out what kind of villains it would be good for Wonder Man to fight, and then figure out the motivations or methods to get Simon to fight them. But this isn't being done.
Gerard Jones is showing some good craft and potential, but he doesn't seem to know what to do in establishing a brand new series. The things he does don't seem to work.
Posted by: Chris | May 13, 2016 2:20 AM
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