Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Dangerous Liaison!

OR: "Big Shoes To Fill"

Late 2002 saw the culmination of a fourteen-issue Avengers saga where Kang the Conqueror conducted his most successful campaign in the conquest of present-day Earth. It was the "Age of Ultron" story of its day, engulfing the entire planet in war and seeing Kang forcing the world to accede to surrender--and thereafter begin a struggle of resistance that finally resulted in a hard-fought, costly victory and Kang's defeat.

Among the dead was the Avengers' federal liaison to the National Security Council, Duane Freeman, who was killed when Washington, D.C. suffered a devastating attack which left it in near-ruin.  Freeman succeeded his predecessors, Henry Gyrich and Raymond Sikorski, and came aboard as the book was beginning its 1998 run and the team was selecting a new lineup.  Their new liaison was quite disarming, keeping a low profile and assuring the Avengers that he would do his best to accommodate their needs.

Memory escapes me whether or not the Avengers were assigned another liaison who would continue the government's (or what was left of it) oversight of the team following the war with Kang, though at the time the arrangement seemed to have run its course. Freeman was an affable enough fellow who made a genuine effort to avoid ramming federal regulations down the team's collective throat; but rather than monitor the Avengers' adherence to federal requirements from the sidelines, he grew to be more of an administrator of the Avengers' procedural affairs, to an extent that was perhaps a bit overreaching for a man assigned as a liaison. Though trust him to rationalize that involvement by the use of both logic and tact.

This was during the period when the team had some involvement with the Triune Understanding, a sort of self-empowerment movement which eventually began to draw attention to the Avengers for its lack of minorities in its lineup, as well as inflaming public opinion against the team's tolerance of mutants in its ranks. Complicating matters was the fact that Freeman was himself a member of the T.U., causing the team in general and Iron Man in particular to doubt whether Freeman had the Avengers' best interests at heart. Freeman didn't help matters when he picked up on public opinion and began pressuring the Avengers to diversify their ranks, at this point a dead horse that former liaison Gyrich had already beaten but which writer Kurt Busiek decided needed to be resurrected and taken much further than before.

In the meantime, Thor, for one, is becoming infuriated at seeing angry protesters every time he looks around after the Avengers have successfully dealt with a threat which threatened these same people who have come to hold the team in such low regard. And finally, he's pushed to his limit.

Since we know that Mjolnir usually trashes what it's hurled at, scratch one expensive news camera. But the incident prompts Freeman's briefing of the assembled Avengers, as we've seen above.

Yet to put this meeting in perspective, we have to leap ahead a bit, to when the world is picking up the pieces following the war with Kang. In a conversation with Freeman's brother, Iron Man has discovered the extent of Freeman's devotion and loyalty to the Avengers, particularly in light of the team's further dealings with the T.I. where it was discovered that the movement itself was on the level--and that it was only its leader, Jonathan Tremont, along with a few of his aides, who corrupted the organization and used it to further their own agenda. In addition, Freeman, fearing that his classified knowledge of the Avengers' priority codes might have been compromised by Tremont, had set in motion his resignation before he met his death with Kang's attack on Washington. It was a revelation which deeply affected Iron Man and the other Avengers, and which recalled one very vivid memory.

Though instead of relying on Cap's recollection, let's take a peek at how exactly that confrontation went down.

It wouldn't be the first or last time that Freeman stood his ground with the Avengers. I suppose his epitaph might be that he did his job, to the best of his ability--and when your job involves a group that's accustomed to handling their own affairs in-house but nevertheless saw merit in Freeman's proposals, he unquestionably left his mark on this assignment.

As for Thor, he was eventually ready to return to the team--though with one condition.


Doug said...

Great write up. It's difficult to remember the merits of Avengers, Vol. III -- what came after sort of soured my overall outlook of Earth's Mightiest Heroes. I resent what Bendis did to the team -- my favorite team in comics.

This post made me smile on fond memories. Thanks!


Comicsfan said...

Thanks very much, Doug. I've been meaning to throw more of a spotlight on those issues from that volume of the title, since there's some good material there that bears mentioning--though the run itself has always been a toss-up with me. (I tend to think that Perez's art probably played a major part in jump-starting that volume with readers both old and new.) I think the only other stuff we've done here on it involved Warbird's drinking problem--which, as it happened, was a development the new Avengers lineup featured in this Avengers volume opened the door to.

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