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Roger Stern (writer), Mark Bagley (penciler), Greg Adams (inker), Sharpefont and SC (lettering), Tom Smith (colorist), Tom Brevoort (editor), Bob Harras (editor in chief) with special thanks to Kurt Busiek (Avenger)
Simon Williams, aka Wonder Man, has taken leave from the Avengers, having recently been resurrected by the Scarlet Witch, with whom he has forged a strong bond. He gets on a flight to Los Angeles to clear up some personal business, and finds himself sitting next to his old friend, Hank McCoy. He tells Simon that he’s there because Wanda was concerned for him. They discuss their lives to date, with both having a long and complex history. During the flight, several terrorists calling themselves the Popular Front for Slorenian Sovereignty hijack the plane, in order to get the U.N. to grant their nation sovereignty. Wonder Man reacts instinctively, taking out the knifeman, and Beast follows up by taking a gun off the second guy. They learn that there are three more hijackers in coach, so they lure one of them through, and force him to spill the beans on what’s going on. When they try to dupe the others in order to get close to them, their ruse is discovered and the lead hijacker throws some plastic explosive at Wonder Man. Fortunately, his ionic body absorbs pretty much all the blast, and he knocks the guy out with one finger. Acclaimed as heroes, a large crowd awaits them in Los Angeles, including reporters, who Wonder Man has no interest in speaking to. This isn’t why he’s in town. He grabs Hank and his former agent, Neal Saroyan, and whisks them away. As they fly across the city, they are spotted by old friends and old enemies alike, including Lotus, who still wants her revenge on Wonder Man.
(present)Wonder Man is about to board a flight to Los Angeles. Simon Williams has died twice, and owes his life this time to the Scarlet Witch, whom he passionately kisses goodbye. He doesn’t fully believe he deserves all this. Wanda asks him if something’s wrong and, as he thinks back to when he died trying to stop a Kree ion-cannon, he tells her that he owes her everything. Wanda tells him she loves him, but Simon doesn’t feel he’s worthy of that love. Wanda doesn’t want this now. It’s been difficult for them both.
(flashback)When they first met, Wanda was married to the Vision; Simon’s artificial ‘brother.’ The Vision is a synthezoid, programmed with Simon’s brain patterns. They both loved the Scarlet Witch and she loved them, but she was an honorable woman. She denied her love for Simon as long as they were married. This marriage was over by the time she brought Simon back from the dead. He tried to talk with the Vision about this, but it didn’t go smoothly.
(present)Wanda assures Simon that it isn’t his fault that the Vision left the Avengers. Simon thinks it’s just one more thing he has to answer for. She pecks him on the cheek, and asks him not to be so hard on himself. She hopes this trip will make him see that. As she departs, she tells him she’ll be waiting for him, along with the other Avengers. Simon puts on his red glasses as his flight is called. Fortunately for him, an alert member of staff recognizes him and he is upgraded to first class, given his Avenger status. He informs them that he’s no longer an Avenger, but they say it’s no trouble.
As the plane flies to California, Simon feels this is something else he doesn’t deserve. He booked a commercial flight to avoid Avengers perks, but at least they agreed not to announce his presence over the intercom. As he settles into the flight, the passenger sitting next to him apologizes for ignoring him, but the book he’s reading is fascinating. He tells him that Ramachandran writes so effectively about Capgras’ Delusion, and he asks Simon if he’s familiar with it. He isn’t. The passenger explains that it’s a syndrome wherein the sufferer sees friends and family as impostors. Simon thinks this is just his luck; a talker.
(flashback)He turns his mind back to a recent visit he made to his mother in New Jersey as the plane flies over the area. She was obviously pleased to seem him alive and well, and Simon told her he’d have come sooner but the Avengers needed a hand. He also informed her that his brother, Eric, came back too. They don’t know where he is right now. She asked if the Vision was well, and was pleased to hear he is in good health.
(present)Simon’s neighbor offers a penny for his thoughts. Simon turns and sees the guy has morphed into Abraham Lincoln. He then turns into Curly Howard from the Three Stooges, and tells Simon he’s traveling in disguise. He then switches off his Stark Solutions image-inducer and reveals himself to be none other than Simon’s best friend, Hank McCoy.
Simon is surprised, and asks him how he got there. Hank explains that Wanda had recently e-mailed him about his journey, and seemed a bit concerned. So, he arranged some time off from the X-Men, and hopes that Simon doesn’t mind. Simon wishes everyone would stop being so nice to him. Hank realizes he’s still in his ‘I’m not worthy’ mood. He reminds Simon that he’s come back from the dead… twice, and is entitled to a few breaks. Simon replies that he’s had more than a few breaks. He’s royally screwed up all his lives, starting with the first, when he stole from the family business.
(flashback)He knows now that he should have taken the rap, but he was broke and disgraced. A mysterious woman then agreed to pay his bond, and though he didn’t know it, it was his first encounter with the Enchantress. He let her wrap him around her little finger. Before he knew it, he was in a secret lab in South America, being turned into a super-human by a Nazi war criminal. It sounds crazy, he adds, but it all happened, and he became Wonder Man. Of course, there was a catch. The power would kill him inside of a week. Baron Zemo held the antidote and, to get it, all he had to do was defeat the Avengers.
Zemo was clever, setting up a battle so Simon could look like a big hero and, thus, infiltrate their ranks. They threw all their resources into finding a cure for him, which made his betrayal all the worse. He abducted the Wasp to bait a trap for the others, and they walked right into it. He had them all on the ropes, but then Zemo ordered Simon to kill them. Thankfully, he refused to allow that to happen and sacrificed himself to save them.
(present)Simon tells Hank that this was the first time he died. All he recalls is a void; an emptiness. Hank replies by telling Simon how he first got his powers.
(flashback)Hank’s father was a nuclear technician, until he took an especially heavy dose of radiation. It might be a coincidence, but when Hank was born it was clear that he was a mutant. He suspects the radiation might have had something to do with it. His extra-large hands and feet garnered him some unwanted taunts as a boy, but his agility and musculature served him well, winning him a slot at Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. It was a great place for academic and personalized study, and few suspected that they were also the masked, mutant X-Men. Under Xavier’s tutelage, he assumed the nom de guerre of The Beast, joining his fellow X-Men in routine Danger Room sessions to hone their skills.
They fought villains such as Magneto periodically and in time they graduated, but he continued to associate himself with the X-Men for some time. They were heady days. Eventually, he struck out on his own, taking a research position at the Brand Corporation. While there, he isolated a chemical catalyst for genetic mutation. One night, he discovered some skullduggery and, lacking a proper disguise, he quaffed his experimental formula, becoming a real Beast. The effect, alas, was not temporary.
At first, he continues, he tried to hide it and went underground for a while, learning to live with his new hirsute state. By the time he became comfortable with it, the Avengers were recruiting and so he leapt at the chance to become one of Earth’s mightiest heroes. He was welcomed with open arms. Being a mutant, and furry, was never an issue. There was a wonderful bonhomie amongst the Avengers, but then Simon already knows this, as just a few weeks into his tenure Simon returned from the dead, making an impressive entrance.
(present)Hank tells Simon that his attire was somewhat dated, but then he was wearing a mask designed by Zemo. Simon explains that he didn’t have much choice in the matter - not that the outfit Hank designed for him was much better.
Suddenly, a couple of armed men enter the cabin, with one of them holding a knife to a stewardess’s throat. He orders everyone to stay seated and proclaims that the plane now belongs to the Popular Front for Slorenian Sovereignty. Before he can instruct them not to do anything until they say so, Wonder Man changes into his ionic form and strikes. The knife is knocked to the floor, and the second terrorist is smacked in the face by Hank’s book. Hank takes the gun from his hand and punches him in the face, as Simon slams the knifeman’s face into the overhead luggage compartment.
The fight is over almost as soon as it began. Hank admires the pistol. It’s constructed mainly of super-hardened plastic, which must be how it got past security. Simon asks the stewardesses if they’re all right, and asks if there are any others aboard. She tells him there are three more back in coach. They have guns… and explosives.
In coach, the PFSS leader explains to the passengers that the United Nations was unable to stop the American-made robot, Ultron, from ravaging Slorenia. Now, they deny Slorene exiles entry back into their own homeland! This plane’s passengers have been chosen as the lever by which they will force the world to recognize their sovereignty. He assures them they’ll be released unharmed if the U.N. agrees to their demands. A young boy asks if what he’s holding is plastic explosive, because if it is it’ll kill everyone aboard including them if it goes off. He replies that it is, and everyone should heed what the boy says.
One of the gunmen, Johan, feels it’s been too long without an announcement from the cockpit and calls through, asking Rolli how goes it. Rolli pops his head through the curtain, and says everything’s fine, but they could use his assistance. The leader, Mikhel, tells him that he and Leks have everything well in hand, so he can go. Leks is sweating, but knows it will soon be all over. Rolli makes his way into the cabin, and is immediately grabbed by the two heroes. Hank had managed to use his image-inducer to make him look like Rolli, and he clamps his huge hand over the terrorist’s mouth. Wonder Man snaps his gun like it was made of glass. Hank tells him that he’s going to tell them everything they want to know about his buddies, and in return, he won’t do anything beastly to him. He switches off the image-inducer to reveal his true appearance, which shocks Johan.
Moments later, Hank is back looking like Rolli and Simon is wearing Johan’s clothes with a baseball cap covering his face, as they wander into coach to assure Mikhel that everything is under control. Hank says that Matt occupies the cockpit, keeping close watch over the pilot. Leks looks confused. He tells Rolli that the plan is for him to fly the plane. Hank gulps, and realizes that Johan didn’t tell them everything. Simon reacts immediately, throwing off his baseball cap, pushing past Hank and shouting for everyone to get down. He transforms into his ionic form and dashes towards Leks. Mikhel reacts quickly, too. He hurls the plastic explosive at Wonder Man, and cries, “Death before dishonor! Slorenia over all!”
The explosive hits Simon in the stomach, and as it hits, he clamps his hands around it as it explodes. Fortunately, his ionic body absorbs the entire blast, and he remains standing as Mikhel recognizes him as being Wonder Man. “You maniac! You could have killed everyone!” exclaims Simon, before flicking his finger under Mikhel’s chin, knocking him out. He smiles quietly at having so effectively done a good deed.
Hank holds up Leks and tells him he did nice work. The only damage to their side was to his image-inducer, which was broken when Simon hastened him aside. The passengers are relieved, and star struck. Notebooks are offered to the heroes for autographs, and Hank grins as he tells Simon that he never gets asked for autographs when he’s with the X-Men.
(Los Angeles)Some of the passengers get on their phones immediately, and when the plane lands, reporters are waiting for them. An FBI agent informs Simon and Hank that they have a file on this ‘Popular Front.’ They’re extremists who were exiled with the fall of communism. They’ve been trying to claim what’s left of Slorenia. His fellow agent thanks God they were on board. Simon says he was glad to help.
Through the crowd comes a familiar face. “There he is! That’s my hero…!” It’s Neal Saroyan. He explains that he had to learn from CNN that he was coming to town. Simon tells Hank that Neal’s his former agent. “Hey, what’s with this former,” he replies, embracing his old friend. Simon tells him that he’s back in L.A. to deal with some unfinished business. Neal asks what he is; chopped liver? He offers them a place to stay while he’s in town before stepping out of the plane to show them their adoring public.
Standing in front of the airport is a large crowd of reporters and well-wishers, including a couple from the Wonder Man Fan Club. Simon and Hank are astonished that their action has brought so much publicity. Simon thinks he should be flattered, especially with all the negative publicity the Avengers have been having lately, but this isn’t why he came to California. He transforms into his ionic form once again, grabs Hank and Neal, and heads skywards.
He flies them straight over to Neal’s convertible, and asks them to buckle up. They do so and Simon picks up the car and sets off again, rocketing away from the crowd. Neal is understandably nervous, but Hank assures him that Simon never drops anything... well, hardly ever.
One of the people in the crowd is Elaine Bosco, and she gets on the phone to Cindy Knutz, informing her that Simon’s in town. Cindy looks up and sees him carrying the car overhead. As Simon flies past the Delazny Studios back lot, the place brings him a lot of memories. There are so many people he’s hurt, and so much he still has to answer for. As he zooms past, a guy gets on the phone to his employer and informs her of Wonder Man’s arrival. She is already aware of his return, and watches him on television, informing her watchman that she’ll call him if needed. She runs her hands through Bob’s hair, telling him they’re going to have to do something about this. He appears to be in some sort of trance.
She tells him that Wonder Man has interfered with her plans far too often, but he ‘died’ before she could exact her proper revenge. If it is truly Simon Williams who has returned, he must be dealt with most severely, and Bob will help her. “Yes, Lotus… I shall,” he replies.
Beast (also as Abe Lincoln and Curly Howard)Wonder ManScarlet Witch
Airport staff and customersMartha Williams
Hijackers including Johan, Leks, Mikhel and RolliFBI agentsNeal SaroyanAdoring crowsElaine Bosco and fellow reporters
LotusLotus’ watchmanBob O’Bryan
(in flashback)Scarlet WitchCaptain America, Iron Man, Hank Pym (as Giant-Man and Yellowjacket), Scarlet Witch, Thor, Vision, Wasp, Wonder Man (all Avengers)
The EnchantressBail bondsmenExecutionerBaron Zemo
Hank’s mother, Martha WilliamsProfessor XavierAngel, Beast, Cyclops, Iceman, Marvel Girl (all X-Men)MagnetoThe Hulk
(on television)BeastWonder ManNeal Saroyan
Wonder Man first appeared in Avengers (1st series) #9 and subsequently died. He returned from the dead in Avengers (1st series) #151, and informally joined the team in Avengers Annual #6.
Simon ‘died’ when trying to stop a Kree ion-cannon in Force Works #1 which was a series picking up where the Avengers West Coast series left off. Somehow, his mind hung on, and Wanda inadvertently resurrected him again during the Morgan Le Fey storyline in Avengers (3rd series) #1 - 3.
Wonder Man and the Vision fought over Wanda in Avengers (3rd series) #23. He then took leave from the Avengers in Avengers (3rd series) #27.
The book that Hank is reading on the plane is Phantoms in the Brain by Ramachandran & Blakeslee. Ramachandran is a renowned neuroscientist and Blakesee is an award-winning science writer for the New York Times.
Hank is an original member of the X-Men, first appearing in X-Men (1st series) #1. He became furry in Amazing Adventures (2nd series) #11 and joined the Avengers on a probationary basis in Avengers (1st series) #137, becoming a full Avenger in #151.
The Three Stooges were a comedy act that made numerous films, mainly in the 1930’s to the 1950’s.
Ultron ravaged Slorenia through Avengers (3rd series) #19 - 22.
Cindy Knutz was the subject of the two-issue series, Tales of the Marvels: The Wonder Years (1995), in which she told Wonder Man’s story from an obsessive fan’s point of view.
Lotus is Lotus Newmark, and first appeared in Avengers Spotlight #30. She was one of Simon’s foes through out his own series. Lotus has hypnotic abilities but no other major powers. She was believed killed in Wonder Man #25.