Pierce was born in an Army family. He went to West Point and joined the Office of Strategic Services, operating undercover in Germany and France during World War II. After the war he worked for the CIA. They had him work undercover as a member of the Chicago Six, the main group of super villains in Chicago. His alias as a pseudo-villain in unknown. At some point, he left the CIA and joined C.O.W.L., the union for superheroes in Chicago, as a detective in the Investigations Division.
Only a few people, including Geoffrey Warner, the head of C.O.W.L.; Pierce’s wife, Sarah; and his friend Detective Evelyn Hewitt know about his past as a mole in the Chicago Six.
Major Story Arcs
Pierce discovers information leading C.O.W.L. to believe that Skylancer, the last of the Chicago Six, is going to kill Alderman Lowe. Based on his information, the union is able to save Lowe and kill Skylancer. This means there are no more costumed super villains in Chicago, leading the city to try to renegotiate the union’s contract, since they seem to no longer be as necessary as they used to be.
Pierce, however, is more focused on his job, and realizes that some of Skylancer’s tech is still stored somewhere in the area. He persuades Eclipse and Grant Marlow to help him track it down. They find it in the hands of a no-name criminal. The thug shoots John with his stolen tech, and John goes down, but Eclipse manages to take the criminal out.
John is OK, though, and as they leave, he notices a pile of papers, including a folder of classified C.O.W.L. documents. John is now very concerned—how did Skylancer get C.O.W.L. tech blueprints?
He’s not sure what to do and talks it over with his wife, Sarah. She thinks it’s time for him to leave the union and join the regular police, since he has long believed that C.O.W.L. is in need of serious reform. He goes to his friend Arclight to see what he thinks. Arclight doesn’t want to admit that this kind of thing could be true, but says he’ll help if John gets more proof.
John visits C.O.W.L.’s technology development center, and asks where they keep old designs and schematics like the one Skylancer had. The scientist in charge says Geoffrey Warner, the head of the union, asked him to send all that information to an off-site warehouse a while ago. But when John goes there to check it out, he finds the whole place is empty.
Even though C.O.W.L. is now on strike to protest the city’s aggressive negotiations, John goes back to the now-empty headquarters to find out what happened. However, Warner shows up, and knows what John has been doing, and all about the C.O.W.L. tech that Skylancer was using. He says that Skylancer wasn’t actually trying to kill Lowe—actually, Lowe was sleeping with Warner’s secretary, and using her to get the tech plans, which he was selling to Skylancer. Lowe is the leak. But Warner wants to keep quiet about it until the strike is over, since the information would hurt the union’s negotiations. Warner says that when he found out, he had the files moved back to HQ so he could investigate himself. John seems very suspicious of Warner’s motives and involvement in the situation.
Warner later tells his deputy, Blaze, about it. They both know what’s been going on. However, it seems that they were not directly involved in the arms deal, just involved in temporarily covering it up.
Pierce later sees the aftermath of a giant explosion at City Hall, perpetrated by an unknown member of C.O.W.L. during a riot on their strike line. Things continue to look worse and worse for the union.
John tells Arclight that he’s going to give all his information about the arms deal to someone he knows at the city police. They can objectively investigate without Warner’s interference. Arclight doesn’t really think it’s a good idea, but he’s angry at Warner for his own reasons, so he says he’ll back John.
John goes back to HQ, and searches for more files in Warner’s private desk. He can’t believe how far Warner, the Grey Raven, first of the city’s heroes, has fallen to make C.O.W.L. look good. Far below in the locker room, Arclight is cleaning out his locker when he runs into Warner. Warner gives him a pep talk about how he city needs heroes, which makes what Arclight and Pierce are doing look bad.
When Pierce goes off to meet his police contact with his evidence, he randomly happens upon some thieves. John runs after them into an alley. He beats up the criminals, but Arclight shows up. Now he tries to argue John out of going public. Unable to handle a future in which C.O.W.L. is gone and he is no longer a celebrity hero, Arclight kills John with his energy beams. Then he burns the evidence, and burns the word “scab” (as in a strike-breaker) into John’s forehead.
Arclight admits to killing John, although he says it was self-defense—a pretty hard claim to believe considering Arclight’s power level. Detective Evelyn Hewitt of the Chicago police, who was the contact that John was going to meet, starts an informal investigation into his death. She gets Sarah Pierce to trust her, telling her that she knows about John’s past with the Six. Together they are sure that Warner egged Arclight on to kill Pierce, but can’t get any proof. Eventually, Evelyn has to drop her investigation, but she has dug up enough information for Warner to pressure Arclight to leave the union and go live in hiding away from the city. Alderman Lowe is eventually arrested for his part in the arms deal. Warner continues on as the head of the union.
John is a skilled investigator, undercover agent, and hand to hand combatant, capable of punching out two criminals with guns when he was unarmed.