Saturday, December 29, 2012

Eric The Dead

With this post, I do believe our retrospective on the Grim Reaper will finally reach, you'll excuse the expression, a dead end. Not that he doesn't cause more mischief down the road in other titles; it's just that it's becoming apparent to me with this latest appearance that Marvel is now beating a dead horse where the Reaper is concerned. I mean, what does it take to put this guy six feet under and keep him there? And how many wince-worthy "dead" references can I make at his expense?

So I come not to praise the Reaper, but to bury him. Or at least try to.

Once the Reaper perished after experiencing "life" as a zombie at the hands of his lover, Nekra, it seemed like there was no more to be gained by further reanimation of him. The Reaper had already come to terms with the twin existence of the Vision and his brother, Simon Williams; unfortunately, when Nekra raised him from the dead, all that he had learned and resolved had been wiped from his memory. At the end of that story, the Reaper--discovering his true state as a zombie--ended his living-dead existence by his own will, choosing the final death over being a walking corpse.

With this next story, Nekra is once again responsible for resurrecting Eric Williams, though with a couple of twists. First, he's completely free from being commanded by the Black Talon or any other such voodoo priest; but on the down side, Nekra's spell requires that he absorb a human life every 24 hours in order to remain among the living (if you can call it that).

But guess whose life he shockingly takes first?

Afterward, the Reaper begins a gruesome ritual of absorbing one life after another--eventually targeting Wonder Man, who finds that his brother has been reduced to mocking whatever familial feelings once existed between them. Yet the Reaper finds that his power has the opposite effect when coming into contact with the ionic form of his brother--whatever life energy he has absorbed is instead drained from him, leaving him in a weakened state and forced to retreat. When the two meet up again, they're unexpectedly joined by Nekra's brother, the Mandrill, who has tracked the Reaper and intends to exact revenge for his sister's murder. But the Mandrill doesn't possess Wonder Man's immunity to the Reaper's power, and subsequently falls to the Reaper's life-draining scythe:

It seems like a pointless diversion. Do you care at all about the Mandrill? Join the club.

The story then deals the Reaper into a plot by Ultron-13, who has decided to chuck his plan to annihilate humans and instead having them unknowingly exposed to a spray which will turn them into metal automatons, which he can then link up with and command:

But when the Reaper stumbles upon Ultron's lair where he's holding three Avengers, he adds one-plus-one when he overhears Ultron's plan and gets a very alarming two:

Yet instead of attacking Ultron, the Reaper only confronts him--and in doing so, a strange alliance is formed. First, Ultron takes the opportunity to permanently fuse the Reaper's scythe to his arm; then, he offers the Reaper the opportunity to serve him, which the Reaper inexplicably accepts. It's a head-scratching scene, considering that both of these beings has more to lose in this alliance than to gain. Ultron has discovered the Reaper can slash even his indestructible body; and the Reaper is in danger of losing his only means of survival if Ultron succeeds in turning all of humanity into metal beings. In fact, when Ultron mentions that very point to the Reaper, he brushes off his predicament in a way meant to change the subject.

But when the Reaper next confronts his brother, Wonder Man, his plans become more clear:

And caught between a rock and a hard place, and with Ultron poised to attack the imminent Rose Parade and convert all of the humans in attendance, Simon gives his answer:

So let's cut to the chase, where Wonder Man and the Reaper attack Ultron as he hovers over the parade route. The Reaper begins to make short work of Ultron, finding that Ultron's conversion process has let him absorb enough human life energy to make him vulnerable to the Reaper's scythe. When it appears the Reaper has won, Wonder Man then breaks his word to Eric and attacks. Now, you'd think Wonder Man could wipe the floor with a zombie, especially one who can't use his primary weapon on him because bringing it into contact with his ionic brother severely weakens him. So please explain to me how the Reaper, with no more strength than the average person, can proceed to beat the invulnerable Wonder Man to a pulp in hand-to-hand combat:

At that point, both the Avengers and Ultron intervene, eventually resulting in a collision between Ultron and the Reaper which incapacitates them both.

And the Grim Reaper no doubt will "live" to fight another day. But I'm afraid you're on your own as far as reading about his further exploits. For me, whatever interest I had in the Grim Reaper ended here. His motivations vis-à-vis his brother Simon really came to an end when he jumped to his death; though, really, the Grim Reaper as a character has a much more fitting ending at the trial he concocts, where he comes to know the reality of Simon's existence yet cannot put aside his enmity for the Vision. At that point, his main reason for coming after the Avengers is rendered moot, at least on a personal level--and what came next with his mad plan to create a "new" brother was more follow-up on this issue than was really needed. Now the Reaper is just a ghoul--with Wonder Man the only one keeping the "brothers" aspect of the story alive in any sense, since the Reaper in his present form has no remaining feelings of family ties whatsoever. Now that Marvel is rebooting all over the place, perhaps the Grim Reaper can have a second life--but his first one has more than played itself out.


Lila said...

I really like Grim Reaper, and would like to see him do more things that aren't related to his brother. Develop other sides of his personality.

iain said...

The reaper unleashed a new legion of the dead against the Avengers in the late 90's Perez run that included the recently dead Wonder Man who had been appearing as a energy form cast by Wanda's hex's it was an interesting tale I thought and lead neatly into yet another Ultron tale that the reaper appeared without his scythe for once.

Comicsfan said...

Quite right, Iain--and you can read more about it right here! :)