A few vignettes for any of you who happen to be curious about the missing time between Walk a Mile and Sidekicks. Naturally, this has a few spoilers for the end of Walk a Mile.
The new guy in Alex’s costume is blond, six inches too tall and built like Indestructoman. He catches up to Mal as he’s about to slip into a bank vault and throws him across the street and through the window of a cupcakery. Mal doesn’t remember the rest of the fight, but he broke three knuckles, presumably on the new guy’s face and wakes up to Dodger staring at him.
“The fuck are you doing here?” Mal growls.
“I need assurance that you won’t be a problem,” Dodger replies. “This is a… courtesy. There’s a new Good Guy.”
Like Mal hadn’t noticed. “Alex was Good Guy.”
“I would have been happy to retire that title, except...” He tosses a newspaper onto Mal’s lap. It’s a week old, starting to yellow from exposure to sunlight, but it’s displaying Mal’s favorite headline: Good Guy Gone Bad? and the picture Mal had graciously allowed the photographer to snap last time he pulled a job. “This can’t happen. The city is fragile right now, the superhero community even more so.”
“And whose fault is that?”
“If you think I haven’t paid for my mistake you’re wrong.” Dodger runs a gloved hand over Mal’s cheek. “Good Guy is no longer your concern.”
Everyone loves Macy Walton.
Mal’s not sure how she wound up in the suspenders, but there’s no doubt she was born to it. She’s the polar opposite of the first replacement, Jordy Slowes, who took the costume like an oath, dispensing justice with his fists.
Macy’s not a powerhouse. She doesn’t have to be. She’s what X calls a null.
Within a ten yard radius of Macy Walton, superpowers don’t work. It’s incredible how much Mal had come to rely on them on strength or on speed. Embarrassing to lose a fight to a girl sixty pounds lighter than him.
“Why Good Guy?” Mal wipes blood from his nose.
Macy jumps over his bid to sweep her legs. She’s modified costume, changed the mask to a cowl that covers her hair, altered the body armor, but it’s still unmistakably Good Guy’s getup. Her face is set and for a moment, Mal thinks she’ll be like Jordy Slowes with his proclamations.
Instead she says, “Beats Good Gal by a mile.”
And Mal knows he can’t fight her anymore.
He resigns himself to watching instead.
Macy makes friends with a lot of supervillains, but never Mal. She makes friends because she’s a null and mutations ebb when she’s near. She reminds the worst of the District what it’s like to be human. She turns Good Guy into a symbol of hope, constantly trailed by a circle of supervillains who cling to thoughts of a second chance.
Mal’s not surprised when one of them betrays her.
The next one has the gall to seek Mal out. “Bad Guy, I presume.”
Mal reaches a hand to his forehead, tapping the side of the goggles he sometimes wears to remind him of his old identity. “If you got this job from Dodger, you know that name’s wrong.”
“Mal, then.” 4.0 says.
“Malcontent,” Mal snaps. He doesn’t want any familiarity with this replacement, but wouldn’t be surprised if the name was due to Dodger spilling his secrets. “That’s not your costume.”
“I don’t think a bank robber gets any say in Good Guy.”
He’s baiting Mal. Even though Mal can tell this was the ultimate goal, he can’t help but lunge for the new guy, pull him into a fight just like the thousands he’s already had with Good Guy.
4.0 is rough around the edges. He fights like a brawler, uses his reach more than his skill. The first punch he lands stings, but it’s clearly not fueled by super strength. For the first ten seconds, Mal’s sure he’ll steamroll the guy.
Except 4.0 gets better, each punch with a bit more finesse. Mal furrows his brow, subconsciously moving to the defensive so he can watch. Most people lose form the longer the fight, but this one is stringing together familiar combinations. “Mimicry,” Mal guesses.
“Perfect motor recall,” 4.0 says. “See a move, repeat the move.”
“The more you fight, the better you get,” Mal finishes. “Nice trick. Why you fighting me?”
4.0 rocks back on his heels, fists still in a mirror of Mal’s stance. “’Cause I asked Dodger why first Good Guy lasted so much longer than the others.”
“Because he was better than them,” Mal replies.
“No.” 4.0 shakes his head. “Because he had you.”
Mal never meets Len Santangelo.
He’s Good Guy for less than a week.
He jokes once to Kyle that it means Santangelo doesn’t count, but Kyle doesn’t laugh. Just sets his face and replies, “You didn’t see him. He was Good Guy.”
She looks like Alex. More than the rest of them combined. She’s tall, almost five foot ten, with short brown hair that curls around her ears. Even the line of her jaw when set, makes it feel like Mal’s looking into the past.
Sally picked this one, not Dodger and not fate. Worst Nightmare had dressed her up and sent her out to fight.
And out of the corner of his eye, Mal thought…
Mal thought he saw Alex.
He winds up fighting back to back with her against an army, the two of them moving in perfect sync. When they win, she looks over at him, smiles and says, “Thanks for the assist, Malcontent.”
“Back at you, number six,” Mal huffs.
“Brandy,” she replies. “My name is Brandy Roth.”
“See, I know you’ve had the lesson on secret identities and supervillains.”
“I’ve done my homework,” Brandy concedes. “But you’re a little more complicated than a supervillain. As for the secret identity, I’m not public, but I don’t keep secrets. My kids have been self-defense training with X for the past two months. Ignorance helps no one. I intend to survive. And my research suggests having you as an ally rather than an enemy bumps my odds way up.”
And all of a sudden, Mal doesn’t see Alex in her stance, but rather Evan Jaggler, Good Guy 4.0, picking a fight because having the right nemesis might let him live a little longer. And Mal had obliged, had fought as hard as he could, had drawn up traps to out maneuver the mimic.
It had been one of his traps that lead to Jaggler’s demise, not directly, but send an injured Good Guy into the field and someone else is bound to see an opportunity.
Brandy seems like the type to know that already. To have poured over a file with all Mal’s strengths and weaknesses.
After all, Mal’s been fighting against Good Guy for a long time.
This time, he thinks, maybe this time, he’ll help.
Seven corners him after eight different scuffles and six months in costume. “What’s your problem with me?”
“I don’t have a problem with you,” Mal snaps.
Seven won’t be deterred. “You don’t attack any of the other heroes. You don’t even attack the private. Just me and only when I’m alone. By all accounts, on a normal day, you’re closer to superhero than supervillain. You have a problem with me.”
“Look, Clifford Awesome, if I had an issue with you, I’d have broadcasted your ridiculous name to every supervillain in this city.”
Behind the mask Mal can see Seven’s eyes widen in realization. “You think the costume’s in poor taste,” Cliff says. “The last one—“
“Disappeared,” Mal cuts him off. “She’s… There’s still a chance she...”
“Of course,” Seven says, “And if she makes it back. She can have the costume.”
“You’re missing the point.” Mal’s eyes sting, his voice sounds oddly thick. “This wasn’t supposed to be a goddam legacy. Good Guy was something a stupid kid started because he needed to feel useful.”
And that was how Alex always looked at it. Being a superhero saved his life. He’d believed that right up until it had killed him.
“The city needs Good Guy,” Seven says.
The worst part about it is Seven’s not wrong. Mal’s seen it, how the crime rate spikes between Good Guys. How Dodger, X and Torch are treated as borderline criminals while Good Guy gets police files slipped to him under the table, gets praise in the headlines, gets a level of trust no other hero in the country can boast.
Mal licks his lips. “The city can learn to need someone else.”
He leaves Seven standing there, a thoughtful look on his face.
Mal can’t bring himself to commit full-out assault. Seven’s not the worst choice out there and he’s shadowed by a scrawny sidekicks who has a knack for anticipating traps. Mal makes it a point to finish their sparring match by the time the sidekick makes it to the scene. He’s got a better sense of Seven’s strength and also one of his leather gloves for a souvenir.
He waves the glove as he leaves, a little too pleased at the sidekick’s snort of laughter.
The gloves have been replaced with gauntlets the next time they fight. They’re a better choice, reinforced so that blocking punches doesn’t leave so many bruises. The one downside is the weight. Mal smirks as he makes his move, darts past the gauntlets and plucks the mask from Seven’s face.
Seven slaps his hands over his features to protect his identity.
“Could use some practice with the new duds,” Mal says, laughing as he makes his escape.
Seven’s wearing a helmet next time they fight.
Mal’s not slow. He sees the logic here and he’s torn between admiration and exasperation.
You think the costume’s in poor taste.
Good Guy’s changed in the past decade, but it’s never been this overt, this deliberate.
Never been aimed to assuage Mal’s temper before.
He beats Seven more soundly this time, and while he’s still recovering, Mal reaches for pants legs at the ankles and pulls with enough force to dislodge the clips of his suspenders. Mal loiters to watch for a few minutes, making sure backup arrives before some other crook realizes Good Guy’s out for the count and then makes it a point to tie the baggy brown slacks to the flagpole of the police station.
Mal’s eating cereal the next time he catches sight of Good Guy on the news and sloshes milk on himself in shock.
Because Good Guy’s suspenders aren’t holding up slacks anymore. They’re strapped to underwear worn outside a pair of tights. Mal can’t stop the laughter bubbling in the back of his throat.
He never tries to steal the suspenders.