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U.S. Agent Formed a Forgotten Avengers Team With Hawkeye and War Machine

For a strange, brief time in the Marvel Universe, John Walker’s US Agent became best friends with Hawkeye and War Machine.

Today, we’re taking a closer look at the brief friendship between USAgent, Hawkeye and War Machine.

In every installment of “If I Pass This Way Again,” we look at comic book plot points that were rarely (sometimes NEVER!) mentioned again after they were first introduced.

Hawkeye and USAgent were never friendly when they were teammates on the West Coast Avengers, and War Machine barely interacted with either of them during his brief stint on the team, as well (although Rhodey and Hawkeye had been friendly during Rhodes’ first stint on the West Coast Avengers back when he was filling in for an off-the-wagon Tony Stark as Iron Man). Somehow, though, the three of them briefly became such good friends that they even sort of had a “team name” for each other, the “Brothers in Arms.”

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HOW TO DO A GROUP OF BOOKS WHEN ONE TITLE IS NOT PART OF THE GROUP?

Something that became a key part at Marvel Comics in the mid-1990s was the idea of introducing specific “families” of titles. Stuff like the Spider-Man titles and the X-Men titles had long felt like their own little group, but Marvel started to expand the concept. The company eventually took it a step further and literally split the company into five groups (X-Men, Universe – General superheroes and Cosmic, Spider-Man, Over the Edge and Epic/licensed series) for a while. Within that general superhero group were smaller shared groups. One of those small groups was Force Works, which linked together Force Works, Iron Man and War Machine. Here’s the problem, though. War Machine wasn’t a member of Force Works. He was obviously connected to Iron Man (seeing as how he received his armor from Iron Man), but he had split from that series a while back and so there really was nothing linking War Machine to the other two books. Enter…”Brothers in Arms.”

BROTHERS IN ARMS

In 1994, Marvel also tried doing occasional flip-books, where stories that WOULD have been miniseries instead appeared as special flipbooks on Marvel’s other major series. Marvel would offer comic book stores the main comics as normal comics OR flipbook versions with the other comic book on the other side for an extra buck. In the pages of Avengers, the flipbook was a Giant-Man miniseries while in the pages of Thor, the flipbook was a Code Blue miniseries.

In Iron Man/Force Works/War Machine, the flipbook was the Brothers in Arms starring in a story called “Vicious Circle,” written by the then-writer of War Machine and then-co-writer of Force Works, Dan Abnett and drawn by Fred Haynes and Johnny Greeen for Parts 1 and 3 and Carlos Franco and Sam de la Rosa for Part 2.

The concept revolved around War Machine showing up in a war-torn Central American country of San Revilla where the rebels had superpowered help, but so did the current government. War Machine was just trying to keep people from dying when he discovered that the rebels were being trained by Hawkeye. After USAgent had recently convinced Hawkeye to return to civilization, the former Avenger leader decided to take up the U.S. State department on a request for him to train the superpowered rebels. However, we then learn that USAgent’s old bosses at the Commission had requested for him to train the superpowered members of the established government.

In the end, the heroes realized that they had ALL been manipulated by a mysterious villain known as The Advisor who was just looking to take advantage of the chaos. The three heroes got past their differences and teamed up and at the end of the story, the three were now friendly enough that they had a photo taken of them where Hawkeye was smiling for seemingly the first time since the death of Mockingbird…

In War Machine #18 (by Abnett, Haynes and Greene), Rhodes has lost his War Machine armor and he is all sad. He actually looks at that photograph and reminisces about that day. Abnett has now basically turned that friendship, which did not exist until literally the final few pages of a three-part story, into this big part of Rhodes’ life. Later in that issue, Hawkeye visits Rhodey to cheer him up. At the end of that story, Rhode received a new alien War Machine armor. He gets Hawkeye to promise to keep it a secret. He wants the world to think he no longer is War Machine of any kind.

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THE CROSSING HIGHLIGHTS THE BROTHERS IN ARM

In the crossover storyline, “The Crossing,” which took place in the pages of Avengers, Iron Man, Force Works and War Machine, Hawkeye is framed for the murder of a few innocent people. Force Works specifically decides to use USAgent’s friendship with Hawkeye (a friendship that, again, was basically brand-new) to get him to try to bring Hawkeye in for questioning. When they are making progress, Iron Man then just bursts in and ruins it and Hawkeye tries to go on the run, but is captured by Force Works.

USAgent then goes to visit War Machine for help and they agree to break Hawkeye out of custody and go on the run with him. War Machine specifically talks about how all they can do is trust each other, “Brothers in Arms,” like they did in San Revilla.

They barely interacted with each other until the very end of that San Revilla story, and now Abnett has it as this deep connection between the three men.

We see it again in Iron Man #322, when the trio (joined by Hawkeye’s old girlfriend, Black Widow, who also can’t believe that Hawkeye is a killer and tries to clear his name) are described as “Brothers in Arms”…

In the end, it becomes clear that Iron Man was behind it all, as he had been corrupted by Kang and turned into a double agent. Eventually, Iron Man turns on Kang and sacrifices himself to save the world. However, Force Works breaks up due to Iron Man’s treachery and War Machine gives up his alien armor and retires. Shortly thereafter, Hawkeye and most of the Avengers are seemingly killed during the Onslaught crossover.

By the time the heroes return (appropriately enough, in the storyline, Heroes Return), Rhodes and Iron Man are friends again, Hawkeye is back with the Avengers and the “Brothers in Arms” are never referenced again.

If you have a suggestion for a future edition of I Pass This Way Again, be sure to drop me a line at brianc@cbr.com!

KEEP READING: What Happened to the Black Widow’s Anti-Gravity Boots?

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