‘Violence. Our super hero stock-in-trade. Our curse. Our joy. Our reason-to-be. It’ll kill us. Every one of us. Someday. But along the way the violence tests us. Strengthens us. Twists us. Keeps us going. And sometimes…like for me…right here, right now…the violence tells us who we are’ Simon Williams a.k.a. Wonder Man thinks to himself, as he and several other heroes materialize through a portal, only to find themselves confronted by dark, malicious doppelgangers. ‘This is why they call me Wonder Man. A human body replaced by a furnace of ionic power. Power enough to rip through an army of alien duplicates of the heaviest hitters on Earth’ Simon tells himself, as he, Wolverine, Cyclops, Storm, Havok, Strong Guy, Sasquatch and Nova face the duplicates. Nova encounters his own doppelganger, while Wonder Man punches the Colossus doppelganger.
Wolverine lashes out at a doppelganger of Captain America, while Wonder Man recalls that, lately, he has been an even bigger wonder, as his ions destabilized, like a magnetic field, they swing from negative to positive, when they’re negative, he is nothing. He is weak, a victim. But when they’re positive, nobody beats him. He is confronted by the Hulk doppelganger, and as Polaris hovers nearby, Wonder Man punches the doppelganger only twice, because, when his powers are high, even a double of the Hulk goes down in two punches. ‘How do I keep them high?’ VIOLENCE!’ Wonder Man tells himself as he returns to the battle, where Iceman, Rogue and Drax are under attack from doppelgangers of the Thing, Sasquatch and Hercules.
‘Giving in to it. Tasting it. Loving it’ Wonder Man tells himself as he attacks a doppelganger of the android Vision. ‘Like the sweet, sour bite of tearing into a phony Vision…ripping into the image of the android “brother” whose life has haunted me, taunted me…that keeps me high’ Simon realizes. Suddenly, ‘Watch your back, Williams!’ Wolverine calls out to Wonder Man as the Hercules doppelganger launches an attach. ‘Watch your own back, Wolverine!’ Simon snaps as he spins around and smacks the doppelganger in the face. ‘I’ll fight my own fights!’ he tells Wolverine, while wondering to himself what fight, as Thanos and the Magus carry on their cosmic chess-game, a game above the heads and beyond the minds of the heroes. The doppelganger of the Human Torch punches Drax, while Wonder Man recalls Thanos’s latest move, tricking the heroes into attacking the Magus, and into battling his army of doppelgangers. ‘And for what? For whose good?’ Simon wonders.
Archangel flies overhead, as Havok kicks the Wolverine doppelganger in the head. Wonder Man punches the Strong Guy doppelganger in the face, while Hercules is attacked by the doppelganger of Guardian. ‘Who cares? Surely no “living engine of destruction” cares. And isn’t that what Baron Zemo made me? Isn’t that all I am?’ Wonder Man asks himself. ‘Destruction?’ he thinks, as he drops down above the Guardian doppelganger and smacks her in the face, rescuing Hercules, who tells his friend that he strikes with a strange, hateful glee. ‘Dost thine rage possess thee again?’ Hercules enquires. Wonder Man assures Hercules that he is in possession of his rage. ‘I possess nothing…but my rage’ he adds, turning once again to the Colossus doppelganger, Simon silently bids Baron Zemo congratulations. ‘You tried to steal my humanity, make me an ionic weapon with no purpose but violence. For years I fought you. Fought to keep my powers stable. Fought to be a hero. To be a man’.
As Wonder Man slams his fist into the Colossus doppelganger’s face, he wonders where that man is now. He kicks back, slamming his foot into the Hercules doppelganger, and wonders if that man is lost in the powers that need violence to survive? ‘Lost in a hate that strikes out at anything…anybody…even a friend?’ Wonder Man is still fighting with the Colossus doppelganger as the Thing appears nearby, fighting a Cyclops doppelganger. The Hulk lifts the Strong Guy doppelganger into the air, as Wonder Man spins around and sees the Thing. ‘What -?’ the Thing begins. ‘Are you -?’ Wonder Man asks, confused, as not all the doubles are obvious - some will make you look twice to tell friend from enemy. Simon Williams the man would hesitate, would ask to know if this was the real Thing. Balanced for an instant between man and weapon, this looks like the real Thing, not the double. But this Wonder Man…? He punches the Thing hard, knocking him backwards.
‘Williams! What in blazes are ya clobbering on me for?’ the Thing shouts as he slams into some nearby rocks. The Thing boasts that it will be a cold day on Yancy Street before Aunt Petunia’s blue-eyed nephew lets some pink-peepered laughing boy from la-la-land lay a mitt on him without - but Wonder Man interrupts him, ‘Drop it, Grimm. I believe it’s you, okay?’ Simon mutters, adding that this is a revolting development. The Thing looks curiously at Simon and asks him what is with him, pointing out that he used to be one of the decent ones in this business. ‘Yeah, Benjy, yeah. I useta be…now fight, man’ Simon replies as doppelgangers of Sasquatch, Thor, Rogue and Nova surround them.
‘Is that all I’ve left myself? Blood. Pain. The sweet music of an enemy’s jaw breaking’ Simon asks himself as he smacks the Sasquatch doppelganger, while the Thing attacks the Thor doppelganger. The Human Torch comes to their assistance and takes on the Rogue doppelganger, while Simon tells himself ‘The thrill of the take-down. Then the let-down. The ions spinning negative. The hunt for another fight, to come back to life. Is that all I’ll be?’ he wonders, deciding ‘No. I won’t just be that. I’ll be a man’. Suddenly, he sees the Scarlet Witch under attack, and races over to her, punching the Drax doppelganger aside, while thinking ‘You won’t beat me, Zemo! I won’t be your “engine of destruction”!’ He then elbows the Captain America doppelganger in the face, deciding that he will be a man and will fight for the life of his - suddenly, ‘Wonder Man…you are mine…’ the Scarlet Witch exclaims as she looks at her rescuer - only it’s not the real Scarlet Witch, but her doppelganger. ‘Oh…Lord’ Simon mutters.
‘But this is the punch line, isn’t it, Zemo? The payoff to the joke of my life. When I search hardest for my humanity…I turn and find more violence. I turn and find…myself’ Wonder Man realizes as he turns away from the Scarlet Witch doppelganger and is confronted by his own doppelganger. ‘You wanted to meet me again, Wonder Man? Now is your change - your chance to kill me - or be replaced’ the doppelganger exclaims. The Living Lightning goes towards the Scarlet Witch doppelganger, while Strong Guy evades blasts from a doppelganger of the Silver Surfer. ‘You couldn’t replace -’ Living Lightning shouts as he turns to the Wonder Man doppelganger, but the real Wonder Man holds Living Lightning back. ‘NO! This one’s mine!’ he snarls.
Rogue stands besides Living Lightning, while the doppelganger exclaims ‘Yes - I am yours - as you are mine. This moment is ours - just us - and when it is done - there will be only one!’ the doppelganger appears calm, but Wonder Man himself clenches his fists and energy flares in his eyes. ‘Only one. The one who can punch the hardest’ Simon tells himself as he lunges forward and smacks his doppelganger in the stomach. ‘The one with the most rage inside. The one who can give himself to violence. Who will that be? Man? Or weapon?’ Simon wonders, as his doppelganger smacks back, then up, slamming his fists into Simon from below. Living Lightning sits down beside who he thinks is the Scarlet Witch and asks her if she is okay, while Simon recovers, and leaps up to face his doppelganger once more. ‘No contest’ Simon decides as he lunges to punch his foe, but the doppelganger smiles and ducks the punch.
‘You are no master of your powers - but I -’ the doppelganger exclaims, only for Simon to kick the doppelganger in the head. ‘Man dies. Weapon kills’ Simon thinks to himself, while the Living Lightning gasps ‘No!’ as the Scarlet Witch doppelganger attacks him. ‘So hate him. He’s everything you hate in yourself. He’s a dark mockery of everything you’ve become. He’s a soulless weapon’ Simon tells himself as he prepares to attack his doppelganger again, however, the doppelganger shoves his hands into the ground, and pulls rocks up, slamming them into Simon, who falls backwards.
‘Hate him - to stop hating it in yourself - hate him - to become him - become that weapon’ Simon thinks, as he evades his doppelganger, who tries to strangle him, he punches the doppelganger once, and then again. However, ‘No! I am the stronger - as Magus designed me to be!’ the doppelganger declares as he throws a punch, but Simon dodges it. ‘Become destruction. And tell yourself you’ll turn human again after it’s over. Tell yourself. Even though you know. You know there is no “after”!’ Simon thinks to himself as he punches the doppelganger in the chest, they struggle, as Simon realizes that there is just oblivion, so he hates his doppelganger, makes him everything he has ever hated. ‘You’re DEAD!’ Wonder Man shouts at his doppelganger, while Hercules falls backwards when struck by the optic blast fired by the Cyclops doppelganger.
Wonder Man starts hallucinating, seeing his doppelganger as people from his life: ‘All of you! You - Zemo - who made me this!’ Wonder Man shouts as he punches his doppelganger. ‘And you - me “Simon Williams” - who wouldn’t accept his own death!’ Wonder Man adds as he slams his fist into his younger self. ‘And you - who used me!’ he exclaims, punching another foe. ‘And you - who taunted me with the lie of my life!’ Simon shouts as he uppercuts his doppelganger now resembling his brother, the Grim Reaper. The doppelganger appears to Simon as Iron Man, who shouts ‘Who tried to make me a hero. When he sees the doppelganger as the Scarlet Witch, he shouts ‘Who made me love what I couldn’t have’, then the doppelganger appears as Alex Flores, Simon’s’ friend, and he punches the doppelganger in the face, ‘Who made me think I could be human!’ he exclaims. Finally, he sees the doppelganger as his self-styled sidekick, Spider, and he grabs his doppelganger’s head, ‘You’re dead. You’re DEAD!’ Simon booms, as he tears his doppelganger’s head off.
The doppelganger’s body falls to the ground. ‘And so you win, and the peace rolls over you and you say “now I can be human again. Now”’ Wonder Man thinks to himself, only he knows that to win, what you loved you have come to hate, and what you hated, you embrace. He crouches down beside the body, the head has rolled slightly away. Take-down turns to let-down, and the ions swing negative, and a whirlpool whips you down into the dark of doubt and memory and oblivion. Teeter for an instant between man and weapon. You were a weapon, and the weapon was alive. ‘The man? He ebbs away, as if he never was. You’ve lost the violence now, but haven’t regained the man. So you reach for it. You want it back. Because you know that as much as you hate the violence…it’s better than nothingness’ Simon thinks to himself.
Doppelgangers of Captain America, Cyclops, Hercules and the Thing gather around. Simon hears them, but he is too weak to get up. He has just enough energy to turn around and gave them. The fight is over. ‘And who wins? Magus? Warlock? Heroes? Doubles?’ Simon wonders. He doesn’t know. He may never know, and may never care. Because the only winner of his fight wasn’t even here. He leans back against his double’s body, as the doppelgangers close in around him, their true alien form growing through their bodies. ‘Congratulations, Zemo’ Simon thinks to himself. He stares up, ‘This is the punch line, isn’t it? Watch me laugh. Watch me sink into the irony. Watch me sink into the powers that own me. Into the violence. Into the dark’. And with that, Simon’s eyes stop glowing, and darkness surrounds him.