Wonder Man (2nd series) #16

Issue Date: 
December 1992
Story Title: 

Gerard Jones (writer), Jeff Johnson (penciler), Dan Panosian (inker), Joe Rosas (colorist), Pat Brosseau (letterer), Carlos Lopez (assistant editor), Fabian Nicieza (editor), Tom DeFalco (editor-in-chief)

Brief Description: 

Lotus Newmark has set up a gang called Armed Response to start increasing the violence in LA. She reveals this to director Sol Sterling, while the gang goes on another rampage. Gloria Angel is watching a news report about the increasing violence and recalls her younger days. She hears a thump outside and goes into the corridor where Wonder Man has arrived back at the apartment. She realizes he seems different. Wonder Man tells her that he is different, more than ever, and declares that this city has not seen violence yet. Gloria is upset, and goes back into her apartment, wishing that Entertainment Tonight was on - she suddenly finds that it is - and that she is sitting in front of the TV watching it! Lotus meets with some of the hired thugs as they watch the news footage about them. Lotus recalls seeing her mother killed, and informs the thugs that LA will be theirs. Jamie Flores is contemplating a codename for herself and asks her mother, Alex, what she thinks about super hero names. They discuss them briefly, while Alex reminds Jamie that she has had this headache for three days. She is about to leave for dinner with a producer, when Wonder Man arrives at the door. Alex realizes something is wrong with him, and Wonder Man reveals that he has come to say goodbye. But Alex tells him he can’t leave, not since he blasted them with his ions. She tells him about others who have been changed, not just her daughter. Wonder Man is somewhat surprised to learn of this, but leaves anyway. Lotus and her associate Andrew monitor the thugs, as well as Sol Sterling. They discuss their plan, and Lotus reveals more of her history. Sol Sterling soon finds his mansion under attack from the thugs - but Armed Response are waiting nearby and fly to the rescue. Alex is on the phone to Gloria, discussing Simon, while Jamie once again floats out of her own body. Armed Response are about to attack the thugs at Sol’s mansion, when Wonder Man arrives on scene. He engages the thugs in battle and he is furious. The Armed Response operatives hold off, and do nothing while Wonder Man seriously beats up one of the thugs who fires a cannon at him. The thug is not moving when Wonder Man finishes his attack - his very unimpressed teammates from the Avengers West Coast are ready to confront him!

Full Summary: 

Violence. It rustles under Los Angeles like a rat in the floorboards. It splashes from LA’s nightmares onto the movie screens of the world. And sometimes, it explodes. A gang torments a neighborhood in the early hours of the night. At a sprawling mansion estate high in the hills, a woman tells a man called Sol that, up here, he is sheltered from the violence. ‘But that violence pays for your shelter’ she points out, adding that, now, that violence can make him rich. ‘Lotus, cutie - I’m already rich‘ he replies. ‘Rich like any movie producer. Rich while the dice are rolling your way. Insecure rich. I should know’ Lotus replies as she reveals to Sol that she has been laundering money through a movie production company for years, and now she wants to offer him security. ‘A more secure way to exploit the terrified soul of this city than just action movies. I call it Armed Response’ Lotus reveals. ‘Good hook in the name. Keep going’ Sol tells her as they lounge in his swimming pool.

‘Picture a high-tech, heavy-armor security force to protect high-paying clients from the biggest and best - armed gangs that the underclass can produce’ Lotus announces. ‘A force that will deal with those criminal hordes…in the quickest and fiercest way possible’ Lotus explains as she drinks from a water bottle. ‘Beautiful’ Sol tells her. He waves his fists in the air and smiles. ‘Just beautiful! Show business - cops and heavy armaments! Every boy’s dream - all rolled into one!’ Sol peers at Lotus from behind his small spectacles, and asks her whether she can get the real cops to approve of something that big and mean. ‘They’re trying to candy-coat their image in this town, you know’ he adds. Sol leans into Lotus, who pulls away, as she reveals that there is going to be a rash of a assaults by criminal gangs against the rich and powerful in this town, which will make it impossible for the police to oppose any anti-crime force. ‘How do you know -? Oh. Baby! Yes! Now that’s showbiz!’ Sol exclaims.

‘As long as… uh… I’m not one of the rich boys on the list’ Sol quickly remarks. Lotus smiles at him and replies that she is sure the financial backer of Armed Response will be perfectly safe. Sol moves through the water so that he is in front of Lotus and tells her that she excites him. ‘I’m just a few inches short of buying into this deal… and you know what it’ll take to close that gap’ he remarks. ‘Oh yes… I always know’ Lotus replies, glancing away.

At that moment, one of the gang members fires many shots with his gun, before pulling it away, he looks at the neighborhood and tells his companion that they have made their point. ‘What?’ the other one asks. ‘You got more quarry right in your face, Charles’ the second gang member exclaims. ‘No. we don’t have to do them’ Charles replies. He grabs his companion by his shoulder, and calling him Freddie, points out that they are just kids. Indeed, a young boy and girl emerge from the rubble and rush over to the body of an older woman, lying in a pool of blood. ‘Lucia!’ the boy calls out. ‘It’s okay, Lucia…they stopped… they stopped, Lucia’ the girl tells her. ‘We were hired to make this ugly, right?’ Freddie reminds Charles, as he raises his weapon again.

‘Freddie - let it go!’ Charles calls out, trying to pull Freddie back. ‘So let’s make it all the way - ugly’ Freddie declares as he raises his weapon and fires two bullets at the children, blowing them away. ‘Freddie…you didn’t have to’ Charles whispers, hanging his head. ‘Grow up, Charles. These aren’t people - they’re income opportunities’ Freddie declares, before noticing a police car approaching. ‘Now lift that piece and - whoops, quicker this time’ he declares. More gang members appear, one of them holds some sort of bazooka weapon and states that it isn’t South-Central getting bloody this time, but Beverly Hills. ‘This time the chief of police might even let a few cops get hurt’ another gang member suggests. ‘Not much choice’ the first replies as he fires the bazooka at the police car, sending it up in flames. The man smiles, ‘Now let’s show ‘em the real surprise’ he tells his companions.

The gang members start pulling some equipment out of a car trunk, and one of them addresses the white member of the gang as Flaco, asking him if he hears a copter. They start putting the equipment on their backs, some sort of flight pack, as Flaco replies ‘Yeah, and that means one thing. Everybody keep together and make it pretty for the people’. The gang members then take flight, past a copter, which Flaco identifies as the Channel 3 news chopper. ‘My favorite! They got the cutest Japanese anchorwoman of all of ‘em! Come on, homies… let’s wave to the camera!’ Flaco grins.

And, in the apartment building of Gloria Angel, the elderly woman watches the news footage, as a reporter states that the gang members escaped apprehension with rocket packs. ‘Disgraceful. Completely disgraceful’ Gloria exclaims as she sits on her sofa. She declares that something has to be done, that someone ought to be brought in to stop this. ‘How could this happen to Los Angeles?’ she wonders. She recalls that when she used to go out, and experience the city, it was enchanted, but now it has become so violent and dangerous and bizarre that she can only see it through television. ‘How can a city change so much?’ Gloria wonders. She holds up a photograph of herself from many years ago and decides that she wouldn’t have dreamed of wasting her time with TV back then. She was a beauty contest winner, an actress, and the loveliest of men in Hollywood wanted to be with her. She could have won the heart of any man then. ‘Even… Simon’ she tells herself, quietly.

Suddenly, Gloria hears a thumping noise outside her apartment door. She hopes that it is not some criminal gang, but when she opens it, she smiles. ‘Oh! It’s you! I’m so glad you’re back, Mr Williams! It’s been so terrible here!’ Gloria tells Simon Williams a.k.a. Wonder Man. She goes into the corridor and informs Simon that the city has gone mad, and that she has been feeling so odd since he exploded and they were all hit by his energy. When she realizes he doesn’t seem to be paying attention to her, Gloria asks Simon why he looks different, somehow. The handsome hero has started to make his way up the staircase in the corridor and tells Gloria that he is different - different from anything she has ever known.
Simon announces that he is moving out, and tells Gloria she can keep his security deposit, because he won’t need it. ‘But what about what’s happening to the city? What about the violence?’ Gloria enquires. Simon says nothing, before replying that the city has not seen violence yet. He carries on up the stairs, ignoring Gloria as she calls out to him again. The old woman puts her hands to her head, ‘Oh, dear Lord, everything’s gone insane! I wish I didn’t have to think about it! I wish I didn’t have to hear the news!’ she remarks, before covering her entire face, wishing that Entertainment Tonight was on now so that she could just forget everything and escape.
Suddenly - there is a flash of energy, and Gloria hears the television back in her apartment. ‘In a city as rich in legends as Hollywood, few glitter as brightly as…’ someone on the television says. ‘Is that…is that Leeza?’ Gloria asks herself, realizing that Entertainment Tonight is not on for hours. ‘It’s can’t -’ she begins to say, before walking back into her apartment, she is shocked: ‘Dear Lord, is that… me?’ Gloria utters as she sees herself sitting on the sofa, smiling and watching TV.

Meanwhile, in a rundown apartment, two of the gang members, as well as Flaco are sitting on a couch, their weapons on the table in front of them, as they watch a news report of their earlier violence. ‘Hey! That’s me!’ one of them exclaims, adding that he can’t believe they showed what he did on TV. ‘They got no standards no more, man’ the other gang member replies, while Flaco tells them that their friend, Charles, lost it, and that he has no business in a gang this bad. Lotus appears carrying a tray of drinks, and tells the men not to worry, assuring them that Charles will be removed in the next phase of their operation. ‘Now, which two of you wanted Corona, and which one wanted Colt.45?’ she asks. One of the gangsters tells Lotus not to play games, and asks what she means by “removed”. Lotus perches on the arm of the couch and replies that they will do whatever they must to protect and serve the most powerful street-army that Los Angeles has ever seen. ‘Street-army, nice!’ one of the thugs exclaims.

Lotus continues, ‘From all the oppressed and disenfranchised, the exploited…we’ll cull the toughest. The angriest. And make this city of lies and dreams…wake up with a scream’. One of the thugs knocks back his drink and tells Lotus not to try and sell him politics, as that is where the old gangs went wrong. ‘Just give me gold…and I give back lead. Know what I’m saying?’ he remarks, while the other thug alerts Flaco to the television, ‘There’s you waving at the copter again’ he remarks. The other thug continues to drink his beer, and reveals that everyone called him a psycho loser, Crips and Bloods wouldn’t take him because they are all into their truce jive. ‘Now they’ll know who’s a loser’ he declares. Lotus tells the men that after the insane outbursts of Angkor, Gamma Burn, Goliath and the one that works for her now, Rampage, Los Angeles is primed for this. She adds that anyone can do violence, but that she has learned how to use it - after all, she has known violence all too well.

Flashback images:
Lotus remembers being a child and seeing her mother lying motionless on the floor, while a man stands over her body. ‘Mother…?’ Lotus called out, but the man turned to her and grabbed young Lotus by her hair, telling her that she has no mother anymore and no father - only him.

‘Lotus. Yo, Lotus!’ one of the thugs calls out when he realizes she doesn’t seem to be paying attention. Lotus snaps back to the present, and remarks ‘As I was saying…do what I tell you…and LA will be yours. Just don’t get caught’. Lotus warns the thugs that some people seem aware of their arrangement - like Wonder Man. ‘Oh, save me!’ one of the thugs mutters. ‘The world’s dumbest super hero! Everybody says so’ another points out. The first adds that he hopes Wonder Man shows up, so maybe they can get some laughs.

Meanwhile, teenager Jamie Flores lies on her bed, a notebook in front of her, she is trying to think of a codename for herself. ‘Dream Girl? Gross. Spirit. Soul. Soul-Spirit. Great. Wake me up when I start to snore’ she tells herself, before deciding that she has to think about this. ‘What are the powers? You flew, right? Okay. Flying Spirit. Flight. Fly Girl’. She decides that no one will believe she is a fly girl, and rattles off some more names - Flight-Girl, Flight-Queen, Princess. Lass. Chick. Babe. She screams, and declares that this is driving her crazy. Jamie goes out of her room and finds her mother, Alex and asks her if she can think of any good superhero names. ‘For a girl, I mean. a young girl… like… my age’. Putting some papers into her bag, Alex replies ‘Your age, huh? How about Puberty Lass. Or Constant Depression Girl? Or maybe Hormona, Maid of a Million Moods?’ Alex suggests.

‘This is no joke, Mom’ Jamie complains. Alex tells her daughter that she knows some weird stuff has been happening since Simon blew up on them, but that she really doesn’t think Jamie is going to need a super hero name. Alex then tells her daughter that she has a humiliating meeting with a sadistic producer, not to mention a screaming headache. ‘Still?’ Jamie asks. ‘Who has a headache for three days?’ she wonders. ‘Only the truly deserving, dear’ Alex replies. ‘Now, unless you want a headache that lasts -’ Alex begins as she opens the front door and starts to leave, only to bump into Wonder Man who is standing on the doorstep. ‘I didn’t expect you! Where’ve you been, Simon? What…what?’ Alex asks, noticing Simon does not look very happy. ‘What’s wrong?’ Alex asks him quietly. Simon’s eyes glow red, and he looks stern as he replies that nothing is wrong, that everything is as it was made to be. ‘I came to say goodbye. I won’t be seeing you anymore’ he announces. ‘WHAT?’ Alex gaps. ‘You think you can just walk away like that?’ she snaps at him.

‘Ever since you blasted us with your powers - Jamie’s having strange dreams, Argus’s vision has gone crazy - Lahoya’s muscles are in agony and Aundray’s gone manic depressive -’ Alex reveals to Simon, who asks ‘I…I did that to them? Just like Angkor’. ‘What?’ Alex asks. ‘A monk…turned into a monster by my ionic energy. And now…all of you’ Simon tells her. He tenses his body and ionic energy flows around him. ‘But then…isn’t it fitting? After all, wasn’t I made to be… a “living engine of destruction”?’ Simon declares, before quickly taking flight.

Elsewhere, Lotus and her companion, Andrew who is wearing a purple suit stand in a room filled with monitors, as she keeps an eye on the people in her life. ‘Lotus wants me, G!’ Flaco can be seen saying to one of the thugs on a monitor. ‘You? She leaned over me when she brought the beer’ the thug replies. On another monitor, Sol Sterling is on the phone: ‘Yeah. A check for half a mil. To Armed Response’, he instructs the person he is speaking to to put it against their losses on “Impossible Man: The Movie”. Lotus announces that everything falls into place, to which Andrew tells her that he still can’t believe what she did. ‘You - a woman of such power and dignity - serving them! Using sex on them!’ Lotus tells Andrew that sex is interesting to use as violence, that it is fascinating to see what strange power she has over these men, to observe her own ploys.

‘Observe, as if from outside. I long ago learned to separate my mind from my body…when my father gave me to my mother’s killer just to pay off his debts’ Lotus reveals. She presses a button on the control panel, switching the monitors off, and she leans on the console, raising a leg, she rubs her foot on Andrew’s groin. ‘Who can understand men? For twenty minutes of ecstasy they’ll make concession that will haunt them for years’ Lotus declares, adding that twenty minutes is giving too much credit to most of them. Lotus tells Andrew that she is glad that the traumas of his life have left him incapable of that which her own emotional triumphs have left her so cold. ‘What a pair we are’ she mutters. Andrew doesn’t respond to anything Lotus has said or is doing to him, and simply tells her that she should not have told Sol Sterling that she is orchestrating this gang violence. ‘He’s too shrewd. And too cynical. He’d have figured it out’ Lotus replies, to which Andrew asks her how they keep Sol from using the information against her. ‘Oh, Andrew! That’s easy!’ Lotus smiles.

‘NO!’ Sol Sterling shouts, as he stands in front of his mansion, which suddenly explodes. He races across the lawn, ‘Somebody help me! Somebody help me!’ he calls out, when one of the gang members appears behind him - and Sol goes wide-eyed as bullets are fired into him. ‘They’ve hit’ someone states from a nearby location. Four men wearing black and white armor stand on a cliff as one looks through some high-tech binoculars, enabling him to see Sol’s mansion on fire. ‘Only five minutes late. Not bad for subhuman scum’ one of the men remarks. ‘Media copters coming in’ another reports. ‘Just in time for the world premiere of - ARMED RESPONSE!’ the fourth exclaims as the men take flight.

Back at her home, Alex is listening to the radio and speak with Gloria over the telephone, while Jamie lies asleep on the sofa. ‘…fire and gunshots in the Hollywood Hills believed to be another explosion of gang violence’ a radio announcer reports, while Alex tells Gloria to forget the gangs, that they have to talk about Simon, seriously, as he is acting strange, scary even. ‘I called Avengers West Coast. They sounded concerned - but wouldn’t say what they’d do’ Alex reveals, before suggesting that all of them who were zapped should come together and compare. She tells Gloria not tonight, as Jamie has just crashed on the couch and this is the first peaceful sleep she has seen her in for days. Alex informs Gloria that she is going to try to get some sleep herself, before bidding Gloria goodnight. On the couch, Jamie starts floating outside of herself - literally. ‘Huh?’ she wonders, looking down and seeing her double lying on the couch. Jamie’s new form glows, and she smiles: ‘Yes, yes! It’s real! It’s not just a dream! I’m flying!’

Back at Sol’s mansion, flames have spread to a car and onto the grounds, as the gang members gather together, one of them asks where the cars are, as Lotus said there would be cars to get them out. ‘That’s why she said we wouldn’t need the rocket-packs this time. Something stinks here!’ another exclaims, as the Armed Response team appears overhead, ‘Primary target in view. Let’s hit’ one of them reports. ‘Wait!’ another calls out, altering everyone else to the fact that someone else has barged in here - and they see Wonder Man drop down onto the thugs, knocking several of them out at once. Before the other thugs can react, Wonder Man kicks one of them in the face, while pushing another thug back into a third. Wonder Man knocks two aside with ease, while Charlie, still amongst the group, gets scared.

Up in the air, one of the Armed Response operatives tells the others that the Wonder Man they studied on video never fought like this, and instructs someone to radio HQ and ask how they should handle this, while, at that moment, ‘No! Please! No!’ one of the gang members pleads as Wonder Man starts to toss him through the air. Wonder Man grabs a gun and pulls it away from one of the thugs, while Charlie starts to rush away, telling Freddie that he won’t fight Wonder Man, that he is gone. ‘You’re a coward, Charles. Wonder Man is nothing’ Freddie boasts as he raises a bazooka, and at close range, fires it at Wonder Man, creating a blinding burst of energy. As Wonder Man gathers himself, Freddie re-loads the bazooka and declares that Wonder Man is going to lose his cool, like he has seen on TV. ‘Gonna start yelling his head off. And then I’m gonna put a rocket right down his throat. Come on, Wondy Man!’ Freddie calls out.

Simon frowns and sits up, as Freddie tells him that there is nothing he can do to them but take them to the cops, anyway. ‘Come on! Throw a tantrum!’ he exclaims, asking him to sat something funny - but Freddie looks surprised as Wonder Man strides towards him and grabs the bazooka, throwing it into the air, it explodes. ‘Wait…’ Freddie pleads as Wonder Man grabs him and starts an unrelenting attack, punching Freddie at least twelve times in the face in a flurry of muscular blows meeting weakening flesh. Freddie lays face-down in the rubble, as Wonder Man stands over him and asks ‘Funny enough for you?’ When, suddenly, a voice calls out ‘We’re not laughing, Simon. We have to talk’. Simon turns around and standing amongst the rubble are Hawkeye, the USAgent, the Scarlet Witch, Spider-Woman and Living Lightning…Simon’s teammates in the Avengers West Coast - and they look none too happy….

Characters Involved: 

Hawkeye, Living Lightning, Scarlet Witch, Spider-Woman II, USAgent, Wonder Man (all Avengers West Coast)

Gloria Angel
Alex Flores
Jamie Flores

Lotus Newmark
Sol Sterling

Charles, Freddie, Flaco and other gang members
Lucia and children
Armed Response operatives

In Lotus’ memory:
Lotus’ mother
Li Fong

Story Notes: 

Wonder Man #16-18 take place between Avengers West Coast #91 and #92.

Wonder Man “exploded” on much of his supporting cast in Wonder Man #11-12.

Written By: