Wonder Man (2nd series) #5

Issue Date: 
January 1992
Story Title: 
Tough Times

Gerard Jones (writer), Jeff Johnson (penciler), Jan Anton Harps (inker), Joe Rosas (colorist), Pat Brosseau (letterer), Fabian Nicieza (editor), Tom DeFalco (editor-in-chief)

Brief Description: 

At the Palos Verdes Compound, Wonder Man receives some much needed combat training from Captain America, now that he cannot rely on his ionic power. After a successful training session, Wonder Man’s old friend the Beast joins them. The reunion is a joyous one, despite Wonder Man’s current somber attitude. Wonder Man and the Beast head into the city, and catch up on old times and current events. Meanwhile, a man named Clarke meets with another down-and-out man, discussing the American system, and his plans to better life, however Clarke clearly has revenge on his mind. Inside a research building called Pactech, some scientists are examining the Rampage armor. On the street below, Clarke is able to take control of the Rampage armor via remote access, for he was the creator and original wearer of the armor. He dons the armor, and confronts the scientists. Wonder Man and the Beast find a restaurant to eat at, and Wonder Man tells Beast about the women in his life at the moment, before they overhear some girls talking about a guy downtown who is smashing up a building. Wonder Man and Beast leap into action and arrive downtown, where they find Rampage attacking the Pactech building. The Beast knows of Rampage and they engage him in battle. However things take a turn for the worst when Rampage throws a brick chimney at the Beast, rendering him unconscious. Wonder Man goes to help his friend, only to be confronted by Rampage’s associates - the Recession Raiders.

Full Summary: 

‘HYAAAHHH!’ shouts Simon Williams a.k.a. Wonder Man as he lunges towards Steve Rogers, better known as Captain America. ‘You’ve made a fatal mistake, Wonder Man!’ Cap calls out, as he grabs Wonder Man and flips him over onto the ground. ‘Never open an attack with your arms out and your head exposed. You lay yourself open to all sorts of trouble’ Cap explains. ‘Shoot’ Wonder Man mumbles. Cap adds that learning Aikido doesn’t mean you have to scream like a maniac. ‘I know. I know. I’m just frustrated’ Wonder Man replies. He points out that relying on his ionic strength for so long, he has never bothered to learn any real fighting techniques, as Splice recently proved. ‘I’ll need some techniques to handle well-trained opponents. Who better to teach me than Captain America?’ Wonder Man remarks.

Cap helps Wonder Man up and tells him that he is learning those techniques, and quickly, too, so he should keep his chin up, and his guard up. ‘Let’s see just what you’ve learned’ Cap remarks as he extends a fist, which Wonder Man blocks with ease. ‘Good block!’ Cap congratulates Wonder Man, who attempts to elbow-jab Cap, but the experienced fighter ducks, ‘You’re still thinking too much’ Cap points out, assuring Simon that practice will take care of that until it is instinctive. ‘Did I tell you about my tussle with that Panzer Division in Tunis, when -’ Cap begins, but Simon interrupts him, ‘I’m sure you did, Cap. Now, can you show me that “pivot-throw” again?’ Simon asks. Camp clears his throat, before replying ‘Yes, of course’, and tells Simon to remember the principle of Aikido, to redirect your opponent’s force, instead of meeting force with force.

‘Take his force on your forward hand…swing your inside leg back…pivot on your toes…and throw him’ Cap demonstrates and Simon copies his actions. ‘Take his force…swing the leg back and…’ Wonder Man calls out, only for Cap to punch him in the face: ‘You didn’t pivot!’ Cap exclaims. ‘All right, all right! I’ll pivot! Come at me again!’ Wonder Man exclaims. ‘Okay, all in one move - DID IT!’ he shouts as he pivots and flips Captain America over - only he flips him so hard that Cap crashes into the Palos Verdes Compound walls. ‘What the -’ Cap begins, to which Wonder Man quickly apologizes. ‘I was getting so bugged I couldn’t -’ Simon exclaims, but Cap tells him to take it easy, ‘At least I know you’re learning’ he smiles.

The Avengers walk into another part of the Avengers West Coast headquarters, as Simon remarks ‘And that’s the thank you get for teaching me, right? You come all the way from New York to get slammed into a wall’. Cap replies that he has slammed into tougher walls than that in his day. ‘I hope I can take anything an Avengers Compound wall can dish out’ Cap smiles. Simon tells Cap that he will take his word for it, and thanks him again for coming out. ‘I feel much more prepared for attacks now, and -’ Simon begins, when suddenly, a voice shouts ‘Are you prepared for this?’ Simon spins around, and sees Dr Henry McCoy a.k.a. the Beast bounding towards him. ‘Don’t both to answer, old boy…that look on your face is too eloquent!’ the Beast calls out. ‘HANK?!’ Simon gasps, ducking as the Beast jumps over him.

‘Well, I could be one of those other blue-furred bounding Beasts’ Hank remarks, while Simon asks him what he is doing here. Hank explains that when he heard Cap was coming to tutor Simon in “Mayhem for the Masses”, he hitched a ride. ‘It’s been so long since I’ve “Done LA”!’ Hank adds. Simon smiles and adds ‘Long enough to be completely out of touch with current slang, obviously. But then I forget that you live in a city where “ey, yo, whaddyadoing, geddouda heah” passes for conversation’ Simon smiles. ‘True. But at least in New York we know how to begin a sentence with a word other than “I”!’ Hank retorts.
Wanda Maximoff a.k.a. the Scarlet Witch enters the room and stands beside her dear friend Captain America, commenting that she doesn’t think she has ever seen Simon so playful. Cap agrees and points out that it is a side Simon doesn’t show much, although the Beast always seemed to be able to draw it out of him. ‘But then, you can’t use a cellular phone in the subway’ the Beast remarks as he bounds over Wonder Man.

Wanda smiles, and remarks that she wonders whether she knew Simon as well as she should have. ‘Well, aren’t you going to share with me what you’ve learned today?’ the Beast asks. ‘If you insist…’ Simon replies, grabbing the Beast, he tells him that this is what Cap calls a “pivot-throw”, and he flings Hank over his shoulder, causing him to crash into the wall. ‘Not bad, not bad. Left the wall intact this time!’ Wonder Man remarks. Hank smiles and compliments his friend on his restraint. ‘Restraint, good sir, if something you cannot comprehend!’ Simon replies. ‘Let alone judge’ he adds, before asking Hank what he is really doing here. Hank reveals that he is seeking a companion with whom to plunge into the dark heart of this city of fallen angels.

Meanwhile, ‘Oh, yes. Tough times. And no matter what the economists would have us believe - they’ll get tougher’ a man in a suit remarks to a man in a green jacket as he rifles through a rubbish bin in the middle of a park. ‘Can’t get much tougher for me, Clarke’ the man in the green tells the man in the suit. ‘Getting so the guys how told me they didn’t have a job for me last year…are coming around asking where to get a hot meal this year’. He adds that next there will be so many people returning pop bottles that he will need a college degree to do this. ‘I’m afraid no degree will help you, August. Take it from me’ Clarke replies. He adds that the American system has ceased to reward merit, that it has ceased to consider long-term value. ‘The race now goes to the slickest. To the one with the most lawyers and the cleverest accountants. No longer to the creator of -’ Clarke is interrupted by August who pulls a bottle from the rubbish bin, but it is half-full, and liquid splashes about. ‘Dang! I wish these City Hall fools would finish their drinks! Now I got some yuppie’s bubble-water running all up my arm!’ August complains. Clarke tells him to stop complaining, and points out that that is Reaganomics in action. ‘Better explain that’ August mutters.

‘Why, haven’t you heard of the Trickle-Down Effect?’ Clarke asks. ‘Uh-huh. Keep going’ August tells him, hands on hips. Clarke explains that it is the miracle of supply-side economics - that August supplies the cans and bottles for recycling, and he gets his reward. ‘Right up side yo haid’ Clarke adds. ‘Now here, in my pockets…the fruit of a full day’s self-degradation. Am I investing it in a S&L? No! I’m spending it!’ Clarke exclaims as he pulls some coins from his pocket. Clarke continues, telling August that it is the new monetarism in action, just as their benign leaders designed it. ‘The system works…even if we don’t. ‘Ha! You know something, Clarke? You are a crazy man!’ August smiles. ‘Yeah. I’m a crazy man, all right’ Clarke replies, frowning.

Clarke looks up at a nearby building, ‘They’ll tell you that’s why I’m down here…instead of up there, where I belong’ Clarke declares. ‘They won’t tell you it’s because of their own short-sighted buy-outs and sell-outs…their willingness to mortgage the American economy to foreign investors…to let our industrial infrastructure crumble so they can puff up quarterly profits and inflate stock prices’. ‘What are you talking about?’ August calls out, pushing his trolley of cans and bottles behind Clarke. ‘Clarke Futuristics could have been a contender in American high-tech. It could have rivalled Stark International’ Clarke declares, adding that instead it was driven into bankruptcy by artificial market fluctuations, eaten in a hostile take-over by a multinational consortium.

‘All they can do is gobble up patents…duplicate products!’ Clarke exclaims, angrily. ‘I was the inventor! Everything I made was an extension of me! That suit was…was…’ he reaches into his jacket pocket as his voice trails off, and he pulls a small remote-shaped device from it. He presses a button, and declares ‘nothing., but one of these days…’, while August remarks that Clarke always pushes that “thing” when he is under this building. ‘What is it?’ he asks. ‘It’s the way off the streets, brother. And it’s my revenge’ Clarke replies.

Meanwhile, Simon and Hank are in a car, driving along a busy road. ‘I’m surprised you had to borrow a car from the Avengers, Simon. Don’t you -’ Hank begins, but Simon shouts ‘NO I DON’T! And don’t ask me how I survive in LA without a car’. ‘The query shall never breach my lips, comrade’ Hank replies, before suggesting Simon take the next exit. ‘You sure you wanted that exit? This isn’t exactly a tourist-mecca’ Simon points out as they drive down a street. ‘Not for the white-shoed video-cam-bearing masses of mid-America, no. but for a rarer breed of tourist…this is the elephants’ graveyard of ethnic cuisine!’ Hank exclaims as they walk along the sidewalk, Hank with a book in his hands. Hank adds ‘Koreatown, East Hollywood, Lower Wilshire - world capital of recombinant food!’

“Recombinant…food?” Simon asks. Hank tells his friend to imagine a restaurant run by a gun from Bombay who immigrated to Java, learned Greek cooking from a Turkish sailor, moved to LA and added Mexican to his menu. ‘Better yet, don’t imagine it, just eat it!’ Hank exclaims. ‘Uh…I don’t know about this, Hank’ Simon tells his friend, pointing out that he doesn’t have to eat, and that it seems so self-indulgent to eat for the fun of it. ‘Ah, Williams you’re such a WASP! Well, this azure-pelted Celtic mutant is going to force you to enjoy life!’ Hank exclaims. ‘You sound just like a starlet I know. Always after me to “get loose”!’ Simon replies. Hank grins, and asks ‘A starlet, is it? I’m glad to hear there are some corporeal enjoyments the great white hero doesn’t deny himself!’

Hank continues, ‘What is life, after all, but an ouroborean orbit of dalliance and degustation, and what is man but an ephemeral gourmand at the great table of -’, until Simon interrupts him: ‘Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! I thought you didn’t talk like that anymore!’ ‘Only when I know it’ll bug the behoozis out of whoever I’m talking to!’ Hank smiles, before remarking ‘So anyway, starlet, as opposed to “Scarlet”. I take it matters have cooled with Wanda?’ Simon frowns and replies that he doesn’t know. ‘That whole thing’s such a mess. Wanda being married - and married to the Vision, yet, an android whose mind is based on mine. I tell you, the worst thing about having powers is the confusion it gets you into. There are no rules for lives like mine. It’s so…’ his voice trails off.

Simon continues, ‘Who am I to complain? At least I can still be a movie actor. You’re covered with blue fur. ‘You’d be amazed how much I save on suntan lotion’ Hank replies, before asking Simon if he has ever tasted a jackfruit, or smelled a durien. They approach a stall, and Hank looks at some fruit. ‘Ah, you Angelenos. No idea what you have at your own doorsteps!’ he remarks, before speaking to a small girl at the stall in her native language. ‘Uh…Hank? Do you think you should…’ Simon begins, but Hank flips up onto the stall and tells Simon to relax. ‘I may inspire the lass to a great career in primatology’ Hank points out, before he starts to peel a banana with his feet. ‘Amazing. Absolutely amazing’ Simon smiles, while the girl laughs. An older woman goes over to the girl, and they continue to speak in their native language, while Simon suggests they get out of here before Hank is given a tin cup and a hat. ‘You see, dear Simon? Tis as the poet hath writ…”life is what yez makes it, brudda”!’

Meanwhile, in laboratory inside a somewhat familiar building, ‘I tell you, I heard it clicking again’ a scientist remarks to another. ‘Are you sure it was this one? Clarke’s original suit?’ the other scientist asks, motioning to a red and tallow armor which is lined up with several other armors, all the same. ‘Positive. The ones we duplicated are silent. Like this one should be’ the first scientist remarks, before touching a control panel, deciding that they should turn the suit on and run a few tests. The arms raise into the air, ‘YOW!’ the first scientist exclaims. ‘Hmm. Responsive thing’ the second scientist decides.

Outside, Clarke is still walking with August, who is pushing his cart of bottles along the sidewalk. ‘You? An inventor? Come on, you’re playing games with me’ August exclaims. ‘Oh, it’s true. Sad…but true’ Clarke replies, explaining that after Simon Williams wiped himself out with his embezzlement scandal, he was the number-two man in government-contracted high-tech. ‘I was…’ Clarke is interrupted when a beeping noise can be heard inside his jacket pocket. He pulls out the strange device, which is ticking. ‘Oh, Lord…YES!’ Clarke exclaims as he raises the remote towards the building, of which a sign identifies it as being called Pactech.

Back in the laboratory, ‘What’s…what’s…’ the first scientist repeats as the armor continues to move about, before suddenly bursting out the side of the building wall, and it falls straight down into August’s trolley of bottles. August looks up at the building and exclaims ‘Hey! Look at this mess here! Why don’t those people look where they’re throwing their trash!’, while Clarke goes over to the armor and tells August not to sweat it. ‘This little darling’s going to make us more money…than all the soda cans in the world!’ he declares. The two scientists look out of the hole in the wall, and the first asks ‘What do we do? Call security…or sanitation?’, to which the second points out that it is coming back up - and that the armor is not empty. ‘YES!’ Clarke, inside the armor, exclaims as he lashes out at the scientists. ‘It’s mine again! The power is mine again!’ he declares. Clarke smiles and states that first the suit was his pride and joy, and then it got him thrown in jail. ‘Now it’s time it brought me some good luck again. And paid some people back!’

‘You’re kidding!’ Simon calls out as he sees the restaurant up ahead where Hank is leading him to - Kimiko’s Pastrami dog. Hank tells Simon to prepare for adventure such as no adventure hath e’er undertaken. ’The teriyaki chilli dog!’ Hank declares. Simon replies that he would rather fight Baron Zemo. They enter the restaurant and Hank tells Simon that this place is unique in all the world. ‘I should hope so. Now, can we -?’ Simon begins, but Hank tells him no. ’I want my California weirdness!’ he declares. ‘Not to mention this…uh…California scenery’ Hank smiles as he looks around at the patrons. ‘…So he goes, you want to go to the mall? And I’m like, that is so gross, I mean, he’s wearing low-top shoes!’ a woman can be heard saying.

‘You punched a super-villain? Oh, wow! It wasn’t Dr Doom was it? I’d love to meet somebody who punched Dr Doom!’ another customer calls out to the person they are sitting with. ‘Ah, who says LA isn’t a center of culture?’ Hank smles. ‘At least nobody’s yelling “Go Mets”!’ Simon replies, before Hank turns to the waitress and asks ‘I trust you have no objection to befurred patrons so long as they appreciate your culinary creativity?’. Simon looks away and mutters “Mr Charm”, while the woman replies ‘You don’t shed, I don’t care’ before asking if he wants coffee. Simon tells Hank that he has to hand it to him, and that he wished he had his touch. ‘The touch is easy. Finding something worth touching is the tricky part’ Hank replies.

‘Like this starlet of yours’ Hank grins. ‘Is she everything this poor, frustrated Manhattanite desperately wants a Hollywood starlet to be?’ he asks. Simon replies that he doesn’t know. ‘She’s cute. She’s fun…but she’s only 19 and she’s nuts. Only wants me because I’m a super hero’ he explains, before revealing that he met someone else recently, a screen writer, more his age. ‘But I’m not sure what she’s looking f-’ Simon begins, before suddenly, a shrieking voice calls out ‘Brandi! Brittani!’, as a blond woman rushes into the diner and finds her friends sitting in a booth. ‘Oh my gnawed! We’ve gotta go Downtown!’ she tells them. ‘Oh, right! Like I want to go Downtown! That’s gross, Tiffani!’ one of the girls exclaims, shocked. ‘I thought we were going to Beverly Center’ the other girl remarks. ‘No, it’s like, see, my Mom calls, right? And she’s like in her office and she’s screaming, right?’ Tiffani exclaims.

Tiffani smiles as she continues: ‘And she’s all like, you stay home and lock the doors, cause there’s this guy who’s like, smashing up the building’. The other girls get excited and sit up in the booth, ‘You mean, he’s just all smashing buildings and everything?’ one of them asks. ‘And there’s like, total cops all over and cars are on fire and people are all screaming -’ Tiffani exclaims. ‘Oh, that sounds like just sooooo coooo-wulf!’ the other girl declares. Simon and Hank overhear the girls’ loud discussion, and Simon tells Hank that they better look into this. ‘If that’s coooo-wuhl, I imagine we should’ Hank replies. Simon starts to get up and suggests they slip out quick, but Hank stops him: ‘Slip out? With a perfect audience like this? We’re going todo it, let’s do it right’ he tells his friend. ‘But…’ Simon begins to protest. ‘A-one…a-two…’ Hank begins, before Simon rips off his trench coat and Hank tears his shirt away, and they both should ‘AVENGERS ASSEMBLE’ as they leap into action.

‘Wait - you still with X-Factor?’ Wonder Man asks. ‘X-Men’ the Beast reveals. ‘X-Citing?’ Wonder Man enquires. ‘X-Tremely’ the Beast replies before kicking the front door of the restaurant open. ‘Oh! How!’ one of the girls begins ‘Cool!’ the other concludes. ‘Now, wasn’t that more fun than slipping out?’ the Beast asks. ‘Yeah, fun. A few hundred bucks in repair bills - for nothing!’ Wonder Man replies. ‘For nothing?’ the Beast exclaims as Simon grabs onto him and takes him into the air. ‘But I thought impressing teenage girls was the whole point of being a super hero?’ the Beast remarks. ‘You know…I do so miss that flight pack of yours’ the Beast tells his friend. ‘Save it. Our flying man is in sight. Doesn’t look like anyone I’ve seen. You?’ Wonder Man replies as they approach the Pactech building.

‘Oh, no! That clown! Rampage!’ the Beast exclaims, informing Wonder Man that the Champions fought him, and Iceman filled him in. The Beast reveals that Rampage is an inventor who popped his cork when he went bankrupt, and started robbing banks. The Beast explains that Rampage’s suit is as strong as Iron Man’s, but far more vulnerable, and Hercules laid Rampage to rest with a bit of modest smiting. ‘Clarke. I remember him from my own munitions days. Always saw himself as a victim’ Wonder Man announces, while Rampage starts tearing the logo off the side of the Pactech building. Wonder Man tells the Beast to do a little distracting, and then he will mop Rampage up. ‘My thoughts precisely’ the Beast replies, as Wonder Man hurls him through the air towards Rampage.

‘Gimme a P! Gimme a A! Gimme a C! What’s that spell? Pack it in, boys! The rightful owner of this company has come back to claim it!’ Rampage exclaims as he holds the three large letters overhead. ‘And you’re going to be suffering a few hundred mil in damage if you don’t -’ Rampage calls out, before the Beast lands on his back: ‘You know, I really love my job!’ the Beast smiles, while Wonder Man swoops down then flies upwards, only he looks up and sees the three large letters falling towards him - although he manages to punch them, shattering them into lots of small pieces, his momentum is knocked about, and Wonder Man plummets into a car on the street below.

‘Okay, Simon, it’s your turn to -’ the Beast calls out as he bounds onto a nearby rooftop, but Rampage follows him. However, when he doesn’t see Wonder Man, the Beast smashes a brick chimney into Rampage, knocking the criminal down. Wonder Man gets up out of the car, ‘Sorry about this, Hank, I still have to get the hang of this jumping business’ Simon thinks to himself. ‘I suppose you want to know why I’m doing this, hero. I suppose you want to hear me rant about my motivation’ Rampage calls out. ‘Oh, why bother? Let’s just fight’ the Beast suggests. ‘Just a game to you, isn’t it?’ Rampage asks, while Wonder Man leaps upwards, ‘…this time should settle it’ he thinks to himself.

‘Then it’s time you learned about pain! About reality!’ Rampage exclaims as he leaps towards the Beast, who calls out for Simon - and on cue, Wonder Man arrives on the rooftop, and punches Rampage backwards. ‘Finally!’ the Beast exclaims. Wonder Man continues to punch Rampage and tells the Beast that he is sorry this took so long. ‘But no harm done, I guess’ Wonder Man remarks. ‘None at all’ the Beast replies, adding that all in all, this was a pleasant diversion for them - when suddenly, a brick chimney is thrown at the Beast, striking him in the back of his head. Rampage takes flight as Wonder Man turns his attention to his fallen friend. ‘Get up, Hank! Open your eyes! Hank, this isn’t funny!’ Simon calls out, but gets no response from the motionless Beast.

‘Not funny, Williams? The desperate and the angry, rising off the streets to ruin your pampered playboy games? We think it’s very funny!’ a voice calls out. Wonder Man spins around, and sees Rampage, along with several others in matching armor flying before him. ‘Why not laugh along with Rampage…and his Recession Raiders?’

Characters Involved: 

Scarlet Witch, Wonder Man (both Avengers West Coast)

Captain America

Beast (X-Man)


The Recession Raiders

Brandi, Brittani, Tiffani


Girl and old woman

Waitress and patrons

Story Notes: 

Wonder Man fought Splice in Wonder Man (1st series) #4.

This issue takes place between Avengers West Coast #79 and #80, and between Uncanny X-Men (1st series) #288 and Uncanny X-Men Annual (1st series) #16 and X-Men (2nd series) #10.

The Champions fought Rampage in Champions #6-8.
Wonder Man and Beast share a longstanding friendship from the time when they both served on the Avengers together.
Reaganomics refers to the economic policies promoted by the U.S. President Ronald Reagan during the 1980s. These policies are commonly associated with supply-side economics, or pejoratively as trickle-down economics.

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