Avengers West Coast #65

Issue Date: 
December 1990
Story Title: 
The Reaper and the Robot, part 1: Whatsoever a Man Soweth… (first story)

Roy & Dann Thomas (writers), Paul Ryan (penciler), Danny Bullandi (inker), Bill Oakley (letterer), Bob Sharen (colorist), Mike Marts (assistant editor), Howard Mackie (editor), Tom DeFalco (editor-in-chief)

Brief Description: 

(first story)
Wonder Man visit’s the grave of his long-dead brother, the Grim Reaper, and recalls some of their past history. However, after Wonder Man leaves, the Grim Reaper rises from his grave! The super-villain soon discovers that his ex-girlfriend, villainess Nekra, is responsible for his resurrection - but when she explains that he will need to kill one human life through his scythe every 24 hours, the Grim Reaper repays Nekra by making her his first victim, slaying her. At the Palos Verdes Compound, USAgent and Hawkeye get into a late-night fist fight, interrupted only by the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, and followed by Wonder Man who has returned home. USAgent and Hawkeye part ways, their grudge still remains though. Wonder Man and the Scarlet Witch discuss the recent events that have happened to Wanda, and when Wonder Man asks her out to dinner, she accepts (though at first was going to turn him down). The Grim Reaper makes his way to an old bunker, where he finds a cult going about their business - and proceeds to slay them all, though one of them escapes, and makes her way to a nearby restaurant, where Wonder Man and the powerless Scarlet Witch are having dinner. After giving a vague explanation as to what happened, the woman dies, so Wonder Man and the Scarlet Witch join forces with local Police officers to find out what is going on. Arriving at the bunker, Wonder Man encounters the Grim Reaper, who tries to kill him, but his scythe cannot pierce Wonder Man’s ionic form. The Grim Reaper is about to turn his attention to the Scarlet Witch, but flees into the night, leaving Wonder Man to feel responsible for his brother’s return and any deaths that may occur because of him. Meanwhile, Hank Pym and the Wasp stop at a farmhouse to ask the occupants for help, after their car broke down. When the elderly couple reveal that don’t have any equipment to fix a car, surprising Hank and the Wasp, Hank reveals that he actually has a Rover with him - but when he uses his Pym Particles to grow Rover to a size to fit them both, the elderly couple seemingly explode - revealed to be robots. Hank and the Wasp are incredibly puzzled, and, unknown to them, are being watched by…Ultron-13!

Full Summary: 

first story:
The sun sets over Southern California, where Simon “Wonder Man” Williams is currently visiting a graveyard - the graveyard where his brother, Eric a.k.a. the Grim Reaper was buried. ‘Hi, big brother. Long time, no see’ the heroic Wonder Man remarks as he stands over his brothers’ grave. Simon remarks that it is funny, how he can talk to his brother better since he is dead and buried than he ever could when Eric was alive. ‘There were probably lots of brothers like that. You were always the outgoing one…the bold one’ Simon remarks, as his mind wanders back to the past:

flashback images narrated by Wonder Man
Simon remarks that Eric was the one who would take all the risks, while he just watched - with a combination of envy and resentment, like when Eric would climb rocky cliffs, leaving Simon below. Simon points out that, after their father’s death, he was the dutiful son who managed the munitions business, while Eric had his gambling to keep himself busy. ‘The next thin I knew, you’d joined the mob!’ Simon exclaims, before admitting that when the company failed, he turned into an embezzler, then became Wonder Man - the super-powered “mole” in the Avengers.

And while Simon lay comatose - dead as far as anyone could tell - Eric became the scythe-swinging Grim Reaper, determined to kill the Vision for “stealing” his brain patterns. Simon recalls how it took Eric some time to accept his return to life, in an altered form, before revealing that he has always suspected Eric’s falling to his death when he cornered him was actually suicide.

present / reality:
Simon admits though they he can never be sure, even after the mutant Nekra made him into a zombie for a while. ‘Well, at least you’re at peace now…here in Southern California where you died’ Simon remarks, adding that he is sorry they drifted apart, but pointing out that in some weird way, perhaps they really cared for each other more than most brothers. ‘Don’t guess we’ll ever know’ Simon whispers as he walks over to the Quinjet waiting nearby, and moments later, takes off into the darkening sky.

Suddenly, there is a scratching, digging sound coming from the grave of the Grim Reaper. The ground breaks as the Grim Reapers’ scythe slashes its way through - before the decayed Grim Reaper bursts from his grave - ‘Free at last!’ he cries. Climbing out of his grave, the Grim Reaper exclaims ‘But - digging my way - out of my own grave - just about shot my wad!’, and recalls that he was dead - stone cold dead. ‘I remember dying - blackness - oblivion!’ the Grim Reaper exclaims, wondering how it is possible he is now back to life.

‘It’s quite simple, really. You didn’t!’ a voice exclaims. ‘You?’ the Grim Reaper exclaims, turning in the direction of the voice. ‘I should have known!’ he exclaims as he looks upon a scantily-clad Albino woman, holding a voodoo doll of himself. ‘Is that all you have to say, dear Eric…to greet your beloved Nekra?’ the exotic woman asks. ‘Couldn’t you have left me dead, woman?’ the Grim Reaper asks as he approaches Nekra. ‘The thought of being a zombie again - taking orders from some voodoo like the Black Talon…’ Eric begins, but Nekra interrupts, assuring him that it will not be this way this time.

‘Do you remember kissing me as you died, the second time?’ Nekra asks, revealing to the Grim Reaper that the kiss made her realize that she loves him, which is why she has spent months learning the Talon’s rituals so she could revive him herself. ‘You don’t have to obey anyone, this time around!’ Nekra exclaims, when, suddenly, a voice shouts ‘Hey, you two! What’re you doing in here after dark?’ It’s a graveyard worker, who grabs a rake from his truck and marches towards the villains - and potential doom.

‘You say…I’m my own boss, from here on?’ Eric asks Nekra, who motions to the graveyard worker and replies ‘Yes, of course!’, before explaining that her spell requires him to absorb a human life through his scythe at least once every 24 hours, and that his first volunteer is approaching right now. Nekra turns her back to the Grim Reaper as she stares at the graveyard worker and asks Eric what he is waiting for, ‘Go ahead and kill - him!’ Nekra’s expression of evil turns to one of shock as she feels her lover’s scythe pierce her stomach, splattering blood everywhere.

Still impaled on Eric’s scythe, Nekra turns to the Grim Reaper, ‘H-how could you - after I - r-revived you…?’ Nekra asks. ‘Good Lord!’ exclaims the graveyard worker, while the Reaper looks into Nekra’s dying eyes and tells her that it was easy. ‘Let me out of here!’ the graveyard worker shouts as he drops his rake and runs away. Energy begins to flow from Nekra’s body, through the scythe and into the Grim Reaper, who exclaims ‘Like you said, Nekra, this time - I don’t have to do what anybody tells me. Anybody!’

The Grim Reaper remarks that Nekra was right about his needed to absorb life - to hang onto his own approximation of it. ‘Still, in sucking out your life - I’ve become the walking personification of death!’ Eric exclaims, and as Nekra slides off his scythe, her withered body falls to the ground, and Eric shouts that far more than before, he has become the Grim Reaper!

Meanwhile, in Palos Verdes, California, specifically, the Palos Verdes Compound - home and headquarters to the Avengers West Coast! Clint “Hawkeye” Barton is attached to a mechanical device, which swings him upside down and around, while he fires his arrows at targets. Clint thinks to himself that it was a good idea getting in this after house practice, and recalls how last time he used the device when it was daytime, he almost wound up drilling the Scarlet Witch a new nostril. ‘Three arrows…that’s one bullseye - two - thr - huh?’ Clint thinks to himself, as before his third arrow strikes its target, a shield is thrown in front of it, splintering the arrow.

‘You! I might’ve known!’ Clint shouts when he sees the owner of the arrow walk by. ‘What’s wrong, Archer? Think you’re the only one who can use a night workout?’ asks the handsome Johnny Walker, a.k.a. the USAgent. Johnny adds that a guy like Hawkeye needs all the practice they can get, which causes Clint to get off the device and shout that he has about had it with USAgent. ‘Am I supposed to consider that a threat?’ Walker asks, before suggesting to Clint that he remembers what happened the last time he threw a punch at him.

‘Refresh my memory, geek!’ Clint retorts as he lunges at Johnny, ‘Was it anything like this he asks?’ as his fist smacks Johnny’s jaw, knocking USAgent backwards. ‘Or else maybe -’ Clint begins, ready to take another swipe, but Walker grabs Clint by the wrist and tosses him with ease into a bush. ‘You’re fighting out of your class!’ Walker exclaims, when suddenly, twin mutants Wanda and Pietro Maximoff - better known as the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, respectively - walk by, and Wanda asks Hawkeye and USAgent what is going on. ‘Just a little bowling practice’ Walker replies, to which Quicksilver tells him to keep a civil tongue in his head.

‘Guess we should have sold tickets’ Clint remarks as Wonder Man lands the Quinjet nearby. ‘Nice going, guys. If somebody like Master Pandemonium had seen that slugfest, it would have made his day!’ Simon exclaims as he exit’s the Quinjet. Walker replies that it was between he and Hawkeye, nobody else’s business. ‘First smart thing you’ve said since Washington shoe-horned you into the Avengers West’ Hawkeye mumbles, before Wonder Man suggests that, whatever brought this fight on, they could just shake hands and forget about it. ‘How about we forget to shake hands, and let it go at that?’ Clint replies. ‘What he said’ USAgent adds as he and Clint walk away in separate directions. Wanda tells Simon that he gave it a good try, and Quicksilver adds that neither Hank Pym nor the Wasp could have done better if they were here.

The Scarlet Witch points out that USAgent and Hawkeye are both professionals, and will work it out, before Quicksilver motions to the Compound building and asks Wanda if she is coming inside. ‘In a minute’ Wanda replies, and as her brother races inside, Wanda turns to Simon, asking if she could speak to him for a moment. ‘Long as you want’ Simon replies as the two begin to walk along the edge of the Compound cliffs that overhang the beach. Wanda explains to Simon that she wants to thank him for his kindness while she has been recovering from everything that has happened to her lately.

‘What are friends for?’ Simon replies, before remarking that Wanda is wearing neither of her costumes, and asks if her hex power has not kicked back in. Gazing out over the ocean, Wanda replies that her powers have not returned, and that she is not certain they ever will. She adds that with so many things she thought were permanent being altered recently, she wonders if perhaps it would be best if the Scarlet Witch phase of her life were over with as well. ‘Don’t even think that, Wanda!’ Simon exclaims, before telling her that he too has had a rough day, and suggests that they might go somewhere off-complex and get something to eat.

Wanda begins to reply that she isn’t very hungry, but turning her head, she sees Simon’s dejected expression, so changes her mind: ‘Of course, Simon. Why not?’ she exclaims, before grabbing Simon by the hand and telling him that she feels like Mexican food. ‘”Taco Loco” all right with you?’ Wanda asks. ‘Hey, Mexico City’s all right with me, lady!’ Simon replies.

Meanwhile, on the shore side hills of San Pedro, California where the concrete gun-emplacements peered out towards an ocean pregnant with menace through World Wars One and Two. It has long been since abandoned by the military, and closed to the public - though the facility still has its uses - such as being safe house to a cult, which has gathered in a room with Satanish Rules scrawled on one of the walls. Several men and women have gathered in the candle-lit room and chant away, when suddenly, ‘Hold it, guys!’ one of them exclaims. ‘We’ve got a visitor!’ another points out as everyone looks to the doorway.

‘Step forward! Let us see you!’ one of the cult calls out to the new arrival. ‘Oh!’ ‘Who?’ they gasp when the new arrival steps into the candle light. ‘The name’s Reaper. You can call me Grim!’ exclaims the Grim Reaper. ‘We’ll call you dead, baldy!’ one of the cult replies, warning him that he will not tell the cops they are using the old bunkers. ‘Why should I?’ the Grim Reaper asks as the man moves closer to him. ‘Since you won’t be using them any longer?’ the Grim Reaper adds as he shoves his scythe into the man. ‘Get him! He killed Willie!’ one of the other cult members exclaims. ‘Grab that sickle!’ another shouts as they all lunge towards the Grim Reaper.

A moment ago, that plan might have worked, as the Grim Reaper’s energy was drained by hours of trekking. Now, however, the life force of Willard H. “Willie” Esterhas having re-invigorated his ghastly pale body, he has added another man’s strength and vitality to his own. The Grim Reaper swings his scythe about, each swipe draws more blood, which flows like the screams of the dying, and the Grim Reaper smiles - or something like it - at the madness, and the elixir called life force which flows into his decayed body. The Grim Reaper does not notice a young woman manage to escape the bunker and flee into the night, but that would matter not to him, as he already has so many lives anyway!

Not too far away, Simon and Wanda sit across from each other in a booth at the restaurant, and Simon asks Wanda if Hank and Jan finally took off to see if they can rekindle the old flame, and remarks ‘Good for them’. Wanda replies that she wouldn’t take any bets on them, when suddenly, they are interrupted by someone who shouts ‘Hey! Aren’t you - Simon Williams!’ The woman’s companion tells her friend to get real. ‘What’d he be doing here?’ she asks. ‘Uh, actually, yeah I’m Simon Williams, and this is -’ Simon replies, beginning to introduce Wanda, who interrupts, ‘Nobody - just his dinner date’ she explains to the adoring fans and onlookers. The first excited woman exclaims ‘This is great!’ and boasts that she saw “Arkon 5” so many times she almost barfed. ‘Thanks…I think’ Simon replies as the woman thrusts a photograph in front of him, to which he asks her if she wants it signed “Simon Williams” or “Wonder Man”. ‘Wonder what?’ the woman asks.

‘You mean you kids don’t know I’m an Avenger?’ Simon asks, surprised, to which the young woman admits that she doesn’t watch the news that much, when, suddenly, the restaurant door bursts open, and the blood-stained cult member enters, weary, she calls out for help, before collapsing near Simon and Wanda, who get to their feet. ‘Dead…all of them…the bunker…the scythe…Grim Reaper…’ the cult woman utters, before passing out. ‘Holy! She’s hurt!’ one of the Police Officers sitting in a nearby booth remarks to his colleague. Gathering around the fallen woman, the Police Officer tells everyone else to get back, while Simon tells him to phone the morgue, as the woman has died.

Simons’ fan exclaims that she knows it is another gang killing, but Wanda isn’t so sure, while the Police Officer tells his colleague that the girl mentioned the old bunker. ‘Simon, did you hear what that poor girl said about -’ Wanda begins, presumably she was going to say something about the Grim Reaper, but Simon interrupts her and holds up his Avengers ID card to the Police, revealing that he is Wonder Man and is going to join them. ‘And the lady?’ asks the blond Police Officer. ‘The Scarlet Witch - also an Avenger’ Wanda replies. The Police Officer remarks that super heroes could all fly, but assures them that he has a spot in his patrol car for them anytime. ’Then let’s get cracking!’ the other Police Officer suggests.

Shortly, Simon, Wanda and the Police Officers arrive at the old bunker, and one of the Officers points to some blood on the ground. ’Then that must be the -’ Wanda begins, before seeing Simon pass the fence and begin to enter the facility, telling him to wait. Simon reminds Wanda that with her hex power gone, she should wait here. ’I’m faster than any of you - not to mention knife proof - so I’m going in first’ Simon announces, while thinking to himself that the mention of a scythe and a “Grim Reaper”, probably means just some new gang out to blood the bloods. ’But still…’ Simon thinks, unconvinced.

Entering the room where the cult were residing, Simon whispers ’Oh my God…’ as he discovers the carnage that remains. Walking through the blood and bodies, Simon realizes that the people aren’t just dead, they are desiccated, dried up like Egyptian mummies. Simon wonders who could have done this, when he gets his answer: ’Hello, little brother!’ booms the Grim Reaper, revealing himself to Simon. ’YOU?!’ Simon gasps as Eric takes a swipe at him with his scythe. ’Come to make a donation?’ the Grim Reaper asks as Simon dodges his attack.

‘Then it’s true! You’ve come back to life again, somehow - and you killed those poor kids!’ Simon exclaims as he smacks a table into the Grim Reaper, knocking the villain backwards. ‘Not “back to life” exactly’ the Grim Reaper replies, adding that the “poor kids” were as innocent as Charles Manson, not that it made any difference to him, as he needed their lives to sustain his own existence, he explains to Simon. ‘That means - you’re even more murderous than you used to be - which makes stopping you my business!’ Simon shouts as he punches the Grim Reaper hard into a concrete wall.

Outside, the Scarlet Witch exclaims that either Simon is fighting just ahead, or they are having another earthquake. ‘Don’t say that - not while we’re under all this concrete!’ one of the Police Officers replies, while the other tells Wanda to step aside so they can give her boyfriend a hand, ‘Cause dark as it is in here, he sure looks like he could use it!’ the Officer adds as they step into the bunker proper, just as Simon is thrown hard against a wall. ‘Get out of my way! Simon Williams is mine!’ the Grim Reaper shrieks as he lunges towards his brother, knocking aside both Police Officers who have stepped in between.

The Grim Reaper boasts that he has drunk enough lives tonight to see him through another day, but that he must and will have Simon Williams! Simon thinks to himself that this cannot be Eric, not even the version from the nutty Legion of the Unliving. ‘Whatever else Eric did, he always considered himself my protector’ Simon reminds himself, before deciding to let the scythe get to him, and see what happens - as if on cue, the Grim Reaper strikes Simon in the chest with the scythe, but it doesn’t cut his ionic form. ‘Simon!’ Wanda exclaims with concern, when suddenly, something begins to happen.

Energy crackles around the Grim Reaper, and Simon believes that Eric is being hurt - Simon realizes that it is as if the life energy is flowing out of the Grim Reaper, through the blade, and into himself. ‘But - it’s such foul energy - evil - washing into me like a river of filth!’ Simon tells himself, thinking that he is going to be sick. ‘Impossible! Merely touching you - has drained me -weakened me!’ the Grim Reaper exclaims, declaring that all of a sudden, he does need another life tonight. ‘Lucky for me, I see several ripe for the taking!’ the Grim Reaper exclaims, looking at Wanda and the Police Officers. ‘Stay back!’ Wanda warns him, while one of the Officers tells the Scarlet Witch that he hopes she has some stunt up her sleeve, because bullets don’t stop this guy.

Wanda raises her hands, thinking that she must try her hex power and hope for the best, while knowing that she hasn’t tried to use her power since it left her - along with all the excess power Immortus built up in her. ‘But here goes the proverbial’ she tells herself, only nothing happens. Wanda decides to go for “plan b”, and kicks over the one remaining lamp in the chamber, plunging the room into darkness, Wanda hopes that the Grim Reaper doesn’t have a flashlight. Wonder Man gets up and stands beside his brother: ‘Eric - if you really are Eric - wait!’ he exclaims as the Grim Reaper begins to make his exit. Simon tells him that if something is wrong, he might be able to help.

‘What I need, little brother, you clearly can’t give - and you sure won’t stand by and let me take if for myself!’ Eric replies, adding that he may be dead, but he needs life, like a living man needs food. ‘And no one is going to stop me from getting all I need! No one!’ the Grim Reaper shouts as he rushes from the bunker and into the night time darkness, though followed quickly by Simon, Wanda and the Police Officers - though it is too late. ‘Gone! If only the feedback from the scythe hadn’t made me so -’ Simon begins, until Wanda interrupts, asking if that was truly Eric, back from the dead. ‘Not back from the dead, Wanda! Still dead - yet preying like a vampire on the living!’ Simon replies, declaring that he must find him, ‘Or else every life he takes - every drop of blood he spills - will be on my hands!’

Meanwhile, somewhere north of San Luis Obispo…Dr. Hank Pym stands with his ex-wife, Janet van Dyne a.k.a. the Wasp, on the front porch of a farmhouse, and knocking on the door, Hank begins complaining: ‘Hank and Jan couldn’t fly in a Rover, oh now. Or even just take a plane. They had to rent a car and drive, just like folks! Result: one flat tire, equidistant between closed service stations, in a car missing a jack!’ ‘Thank Heaven for a farmhouse, in the middle of all this wheat’ Janet remarks, to which Hank adds he is unsure how anyone could live here - with all the malathion spraying he hears they have been doing.

Suddenly, the farmhouse door swings open, and an elderly couple are standing in the doorway. ‘Evening, strangers. You’re sure off the beaten track’ the old man points out. Jan explains that a “let’s take the back roads” idea of hers didn’t pan out. Hank tells the old couple that he is sorry to bother them, and explains that they have a flat tire. ‘Could I borrow a jack?’ he asks. The old man replies that he doesn’t have one, but tells them that his wife can make them a coffee if they like. ‘No jack? But I figured -’ Hank begins to reply, only to be interrupted by Janet who declares that this is all her fault. ‘If we had Rover here right now, I swear I’d hop on it in a second!’

‘Well, in that case, Jan…let’s put the ever-faithful Pym Particles to work, and be on our way!’ Hank replies as he pulls a Rover from his pocket, and uses his powers to increase it to a capacity which can hold them both. ‘Motor’s already humming!’ Hank points out. ‘You had that in your pocket all along - bless you!’ Jan exclaims as they walk towards the Rover, only for Janet to notice something burning. ‘And what’s wrong with those two?’ Jan adds, motioning to the old couple on the porch, who have begun to convulse. Hank tells Jan to get down as he exclaims that the old couple are puffing up, as if they are going to - blow.

Indeed, the old couple explode, rocketing through the porch. Hank and Jan rush over to the porch, with Jan asking Hank if he is okay. ‘Yeah. But they sure aren’t - look at them!’ Hank replies, motioning to the remains of the elderly couple - robotic remains. ‘They were robots…androids!’ the Wasp gasps. Hank picks up the heads of the robots and exclaims that this is crazy. ‘Lord knows we’ve run into our quota of androids over the years…but why would anybody stick sophisticated ones like these - on a California wheat farm?’ Jan tells Hank that she is way ahead of him - ‘Back to L.A., right?’

However, Jan and Hank are unaware that their actions are being monitored very closely by a deadly foe…’Go wherever you wish, Avengers…it’s all the same to Ultron-13!’.

Characters Involved: 

Dr. Hank Pym, Hawkeye, Scarlet Witch, USAgent, Wasp, Wonder Man (all Avengers West Coast)


Grim Reaper

Graveyard worker
Members of a cult
Police Officers
Restaurant patrons and staff

In Flashback Images:
Wonder Man at various stages
Grim Reaper at various states

Story Notes: 

This issue features a short five-page back-up story featuring the original Human Torch and Ann Raymond. They are written out of the Avengers West Coast series with this issue, though the Torch makes a guest appearance at a later date. They both become supporting characters in the Namor series, and later the Torch stars in the short-lived Heroes for Hire (1st series).

The Grim Reaper (zombiefied after dying in the Vision & Scarlet Witch (2nd series) #2) was killed in the Vision & Scarlet Witch (2nd series) #12.

Simon became Wonder Man in Avengers (1st series) #9, and died the same issue. He was resurrected in Avengers (1st series) #106, and became one of the Black Talon’s zombies in Avengers (1st series) #152.

Nekra is later resurrected by Hellstorm in the Druid limited series.

USAgent was a forced member of the Avengers West Coast, joining back in West Coast Avengers (2nd series) #44, much to the annoyance of Hawkeye.

When the Scarlet Witch thanks Wonder Man for being kind to her after everything that has happened to her lately, she really means EVERYTHING - her robot husband being destroyed and rebuilt, her children being revealed to be magical constructs, possession by an ancient evil, manipulation by her father, prisoner of Immortus…see West Coast Avengers (2nd series) #42 - Avengers West Coast #62 for the full story!

The Grim Reaper appeared, then dead, err, deader, as a member of Immortus’ Legion of the Unliving in Avengers West Coast #61.

First appearance of Ultron-13. Previously, Ultron-12 was deactivated in West Coast Avengers (2nd series) #7, then appeared under the control of Doctor Doom during the “Acts of Vengeance” in Daredevil (1st series) #275-276.

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