Friday, November 8, 2013

The Super-Villain's Answer to Chapter 11


Name This Marvel Villain??

Described on page one of the issue he appears in as "the first menace born of the recession," you can probably guess the disposition failed businessman Stuart Clarke is going to have--particularly when his methods earn him the name Rampage. His company, Clarke Futuristics, on the verge of bankruptcy, he decides to use an exoskeleton he originally invented to assist in police work to replenish his funds and save his company:

Since he's operating in Los Angeles, Rampage, as luck would have it, runs into L.A.'s fledgling super-hero team, the Champions. And when Iceman attempts to stop him from robbing his first bank, Rampage "runs into" him with his fist:

Rampage is really a fine test for these new heroes, in many respects. Rampage's design and armored suit give him the strength and mobility of Iron Man--and fresh out of the box, the Champions (minus Ghost Rider, who's busy with his own affairs) are still coordinating their fighting style and strengths. Hercules is really his only true match here (and then some)--though if your opponent is "rampaging," he's not likely going to give you many chances to connect with a knockout punch. On the other hand, Rampage is arrogant, and confident in his suit, which causes him to underestimate Hercules big-time:

The shoe slips onto the other foot, though, when Rampage proves he wasn't down for the count and surprises Hercules from behind. Seeing the Champions beginning to regroup, he plays a true villain card with a still unconscious Angel:

Since the Angel is still flapping around somewhere these days, you can assume Rampage's ploy didn't work. In fact, the tables quickly turn on Rampage, who faces a withering attack by Hercules--which, combined with an earlier attack by Iceman, forces him to withdraw from the fight and reconsider his criminal career. But the fight has had the effect of making the Champions get their act together as a team. First, with the Angel reminding the Black Widow (who's out for Rampage's blood after he injured her friend Ivan) just why they teamed up in the first place:

The Angel goes on to state the team's need for a leader--and, despite the flying-off-the-handle display we just saw from her, proposes that the Widow take that position. There's consensus, and the motion is passed.

Clarke, however, can't seem to catch a break, his lawyer having tipped off the police that he's recognized Clarke as Rampage. So as much as Clarke wants to walk away, circumstances make his choice for him:

Clarke makes his escape as Rampage, but critically injures a police officer doing so. That, as well as fearing he's murdered Ivan, sends him into a crazed battle with the law, until the Champions show up. Attacking as a team, they unfortunately have the wrong effect on a man who already feels his back is against the wall:

But another thrashing from Hercules and the rest of the team, and Rampage finds he's in no condition to resist being taken into custody. Unfortunately, Clarke is now at the point where a confrontation like this only brings him face to face with his hopeless situation:

Desperate, and seeing no way out, he attempts to ignite his jet pack in an act of suicide--but, though seriously injured in the attempt, Iceman manages to save him from being killed.

Throughout these two issues featuring Rampage, writer Tony Isabella appeared to make every effort to absolve Clarke's actions--or at least make them understandable--by painting him as a victim of the economic downturn. As if to underscore the fact, look at these conspicuous captions placed front and center in the story:

I think "everyman" is a stretch, considering not all of us are genius inventors who run multi-million-dollar corporations. Nor do most of us make a conscious decision to turn to a life of crime when we reach the end of our economic rope. To rubber-stamp Clarke so easily would be to imply that his actions deserve leniency--Isabella even has the police in the story having second thoughts about him, despite Rampage severely injuring one of their own. Perhaps it would have been easier for us to see Clarke as a character in his own right--as well as an isolated case of the effects of the recession--if Isabella hadn't literally put up signs to the contrary.

In other issues and other titles, I'm afraid Clarke's reappearances didn't meet with much success as far as improving his fortunes--at last report, he'd been extensively involved in the Punisher's affairs. Not exactly the most optimistic guy to hang around with. So it's a fair bet we probably haven't seen the last of Rampage.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I wasn't too impressed with this guy, complex motivations or no, and I think that was the problem with the Champions; I think they kinda got sloppy seconds in the villain dept. (Except for Godzilla, that was pretty cool!)
I don't think Marvel knew what to do with those guys. But it was an interesting idea for a team, and worth a look at.