Friday, January 22, 2016

Mission: Arrest The Vision!

Having enjoyed the eight-issue series, Earth's Mightiest Heroes, from 2005, I didn't exactly need my arm twisted to follow up with its eight-issue sequel in 2007, again written by Joe Casey but with art this time by Will Rosado and Tom Palmer. Casey again takes the approach of adding supplemental material to prior Avengers stories in order to create a more complete picture of what we've seen before--this time focusing on the issues dated between 1968-69, when the active Avengers membership brought into the fold both the Vision and the Black Panther.

Essentially, Casey's approach boils down to seeing what makes the Avengers tick behind the scenes, and then blending that information in with the adventures we're already familiar with, giving us new perspective on the Avengers that makes for compelling reading in hindsight. This new series, for instance, picks up with the moment directly after the Vision's tearful induction into the group, with the founding members going on to meet directly afterward in private to review the group's status with the team's current chairman, Goliath.

As he did before, Casey places particular emphasis on the Avengers' relationship with the National Security Council, and with its liaison, Special Agent Murch--perhaps a bit too much emphasis, since these scenes involving security protocols often seem to take precedence over the operations of and interaction between the Avengers themselves. Casey appears to acknowledge the fact as the founders' discussions return to the group's early days and, as Iron Man puts it, the importance of "push[ing] past the public's distrust and all the government red tape to fill [the need for the Avengers]... No matter the cost, we had a job to do...". A statement which, it might be noted, is made behind closed doors.

In the meantime, the Avengers have gained another liaison, this time with S.H.I.E.L.D.--Jasper Sitwell, who was active in the case of the Grim Reaper's attack on the team and also assuming the Panther's guilt in their apparent murder. Normally, SHIELD would not be breathing down the Avengers' necks to the extent that the NSC does; but Casey's storyline with the Vision will have them play a greater role than they might otherwise, as well as making Sitwell a more hard-edged character than longtime readers would ever have thought possible.

For now, though, Casey gives the Vision his due, as the Avengers welcome their newest member into their ranks--with Rosado adding a nice nod to the dramatic ending of that original story.

Once congratulations have been extended, Iron Man breaks the unhappy news that the circumstances of the Vision's membership are going to result in a fair amount of questioning from the NSC--particularly in light of the fact that until recently, the Vision was a considerable security risk, created by a foe to destroy the very team he's now a member of. Not surprisingly, it's the first order of business that Iron Man feels should be brought to everyone's attention.

Soon afterward, the founders meet to firm up the state of the team and its current lineup. We haven't often been privy to such meetings, which appear to take place infrequently and which prior regular Avengers scripter Roy Thomas never found to be necessary in terms of devoting page space to. In this instance, aside from reflecting on their formation, the original members take the opportunity to pass the torch to Goliath--again voicing the importance of maintaining a good relationship with the NSC, but also making sure that he's aware of what chairmanship of the Avengers will entail. The words are spoken in friendship between seasoned comrades, of course--advice which Goliath appears receptive to and appreciative of, though Casey would later in the series shed new light on the complications with Yellowjacket.

As for Sitwell, he takes a special interest in the Vision, for two reasons which act in conjunction to alarm him to a certain degree--and for Sitwell, a SHIELD agent who regards his duty with great seriousness, a state of alarm often quickly translates to pre-emptively taking action. For one thing, he's been listening to a host of news reports and man-on-the-street interviews which are tapping into the rumor mill regarding the newest member of the Avengers and the fact that he may not be human. There's also the complication of an attack on a SHIELD vehicle transporting the Super-Adaptoid to a holding facility, a strike which killed two agents and saw the Adaptoid recaptured by A.I.M.--and due to the coincidence with the Vision's induction, Sitwell suspects that the Vision might be the Adaptoid, now covertly acting within the Avengers.

That seed planted, Casey moves on to other points of interest that happened off-panel during this time. For instance, the Panther's speech to the United Nations, introducing himself in his role as Wakanda's chieftain, T'Challa. Following the speech, he meets with Agent Murch to finalize the "secret identity" credentials he's requested to be prepared for him--"Luke Charles," who will go on to take a Harlem teaching position in addition to his Avengers duties. Murch, as usual, is all business, taking into account the complexities that T'Challa's diverse interests are creating for himself--but unlike his dealings with the Avengers, Murch is quickly made aware of the fact that T'Challa, both the ruler and the man, are way out of the NSC's league.

Meanwhile, the Vision is provided with a far less formal and more down-to-Earth acclimation of his new life with the Avengers, as Hawkeye, the only other member in residence at the mansion, takes the Vision under his wing and makes sure that one of their stops include Jarvis's kitchen--an approach by Hawkeye that helps to emphasize the fact that the archer fits the Avengers like a glove. And when Sitwell shows up to arrest the Vision, both Hawkeye and Jarvis are quick to intercede, though the patience of one of them is stretched as taut as his bowstring.

The detention of the Vision by SHIELD is a development that was wholly overlooked in the original book, where the Avengers were given much more latitude by both SHIELD and the NSC (with the latter not even being a presence in the book to any extent), and the sophistication of such behind-the-scenes tensions was waived in favor of chronicling the Avengers' adventures. But as Casey will continue to reveal in this series, there was a wealth of such untapped story material waiting to be mined in the early days of earth's mightiest heroes.

Sitwell interrogates! Luke Charles schools! And Hawkeye and Nick Fury get into it!

Earth's Mightiest Heroes II #1

Script: Joe Casey
Pencils: Will Rosado
Inks: Tom Palmer
Letterer: Comicraft

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