- Writer: Mark Waid
- Penciler: Chrise Sprouse
- Inker: Karl Story
- Colorist: Dono Sanchez Almara
- Letterer: Joe Caramagna
The interesting thing about SHIELD the comic book is that it doesn’t really have much to do with SHIELD the spy organization. Nor does it have much to do with Agents of SHIELD the TV show. Instead, four issues in, this comic is more like a revival of the classic Marvel Team-Up series. (Or maybe Marvel Two-In-One for you Ben Grimm fans.) Each issue features Phil Coulson recruiting various Marvel superheroes and villains to solve the crisis at hand. Not since the first issue have we dealt with SHIELD as an organization, and the various Agents of SHIELD cast members appear sporadically at best.
This comic is about Agent Coulson and a random superhero going on spy missions together — and that’s pretty awesome! Especially when you’ve got Mark Waid dreaming up the missions and the team-ups, a man who knows comics inside and out.
SHIELD #4 features Coulson recruiting the Invisible Woman to help rescue a prisoner trapped at the bottom of a diamond mine in South Africa, and her powers are specifically suited to overcome the various obstacles that Waid has put in her path. The rescue attempt obviously doesn’t go as planned, because all good stories have drama and conflict, and there’s even a guest appearance by a classic Fantastic Four baddie to help spice things up.
The issue is a master-stroke in comic book storytelling. Waid packs so much story and characterization into 22 pages that you hope he’s teaching a class somewhere. Susan Richards hasn’t appeared in the SHIELD comic so far, so Waid doesn’t have anything to build on other than the fact that Sue is one of the most storied and important characters in the Marvel Universe. Teaming that up with Coulson, and thrusting her into the middle of a daring spy mission, is all Waid needs to tell a great story. Sue is on point, her powers and skill are a sight to behold, and Waid even finds time to hit a nerve or two, making this more than just a gaudy guest appearance.
Phil Coulson remains the book’s consistent straight man. He doesn’t get much characterization of his own, instead just being a badass secret agent with encyclopedic knowledge of Marvel’s superheroes. So he knows which nerves to hit to help Sue get through a tough mission. If you’re a fan of Coulson from the movies or the show, he’s the same sort of guy in SHIELD.
Gemma Simmons is the only TV show cast member to make an appearance in this issue — she seems to be Waid’s favorite — and she gets a few good scenes and lines when she has to guide Sue through an impromptu surgery over the phone. She’s a nice addition and adds a little color to the comic.
SHIELD has had a rotating list of artists, each one popping in and out for a single issue, and Sprouse is one of the best yet. He’s got a very clear, detailed style, which I love. The characters look real, without being photo-realistic, and the action is never overwhelming or hard to follow. He’s a consummate comic book artist, easily tackling a variety of characters, locations and excitement. He’s a solid fit for this secret agent comic.
SHIELD the spy organization is everywhere these days, but SHIELD the comic has found its own little niche. Mark Waid continues to prove himself as an all-time legend in the industry with a series of fun, superheroic adventures. These aren’t overly deep or emotional comics, and Coulson can be a bit of a blank slate at times, but SHIELD is a lot of fun if all you want to do is party in the Marvel Universe for a little bit.
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