GRIM REAPER: Page 2 of 3

Publication Date: 22nd Jun 2018
Written By: Monolith.
Image Work: Douglas Mangum.

Biography - Page 2

When he next appeared, Eric Williams had chosen to denounce both Wonder Man and Vision as frauds mimicking his brother. Vision had recently been seriously injured in battle with the radioactive Isbisa and Wonder Man's ionic energy was being used for a "transfusion" to jumpstart the Vision's failing synthetic physiology. The Grim Reaper intended to execute them on the operating tables with his scythe, but the brothers Vision and Simon now fully supported each other in their defense against Eric's crazed attacks, and the Reaper was captured once more. [Vision & the Scarlet Witch (1st series) #3]

For his next plot, the Grim Reaper believed he had stumbled upon a way to restore his true brother to life. The Lethal Legion was reformed with the Reaper's lover, Nekra, Ultron-12, Black Talon, Man-Ape and Goliath. (Eric’s twisted love and bigotry were in full display for his relationship with Nekra. Eric was a racist, talking down to his black teammates Man-Ape and Black Talon, but he loved an albino black woman like Nekra because she was “the purest white he knew.” For her part, Nekra was a mutant powerhouse who drew physical strength from hatred. Eric’s hatred of the Avengers was so monomaniac and intense that Nekra felt charged just being in his presence. A toxic relationship, if ever there were one.)

Eric intended to capture Wonder Man and Vision, using machines devised by Ultron to sift through their minds and cancel out any thoughts or memories they didn't share, supposedly leaving only pure, unfiltered "Simon Williams." This consciousness would then be transferred into a zombie prepared by the Black Talon to look like the original Simon Williams, once and for all restoring Eric's brother!

In a series of attacks, Vision and the Scarlet Witch were captured, along with Wonder Man and his teammates in the West Coast Avengers. Simon refused to go meekly to his fate, however, and fought against the Lethal Legion until the heroes were freed. The Grim Reaper and Nekra fled into the tunnels of their Rocky Mountain hideout. When they split up on the winding cavernous pathways, Eric took the upper path and was pursued by Wonder Man and the Vision. The three brothers Williams confronted each other atop the cavern, and the Reaper saw the growing bond of brotherhood between Simon and Vision. In his mind, Eric was now the odd brother out and, as he recoiled from this "rejection," the Reaper tumbled off the steep pathway and fell hundreds of feet to the dark cave floor below. The impact (and the stalagmite piercing his chest) killed him. [West Coast Avengers (2nd series) #1-2, Vision & the Scarlet Witch (2nd series) #1-2]

Nekra could not let go of her hate or Eric's that easily, however. Using the voodoo magicks she learned from Black Talon, she was able to reanimate the Grim Reaper months later as a zombie. In order to preserve the spell and Eric's sanity, Nekra deceived him into believing he was still alive, and had only been wounded after the Lethal Legion's fight with the Avengers. They attempted to strike at Vision and Wanda on the night the couple's children were born, but were opposed by Wonder Man and Magneto. During the fight Wonder Man noticed a bullet hole in Eric's back from an earlier skirmish, and realized he was truly dead. Magneto then assaulted the Reaper further to prove to him he felt no pain. Eric did not want to "live" as a zombie. He returned Nekra's love, but asked her to let him go. The spell ended and Grim Reaper's body reverted to a dead, decaying husk. [Vision & the Scarlet Witch (2nd series) #12]

Simon had Eric's body buried in Los Angeles, and visited his brother's grave frequently. During a battle with Immortus in Limbo, Wonder Man was forced to fight the Grim Reaper, who had been raised as a member of the Legion of the Unliving. Given Immortus' M.O., however, this was likely NOT a real incarnation of Eric Williams, but instead one of the shape-shifting Space Phantoms cast into the role by his master. [Avengers West Coast #61]

After a period of months, though, Nekra once again raised Eric from the dead. Her new spell removed the binding ties that traditionally existed between a zuvembie and the houngan who raised them from the earth, leaving the Reaper free to move and act as he wished. The trade-off was a vampire-like condition requiring him to drain the life energy from another person at least once every 24 hours to sustain his undead form.

However, the Eric Williams who emerged from the grave was not the same that went into it. Gone was the twisted code or love that connected him to others in the past. After learning the new terms of his existence, the Grim Reaper murdered Nekra for her life essence without batting an eye. Concerned with nothing more than his own feeding, the Reaper drew the attention of Wonder Man and the Scarlet Witch when he killed a group of Satan-worshippers in the desert. When he tried to extract Simon's lifeforce, however, Eric got a surprise. Whether because of their sibling relationship or Wonder Man's ionic nature, Simon was immune to Eric's scythe. In fact, the Grim Reaper's accumulated life energy reversed itself by flowing out of Eric and into Simon, leaving the brothers weakened and sick, respectively.

Grim Reaper fled the scene to regroup and find easier life essences to drain, but Wonder Man pursued him over the next few days. After confronting Simon again and killing Nekra's vengeful foster brother Mandrill, Eric fled into the sewers. He chanced across a villainous plot by Ultron-13 already being investigated by the other Avengers West. Ultron had taken advantage of crop-spraying in the Los Angeles area to spread a "robotizing" spray among Angelinos. The spray converted human beings into lifeless metal Andrones subject to Ultron's will. More importantly to Eric, it also had the potential to completely deprive Grim Reaper of his food supply.

Rather than leap into a conflict with Ultron-13, Grim Reaper proposed an alliance instead. Ultron was egotistical enough to accept a new "lackey," even one whose interests were so blatantly contrary to his own. As a small test, however, Ultron used his optic beams to fuse flesh and metal, testing whether the Reaper was truly dead by grafting his scythe permanently in place of his hand. Being dead, Grim Reaper felt no pain from the assault, and actually came to like the idea of becoming one with his scythe.

Nevertheless, Eric planned to betray Ultron. Something the Reaper's zombie senses noticed which Ultron had missed was an unexpected side-effect of the "robotizing" process -- Ultron-13 was absorbing human life energy into himself as feedback. This made Ultron supernaturally "human" enough for Grim Reaper to drain from him, even mystically damaging his otherwise indestructible Adamantium body with his scythe.

When Simon tracked him down, Eric offered to use his knowledge of Ultron's weakness to help defeat the insane robot. In exchange, he demanded Simon's pledge that he would not oppose Eric any further, so long as he limited himself to the one lifeforce a day necessary to stay alive. Wonder Man reluctantly accepted the Reaper's offer and they soon pinpointed Ultron's hidden ship among the blimps at the Rose Parade. Grim Reaper attacked Ultron-13, draining his life energy and humbling the robot. The accumulated life essence of dozens of Andrones flooded through the Reaper's dead frame, and he laughed at how Simon was now bound by his word not to interfere with him any longer. Wonder Man struck his brother down anyway, as honoring his word wasn't worth more than the lives Grim Reaper would take. Despite the Reaper’s devastating attack, Ultron-13 was restored by his self-repair circuits and the two villains ended up knocking each other out of the fight before being detained by law enforcement. [Avengers West Coast #65-68]

Eric Williams' capacity for madness and self-denial remained remarkable, even in death. He re-wrote history in his memories, convincing himself that the Avengers were responsible for his death, and began practicing black magic in order to gather the power necessary for his "revenge." With the proper incantations prepared, the Reaper journeyed to the Lightless Abyss and invoked Lloigoroth of the Nameless Ones. Eric submitted himself to Lloigoroth's service in exchange for the power he coveted.

With the strength of a demon lord behind him, the Grim Reaper struck. He caused an airline crash to claim the souls of all the passengers aboard, leaving the wrecked jet inside the transmuted mouth of a giant stone skull to mark his passing. The Avengers were called in to investigate and discovered a supernatural message the Reaper left for them inside the plane's black box, daring them to return to the Rocky Mountain caverns where the Reaper first died. Once his prey arrived, Grim Reaper opened an inter-dimensional vortex, bringing the Avengers to the Lightless Abyss where he could further torture his opponents.

Using the bodies of victims culled from a subway train, the Grim Reaper created his own Legion of the Unliving, with the souls of fallen Avengers foes cast into rotting zombie-like bodies. The Reaper tormented the Avengers with fear and revulsion until the Vision broke ranks with his comrades. Unthreatened by death and incapable of feeling the spine-tingling fear the Reaper was evoking in others, Vision was largely unaffected by the assaults. He made his way to Grim Reaper's chambers and matter-of-factly confronted him with the logical flaws of his vendetta. Vision's cold and clinical eyewitness recitation of the Reaper's demise broke through the self-deception Eric Williams was under and he remembered his own suicide. The shock cost him control of his zombie Legion, who turned on the Reaper. Finally, Lloigoroth itself appeared and chastised the Reaper for his failure, pulling his soul deeper into the dimensional abyss as the Avengers fought their way back to Earth. [Avengers (1st series) #352-354]

When he next appeared, Eric Williams was allied with Blackheart, the scheming son of Mephisto, one of the Lords of Hell. Blackheart and the Reaper hoped to organize a demon army to stage a coup against Mephisto, and Eric's brother Wonder Man became a pawn sought by both sides. The Reaper and Blackheart killed Simon's critically injured friend Alex Flores at the hospital, blaming Mephisto for the act while stealing Alex's soul as a bargaining chip. They also brought forth Simon and Eric's dead parents from the bowels of Hell to convince Simon to work for Blackheart in order to save them from further torment.

[Note: Confusingly, Simon and Eric's mother wasn't actually dead, but they believed her to be for this story arc alone. This, along with other falsified memories about Eric being responsible for her death, were all apparently implanted by Mephisto, as implied in Avengers Two: Wonder Man & the Beast #3. What Mephisto gained from this, and what deeper game he may have been playing, was never made clear.]

More than ever before, Eric almost pathologically embraced his role as "the bad son," something their mother supposedly drilled into his head up until he accidentally "killed her" by playing with fire and setting their house ablaze. The Grim Reaper gleefully forced Wonder Man to fight by his side against Mephisto's demons, the Brothers Williams together at last. As Simon broke from Mephisto or Blackheart's control, he tried to bring Eric with him. Simon insisted Eric wasn't "the bad son" because of fate or destiny, but because he chose to be. And he could choose not to be as well. As he struggled with his options, Eric saw Mephisto take aim at Simon and threw himself in the path of the devil's hellfire. The Grim Reaper died again, protecting his little brother, because he chose to be good, just this once. [Wonder Man (1st series) #22-25]