When I heard Marvel was going to officially welcome Agent Coulson and his team of above-average human heroes into the comic universe I was pretty stoked. Having played parts in the cinematic universe, and heralding in Marvel’s TV universe, it’s good that the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D will get to bump elbows with the wider array of Marvel’s super heroes.
First and foremost I was interested to find out where and when the comic would take place within the context of the show. The comic’s release falls during the show’s mid-season break, right after the introduction of the Inhumans, and after the show’s kinda-main-character, Skye, is revealed to have super powers. So without further ado, here’s what I thought of Issue #1 of Marvel’s new comic version of S.H.I.E.L.D.
The first thing that stands out is the cover. It’s a real treat to see Coulson and his team as drawn characters, and even cooler that they’re backed up by a slew of superheroes. Agent Coulson may have previously met Iron Man, Captain America, and the Hulk, but to see him and his team on the same page as Mr. Fantastic, Ms. Marvel, and Daredevil, as well as the current iterations of Thor, and Cap, is pretty cool!
The story begins with a nine-year old Phil Coulson fanboying over the various superheroes in the world. He’s actually chronicling them, taking notes, jotting down critical info, and deducing their secrets, almost as if he’s destined to become some sort of Agent that works with and handles superheroes…
We see his growth and development in S.H.I.E.L.D as he works his way up the ranks, always supporting various superheroes in saving the world. Even though it’s understood that Coulson has had plenty of interaction with superheroes other than the once we saw him with in The Avengers, it’s nice to finally see it happen, and realize that it has been happening for a long while. We saw in The Avengers that Coulson is a bit of a fanboy for superheroes, and this is heavily reinforced early on in this issue. But we also learn that his love for them has completely shaped his life.
It’s when we see Coulson playing poker with The Thing, Beast, and Captain Marvel, that the stage is set, and Coulson is officially part of the Marvel comic universe. With his formal, and charming introduction, there’s no stretch to welcome the rest of the team when they show up. In the present we see what we learned about Coulson growing up coming into play. He’s really good at assessing which superheroes to use for a particular job, and coordinating the various superhero groups (not leading them) is his particular strong suit.
The story progresses as Coulson directs a huge coordinated effort to hold off an incursion of demon-like monsters, all because a god who fell to earth lost his sword. You really get a sense of how smart Coulson is, and only a few pages in it really makes me wonder if this comic is actually about S.H.I.E.L.D., or Coulson. But when you think about it, at least in its current version, Phil Coulson basically is S.H.I.E.L.D.
The catalyst for Coulson’s grand coordinated mission isn’t exactly novel; a terrorist gets his hands on an otherworldly magical item and wrecks havoc in the name of his cause, now justified by new found ‘holy’ power. This isn’t a bad way to start things off, just safe. At least its fun, and full of the whit we’ve grown accustom to with Coulson and his team.
What this book does, at least in the first issue, is elevate Coulson to a crucial role within the Marvel universe. He’s basically the grand director of all the superheroes on the planet, with near-boundless knowledge of everyone who’s ever had even a spark of super ability. The writers have also managed to capture the hubris and fearlessness of Agent Phil Coulson very well, with once scene in particular. There’s a point where all the superheroes have fallen at the feet of their mighty foe, and only Phil Coulson is left standing to defy this being. He does this with a clear vision of how to trick his enemy, which of course works perfectly. It’s an interesting, and entertaining way to introduce Phil Coulson into the comic universe.
Issue #1 ends with an eye towards the future by setting up a mysterious enemy that will undoubtedly plague Coulson, and S.H.I.E.L.D. for some time to come. As for my early question about when this book sits within the context of the show, I guess my answer is before it, or perhaps it ignores the show altogether. Skye is nowhere to be found, and none of the events of the show, or cinematic universe, seem to have any impact on this story. It is my ignorance of the current Marvel comic universe that has me in the dark here, but this is my own failing. As a translated-from-TV-to-comic first issue I think it works very well, and I eagerly await the next issue!