Loners #2

Issue Date: 
July 2007
Story Title: 
Reflex Actions

C.B. Cebulski (writer), Karl Moline (artist), Christina Strain (colorist), VC's Rus Wooton (letterer), Jason Pearson (cover artist), Molly Lazer (assistant editor), Bill Rosemann (editor), Tom Brevoort (executive editor), Joe Quesada (editor in chief), Dan Buckley (publisher)

Brief Description: 

Johnny Gallo is feeling low, thinking about how much his life has changed since he used to hang with Eddie in the Slingers. He goes to the pub with Chris and Mattie, and mentions that he wants to inform the others about their battle with Nekra. He also feels that they should follow up their investigations, but Chris feels that it might be a trap. They later attend an Excelsior meeting at the old church, and Johnny takes his turn to speak. He explains how he lost Eddie and blames himself in some way for his death at the hands of Wolverine. He wants them to stop hiding their powers and put the costumes back on. Once he leaves, he decides to visit the MGH operation by himself, after failing to get Mattie or Chris to join him. Once there, he kinda knows it's a trap, but enters regardless. There, he discovers the powerful Delilah who seems to think he's still the old Ricochet. They fight, and Johnny uses his wits to get the better of her. Once the fight is over, he hears a noise and comes face to face with Hollow!

Full Summary: 

Los Angeles, California:

Johnny Gallo (Ricochet) recounts what happened previously in an email to a dead friend (a former member of the Slingers, Eddie). For most of the email, he mentions how he, Spider-Woman and Darkhawk fought Nekra and a couple of MGH dealers, and how the three of them are hiding the fact that they used their powers from the rest of Excelsior. He feels guilty for lying to the group. He mentions that writing letters to a dead friend may be therapeutic, but it doesn't give him the advice he needs. Johnny ends the e-mail by saying he misses him.
Los Angeles, California – night:

Johnny is in his apartment - images of Los Angeles, the City of Angels fly through his mind. Southland, Hollywood, the Hills. Forget dreams, Los Angeles is the city of fantasy. It's not about "What's Now!" It's about "What's Next?" Johnny feels LA is the place where people come to live the lives of their idols: "The Young and the Senseless". LA is a culture that breeds a certain mentality ... it's about discovering what's hot and finding it faster than anyone else. It's a way of life even reflected in the names of the movies they make: Heat. Speed. Boiling Point. And for someone like Johnny Gallo, a young, single guy who's all about being one step ahead of the game ... it's perfect. Slamming down upon his Guitar Hero guitar, Johnny roars "Thank you, Los Angeles!!" Fast and furious - that's how he rolls!
Or at least ... that's how he used to roll.
Johnny's apartment, later:

Johnny, in his shirt and underwear, stands around his bare apartment and sighs, slowly lowering the guitar. Nowadays, things are a little different for him. Johnny is a mutant, who has decided not to use his powers anymore. He's got superhuman agility with amazing reflexes, and a handy-dandy "danger sense" that's suppose to warn him of ... danger.
He picks up a flat, gold disc inscribed with an "R" - one of his Ricochet discs. He picks up his Ricochet costume, but slowly lowers it, after remembering how he was a teenage superhero, and how he and Excelsior had abandoned their powers after realizing how much problems came with their powers. While surfing the internet, he clicks upon a news story online - about Nekra. Apparently, Nekra was transferred to S.H.I.E.L.D. custody. Authorities are still searching for the heroes who stopped her. Johnny reads on, all the while thinking of what type of help he could be doing, if only he hadn't abandoned his power. He thinks about how they justify their actions by telling themselves that they sometimes need to put the costumes back on for the Greater Good. But, bitterly, he realizes the truth: sometimes, their inner demons get the better of them. Sometimes, their powers become an addiction. That's why they attend the meetings, and say what they think they want to hear ... just to make it easier to look at themselves in the mirror when the masks come off. He looks at the back of the Ricochet disk, and sees his solemn reflection staring back. He decides to attend these meetings, for the right reasons...
Molly's Irish Pub - the next morning:

Johnny sits with Mattie (Spider-Woman) and Chris (Darkhawk). Chris asks him what's so important that can't wait until after the meeting. Before Johnny answers, Mattie points out Johnny has a crush on the cute redhead owner of the pub. Chris laughs at this, although Johnny remains solemn. Johnny tells the other two he plans to tell the rest of Excelsior about how he, Mattie and Chris stopped Nekra. Predictably, the other two are outraged, though Johnny feels he wants to bring them into the loop. Chris, however, says they did promise Mattie they'd give her time to dig deeper into the MGH operations. Johnny counteracts by saying they shouldn't wait; they have information, and they should act upon it. Mattie, however points out it is criminal information.
Johnny becomes agitated, and explains that since the three of them stopped Nekra and the MGH operations, they're probably closing up their operations to relocate. Johnny wonders if what they read in their lab was true; not only are they paying top dollar to donors for DNA to make this drug, but they may also be holding others hostage and taking it by force. Chris feels the whole operation may be a trap to lure heroes in, but Mattie begs Johnny not to tell - she wants him to lay off for a couple more days while she researches ways to stop the dealers. Johnny finally gives in, and sarcastically apologizes - he says he mistook her for someone who cared. Rolling his eyes at her, he remarks sardonically that she even had him fooled with that MGH 'sob story' of hers.
Mattie snaps. Holding Johnny angrily by his shirt, she growls about how he wakes up feeling self-righteous and how he feels he has the right to judge her. While Chris holds Mattie back from a shocked Johnny, she continues with her tirade, saying that Johnny isn't fooling anyone. She knows exactly what this is all about. She says she knows the only reason Johnny really wants to tell the group about how they stopped big, bad Nekra is because he thinks Julie will be impressed enough to jump into bed with him. Backing off, she tells Johnny if he wants to really tell the group, fine; but at least when he does it, he does it because he believes in it - not because he's looking for a little action. She then storms out the pub. Chris gives Johnny an odd look, and asks if what Mattie said was actually true. Johnny doesn't answer the question, but asks Chris about what he thinks. Chris suggests they continue to keep the secret to themselves, and give Mattie the time she needs. But, even after Chris leaves, Johnny stares at his reflection in the Ricochet disc, wondering if it's really a good deed.
The Holy Trinity Church - later that evening:

Excelsior sit around in a circle, silently. Chris, Mattie and Johnny are awkwardly staring off in different directions. Phil (Green Goblin) notices, and remarks about how "talkative" they are. Standing up, Phil decides to talk about Nekra and the 'mystery heroes' that stopped her. Chris, Mattie and Johnny's heads snap up, immediately thinking that Phil has figured it out, but it turns out he hasn't. Given the situation in New York for the past few months (the Civil War) it makes sense that heroes and villains have moved to Los Angeles. While this is also a concern, it can be an opportunity as well - not only is this an opportunity to test Excelsior's main mission, but to also help other young heroes join them in putting their powered pasts behind them. They've accepted a pledge and made a promise that helped their transition into a more normal life. Phil ponders about how there may be others who want to get out of the superhero game, and start afresh. That's why he wants them to join their "family". Phil then turns to Johnny and reminds him that this week, it's his turn to talk about his past. Johnny gets up, and re-introduces himself. Instead of talking about his past, he wants to talk about something along the lines of what Phil said. Johnny says he has a confession to make; Mattie and Chris are tense, hoping that Johnny won't expose them.
Johnny reveals that he hates his life. He apologizes for saying it, but he feels that he doesn't think he's cut out for a so-called 'normal life.' He thought that was what he wanted, but now he's not sure. Does hiding who he is make himself a better person? Johnny slowly informs the group that he never told them the real reason why he came out to LA.

Sighing, he reveals that back in New York he got a friend of his killed. Memories immediately start running through his mind. Back when he used to run with the Slingers, his best friend was Eddie McDonough, who went by the name Hornet. He was the one who made him his throwing Ricochet discs. Even after the Slingers broke up, Eddie and Johnny still used to hang out, in and out of costume. As time went on though, both started to put their masks on for different reasons. Eddie loved being a hero. He felt it was their responsibility to continue in the work they started as the Slingers. Fighting crime, taking down bad guys, protecting the innocent ... Eddie was Hornet for the right reasons. Johnny, on the other hand, would fight crime and feel good knocking out a thug's teeth ... to save the damsel in distress. He loved the spotlight; his name on the news, the fame, and other benefits (him sleeping with the girls he saved). But after he started to lose some of the fame, he felt there was no point in putting the costume back on.
Eddie had done his best to try and motivate Johnny into going back into saving lives - Hornet and Ricochet, slinging again. He never took him up on the offer. Then one night, Eddie called Johnny and practically begged him for his help. He'd gotten wind of something big that would put both of them back on the map. Johnny, however, laughed and told him they'd be better off burning the map. He wished him luck and hung up, not knowing that would be the last thing he ever said to him. Eddie died a few hours later. He got killed going up against a threat he knew he couldn't handle (Wolverine)... but that was Eddie. He lived to protect the innocent. He died because Johnny turned his back on him.

Johnny lifts the Ricochet throwing disc Eddie had given him, and whispers his apology. The rest of Excelsior stare at the floor in silence. Johnny tells them he wanted to get away from the guilt and start fresh, and put his past behind him. When he hooked up with Excelsior, he couldn't believe his luck - he found other people whose lives were screwed up by their powers just as much as his was. And when they did put their costumes on (when Excelsior stopped Ultron) he felt happy. He thought he was doing Eddie proud. Johnny reveals that he loathes the fact they are hiding in a basement, denying who they are - he feels it is their responsibility to make the world a better place. Angry, he storms out the room. Although Mickey (Turbo) wants to stop him, Julie (Lightspeed) prevents her, reminding her that she jumped of a roof last week. Sometimes, you've got to fall a little on your own before you can pick yourself back up.
Johnny's apartment - later that night:

Johnny sits in his dark apartment, morose. He stares around the room, where his Ricochet discs and outfits are lying upon the ground. Looking at the computer screen, he remembers about Nekra and the MGH dealer's operation. Finally, he makes his decision. Donning the outfit, he decides to go and stop them. He decides he does need some help, so he calls Mattie who rejects his call because she is still annoyed with him. He calls Chris, who also rejects the call because he is on a date ... with Mickey. As Chris picks up Mickey from her home, she asks if he's heard from Johnny. Chris looks down at the call he just rejected, and says he hasn't heard from him. He feels Johnny needs some time to himself.
Elsewhere, however, Ricochet stands outside the MGH dealer's new base of operations and realizes he's alone. Bitterly, he realizes this is how Hornet felt when he rejected him. Sneaking into the grounds, he secretly gloats about how Chris was wrong about it being a trap. But upon sneaking into the silent lab, he feels Chris may have been right. Johnny walks around the lab, and notices experimental pods all lined up with unconscious women in the water. Horrified, he stares as a pod with a scratches on it, but someone from behind him calls "I knew you'd come ... partner!"
Ricochet turns around and sees a woman carrying swords. The enraged lady attacks Ricochet in revenge, but a confused Ricochet attempts to defend himself. He tells her she must have mistaken him for someone else, but she reveals she came to LA after hearing he lived here. Ricochet finally gets it; she is Delilah, the crazy assassin that teamed up with ... the first Ricochet. He tells her he is the second Ricochet to wear this costume, a new an improved one - like Ricochet 2: Electric Boogaloo.
Delilah doesn't believe him, and Ricochet knows she only hears what she wants to hear. Taking out a Ricochet disc, he realizes that being a super hero is a lot like living in LA - it's not about "What's Now!", but about "What's Next?" It's about anticipating your opponent's moves before they even make them, and that's how your always one step ahead of the game. Ricochet throws the disc, and it crashes through the pod with the scratches. Delilah, confused, doesn't notice Ricochet behind her - he promptly knocks her out. At the same time, stepping out of the crashed experimental pod is the frightening mutant formerly known as Penance, of Generation X, now known as Hollow. Hollow flexes her long claws, glaring at Ricochet. Shocked, Ricochet steps back and realizes that their way of life can be reflected in the names of certain movies as well. Like Psycho. In Cold Blood. And even Death Wish.

Characters Involved: 

Darkhawk, Green Goblin, Lightspeed, Ricochet, Spider-Woman III, Turbo (all Excelsior)
Security guards, cameramen, celebrities and crowd
Hollow and other captives
in paper


S.H.I.E.L.D. agents
in flashback

Hornet, Ricochet (both Slingers)


Rocket Racer

Damsel in distress and her assailant
on television, in flashback

Iron Fist and Moon Knight
on printouts

Dusk, Hornet, Prodigy (all Slingers)

Story Notes: 

This cover parodies Ferris Bueller's Day Off, with Ricochet taking over from Matthew Broderick.
Southland is a term used for the five counties (Orange, San Bernardino, Los Angeles, Ventura and Riverside) in the Greater Los Angeles area. Hollywood is the most famous area of Los Angeles, known primarily for the movie industry. The Hills is Beverly Hills, traditional home to the stars.
The Young and the Senseless appears to be a play on the television show, The Young and the Restless, a long-running American television series.
There doesn't appear to be a Molly's Irish Pub in Los Angeles, but there is a Molly Malone's at 575 South Fairfax Avenue.
A brainwashed Wolverine killed Hornet in Wolverine (3rd series) #23, part of the Enemy of the State storyline.
The first man to don the Ricochet outfit was Peter Parker.
Guitar Hero is a video game produced by RedOctane, first released in 2005.
Delilah and Ricochet (Spider-Man) met in Amazing Spider-Man (1st series) #434, and after a brief battle, joined forces against the Black Tarantula.
Ultron was ultimately defeated by Darkhawk in Runaways (2nd series) #6.
Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo (1984) featured Ice T and Martika.
Hollow was formerly known as Penance, until Speedball took the name for himself following the Stamford disaster.
At the time of writing this synopsis, Hollow's identity has not yet been revealed.
Heat is a 1995 Michael Mann movie starring Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro, and also featured the Dark Knight's William Fichtner. Speed (1994) starred Constantine star Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock. Boiling Point was a 1993 movie featuring future Blade star, Wesley Snipes and Dennis Hopper, as well as Superman's Valerie Perrine.
Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960) starred Anthony Perkins and Janet Leigh. In Cold Blood (1967) starred Robert Blake and is based on a novel by Truman Capote while Death Wish is a 1974 Michael Winner-directed vigilante thriller starring Charles Bronson.
According to the Comicvine website, the color scheme (purple-pink skin and pink eyes) that Hollow had prior to The Loners #4, when she was back to her classic red hair/blue eyes combination, has been explained by C.B. Cebulski. "It actually had to do with her captivity in the Fujikawa lab. The liquid they preserved poor Hollow in the tube altered her skin color and once she was freed, her skin slowly gained back its natural color." Hollow's bandages may have been discolored by the fluid as well, turning from black to gray."

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