Comic Review: AGENTS OF SHIELD #1

Agents Of Shield #1
AGENTS OF SHIELD #1/ Script by MARK WAID/ Pencils by CARLOS PACHECO/ Inks by MARIANO TAIBO & JASON PAZ/ Colors by DONO ALMARA/ Letters by VC’S JOE CARMAGNA / Published by MARVEL COMICS

SHIELD (Strategic Homeland Intervention Enforcement Logistics Division) is Earth’s first line of defense against the strange and unusual. Rogue gods? Rebellious mutants? Super-science gone wrong?  Since their founding, SHIELD has neutralized all these threats and more!

Agent Phil Coulson is a devout company man. Known for his mild-mannered persona, Coulson’s cool-headed exterior masks one of the most gifted strategists SHIELD has to offer. Possessing an encyclopedic knowledge of Earth’s superhuman population, Coulson has a gift for deducing what villains might be responsible for what crimes and calculating on the fly just how a team made up of Starfox, Flatman and The Almighty Dollar could defeat The Hulk.

Thankfully, that hasn’t proven necessary… yet. But if it were required, Phil Coulson would be the man to do it!

This is why Agent Coulson has been newly promoted to a new position – Special Ops Supreme Commander. It is now Phil Coulson’s job to oversee all of SHIELD’s extra-normal operations and decide who – or what – should be called in to deal with various threats. Needless to say, Phil is in hog-heaven over his new position.

Unfortunately, Agent Coulson’s first day on the job is proving to be more interesting than he had hoped. Various creatures from around the Nine Worlds are randomly popping-up all around the world and The Avengers are swamped. Coulson is on the case with his hand-picked team of experts and superhuman specialists, but will they be capable of saving the world when they encounter a threat that Coulson hasn’t anticipated?!

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It’s clear from the beginning that writer Mark Waid – widely acknowledged by professionals everywhere as the master of superhero trivia – has turned Agent Phil Coulson into an author avatar for himself. Thankfully, this choice of characterization (while a little self-indulgent) is a good choice in fleshing out Agent Coulson’s character and well in keeping with his portrayal from previous comics, Marvel Studios’ films and the Agents of SHIELD TV series.  This choice, however, does highlight the odd paradox of this comic.

While this comic does feature most of the cast of the popular TV series it is based upon, nobody except for Agent Coulson gets much in the way of introduction in this first issue.  We see Agent May, Agent Fitz and Agent Simmons but it is never really explained who they are or how Coulson came to be in charge of them.  Nothing is said about them being a part of a special team under Coulson’s command like on the show or if they are just three agents with the skills Coulson needed who were available.

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What little we do see of the other agents suggests characterization similar to the characters on the TV series.  May is portrayed as a total badass, Fitz is an awkward shlub who can’t talk to women and Simmons is… well, encouraging Fitz to talk to other women.  This is all in keeping with the characters from the show, of course, but it seems uncharacteristically sloppy of Waid not to adhere to Stan Lee’s dictum that every comic is someone’s first comic and should be written as such.

This is doubly problematic since everything else about the issue seems to be going out of its way to remind readers that this comic is not set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and that the characters we see are not the same as the ones on the show. Everyone wears generic SHIELD Agent uniforms at all times, and the plot seems to feature Heimdall for no reason other than to show that he doesn’t look like Idris Elba.

The artwork is similarly conflicted. Carlos Pacheco does a decent enough job with the pencils, but nothing really stands out in his artwork for good or ill. The same cannot be said of the inking, which is non-existent on some pages and too heavy on others – the result of two inkers taking a turn at the finishes for this issue.  The coloring is worst of all, with mistakes throughout the issue including one page where it seems the colorist thought Agent May was Black Widow and Agent Simmons was a bleach blonde!

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In the end, there’s very little to recommend this issue or this series.  The action of the script is good and Waid goes out of his way to show how awesome Agent Coulson is as a character. Unfortunately, the same effort wasn’t applied to the rest of the cast and readers who aren’t already familiar with the show won’t have much to catch their interest. The artwork is merely decent, apart from the coloring, which is abysmal.  All in all, this is typical of the kind of mediocre work one expects of a tie-in comic.

Rating 3

About Matt Morrison

Matt "Starman" Morrison is The Grand Exalted High Macha of Raspur - a non-existent but real-sounding country. He has been writing about comics since before the word "blogging" was coined. He enjoys acting, role-playing, movie-riffing and sarcasm. You can follow his adventures on Twitter, @GeekyGeekyWays.

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