S.H.I.E.L.D., the new Marvel series inspired by a certain TV show, has hit the stands. Set in the main Marvel Universe, it also stars superstar S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Phil Coulson, his right hand woman Melinda May (aka “The Calvary”), and the awesome duo of Fitz and Simmons. Unlike the TV show, the concept here is “unlimited budget”, allowing the comics to do things that the TV show can’t…mostly due to the accountants freaking out should the show go over budget. It also has access to every Marvel hero for guest appearances, something the TV show can’t do due to the rights to various characters having been sent to other studios. With a script by Mark Waid and art by Carlos Pacheo, we are off on another S.H.I.E.L.D. adventure.
WARNING: SPOILERS BEYOND THIS POINT
After a flashback into Coulson’s past, we see him at his new post: S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Special Ops Supreme Commander. The issue at hand is that a large group of fire demons have suddenly shown up, so Coulson has sent a bunch of heavy hitters, including Iron Man and Hulk, to deal with them. When the new Captain America and Nova show up to help, they find that instead of fire demons, they have to deal with dark elves and ice giants. Coulson, however, has an idea of what is going on when he spies a terrorist in a fictional Middle Eastern country wielding a strange-looking sword. This sets up the adventure of the issue, as well as starting what will be the connecting mystery for the first arc.
Coulson, of course, is written brilliantly. Patterned after the deadpan manner of his flesh and blood counterpart, portrayed by Clark Gregg on the show, he is shown to be the only person capable of getting divergent hero groups and individuals to work together (no small feat in a universe known for heroes starting fights with each other over “misunderstandings”), as well as being a real life superhero fanboy who knows EVERYTHING about every superhero on the planet. May isn’t as developed here, but she is shown to be caring towards her fellow agents, as well as proving to be the badass agent we know and love. Leo Fitz and Jemma Simmons are well written, retaining their personalities from the show and providing some humor. This is also the first time we get to see, in any media, Simmons acting as an actual S.H.I.E.L.D. operative in uniform, with May as her CO. Of the two, it seems Fitz gets the better moments, including one great moment at the end where he hands over his “Good For One Helper Monkey” card to be marked. There are two allies along for the ride in this issue, and they do prove helpful in this adventure. The big bad of the issue is not who it appears to be, but it is at the root of the major conflict that opened the issue. Coulson does hog the spotlight throughout the story, which makes sense as he is the star; I do hope that the others will get more moments as the series progresses. Overall, Waid’s script is very strong.
The art by Pacheo is good as well, but it does suffer from some issues. This is mainly in the coloring, where the lighting can go from very bright to dull within a page. There is also a very obvious error where two female characters have their hair colors switched around. The pencils themselves are well done, ranging from epic battles to quiet discussions in a Quin-Jet. While the faces are occasionally scrunched, it is a minor irritation at worst. It’s also kind of amusing to see Fitz and Simmons as physically fit agents given how they are in the TV series.
While this is a strong start to the series, there are some concerns, mainly to do with canon. As some sites have pointed out, this series hews far closer to the Marvel Cinematic Universe in its portrayal of Coulson. The opening pages of S.H.I.E.L.D. openly contradict his previous comics origin. This might be due to the Marvel comics adjusting to be closer to its cinematic counterparts, as numerous fans have been noticing (the pros and cons of which are for another article entirely).
Overall, this is a great issue and looks like it will be a fun monthly read and a good counterpart to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. With Waid at the helm, and a new artist each month, this has the seeds of interesting and wonderful adventures to come.
Now, give Fitz the fricking monkey!
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