What the D'ast? Agent Brand
(Editor’s note: This is another in a series of irregularly-scheduled columns by Managing Editor Byron Brewer, mainly dealing with Marvel Cosmic and its many denizens. Mr. Brewer’s opinions do not necessarily reflect that of CosmicBookNews.com. He welcomes both raves and opposing views.)
By Byron Brewer
Unbelievably, I did not meet Agent Abigail Brand of SWORD (Sentient Worlds Observation and Response Department) until her involvement in the Secret Invasion of the Skrulls.
What? A cosmic character with whom I am not familiar, a Marvel character? This wouldn’t do!
Then I realized why. I had not even returned to comics in 2004 when Brand was introduced in Astonishing X-Men #3, and was not on the Joss Whedon/John Cassady bandwagon when I did return. No, I was (and still am, to some extent) a thrall of Mr. Bendis and the Avengers franchise. Anyhoo, I immediately became acquainted with the green-tressed spy and loved what I learned. Her involvement in SI was one of its rare highlights,
In that would-be cosmic classic, Brand is present at The Peak, SWORD’s headquarters, when it is destroyed by a Skrull doppelganger of Dum Dum Dugan. Due to an emergency suit, she and a few other SWORD agents are able to survive in space long enough to witness the arrival of the Skrull armada in Earth space. She later is able to board one of the Skrull ships by breaking into the exterior. After making it to the control camera room, Brand witnesses the death and destruction the Skrulls are causing all over Earth. Brand is later discovered by a Skrull youngster and a guard, who subsequently points his gun at her. She outsmarts the guards and kills every Skrull on board and makes the key move of freeing their prisoner – Reed Richards, Mister Fantastic! Brand and Reed travel to the SavageLandwhere today’s Avengers have been standing and looking at their 1970s counterparts (actually Skrulls) for about a year or so (lol). After the SavageLandbattle is finally won (thanks for coming, Reed), Brand flies the Avengers to New Yorkfor the climactic battle in Central Parkand the beginning of Norman Osborn’s Dark Reign.
Brand’s father was a blue-furred extraterrestrial who mated with an Earth woman. At some point in her childhood, Brand observed an unrevealed violent confrontation involving her father which apparently influenced her to join SWORD. By age 28, she had been promoted to SWORD director, but her lack of social skills made her extremely unpopular with SWORD agents. Brand has the words “Grace” and “Anna” tattooed on her arms; the references are as yet unknown.
When the alien Ord came to Earth convinced that a mutant was destined to destroy his planet, Brand intervened in order to avoid an interplanetary war. Brand acquiesced to Ord’s plan to avert the destruction of his world by allowing him to create a “cure” for the mutant “condition” on Earth. It is later revealed that the mutant prophesized to destroy Breakworld was Colossus; furthermore, statements made by Ord suggest that neutralizing Earth’s mutant population may have been just one step in an as-yet unrevealed plan.
In a final attempt to draw Breakworld’s forces away from Earth, Brand had the X-Men (including Colossus), Ord and Ord’s ally Danger teleport aboard a SWORD starship and travel to Breakworld itself. Ord, with the assistance of Danger, was able to contact his homeworld to alert them of Colossus’ location, not knowing that this was all part of Brand's plan. Despite their past differences, she attempted to work with the X-Men to find a solution to the crisis. However, Breakworld forces caught up with the SWORD vessel before Brand had predicted they would, forcing the X-Men and SWORD strike team to use the ship’s escape pods to finish their journey to the planet. Once on the surface, Brand and the Beast became separated from the other X-Men and were forced to take shelter in a small cave to avoid a device that was altering the weather to sub-freezing temperatures. To the Beast’s astonishment. Brand used some type of superhuman power to generate enough heat through her hands to keep them alive.
Later, rejoining the other X-Men and the surviving SWORD strike team members, Brand and Beast headed toward the site where Colossus was prophesized to destroy Breakworld, but Brand’s team was attacked by planet forces. When Brand was captured and threatened by several Breakworld men, she killed her attackers after revealing that “Brand” is not her surname but rather a sobriquet referencing her powers. It is during the Breakworld adventure we learn of Brand’s sexual attraction to the blue-furred Beast … blue-furred like her alien father!
In addition to being able to create unspecified levels of heat and light with her hands, Brand’s tongue apparently has the ability to shape alien languages that normal humans are unable to make. This ability helped her aboard the Skrull spacecraft in Secret Invasion. (No word on whether Brand can use her tongue to knot a cherry stem, as in Twin Peaks.)
Brand and Beast along with allies Lockheed and Death’s Head starred in the short-lived series S.W.O.R.D. I would love to see a relaunch of this “cosmic SHIELD” concept at some future point – without Henry Peter Gyrich, of course.