Writer: Mark Waid
Artist: Carlos Pacheco (though the title will apparently feature a rotating team of artists)
The Buzz: I’m not saying there hasn’t been any buzz for this one, but I hadn’t heard any – then again, I haven’t been paying attention to the blogs and things lately. All I saw was the ‘pre-order’ page floating around Comixology, and that was enough for me. Because COULSON LIVES. It didn’t hurt that this was the only new Marvel comic that released on New Year’s Eve. The promo material for the comic (which I only found belatedly) had this to say:
Writer Mark Waid (DAREDEVIL) and a rotating crew of mission-specific top flight Marvel artists make you one promise: Every issue: Twenty pages. One mission. Unlimited budget. Unlimited imagination. Six periods. And a helper monkey. Welcome to Level Eight. Welcome to S.H.I.E.L.D.
All You Need To Know: This is sort of a tie-in to the Agents of SHIELD TV series, only totally not. It shares many of the characters with Season 1 of the show – notably Agent Coulson, the cool-headed pilot and asskicking specialist Melinda May AKA “the Cavalry”, and adorkable science duo Fitz and Simmons – but it’ss clearly part of the 616 (default) Marvel Universe rather than the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so stands completely alone from the show. You don’t need to have seen even ten minutes of Agents of SHIELD to get this comic because it’s a well-crafted Issue 1 that isn’t afraid of explaining stuff to newbies.
Story: The main focus is on fan-favourite Coulson, depicting a different but familiar path as he grows up obsessing about superheroes, then puts those skills into use as a SHIELD agent rising through the ranks. There’s lots of flashbacking and set up here, but it’s interesting stuff that centres him as the focal point of the team. Notably, it skips the part of Coulson’s backstory that has previously been shown in the 616 universe, ie. his history in the Rangers with Marcus Johnson/Nick Fury Jr, but doesn’t contradict it. This mission has a team made up of Coulson, May, Fitz and Simmons, plus a couple of “mysterious” sword-fighters go to rescue Heimdall of Asgard in the desert after an attack on the rainbow bridge. It’s a fun, peppy action-adventure story with an equal mix of male and female characters and plenty of banter. Totally my sort of thing.
Art: Flashy and vivid, though I have mixed feelings about some of the character art – most of the female faces look basically the same, and I really don’t think he’s managed to capture anything unique about Simmons – which isn’t helped by the odd page where she has red hair for no reason, leading me to think that Black Widow had unexpectedly joined the team (which, is not something you tease about because everything after that will be a disappointment). Fitz also looks remarkably generic at times, which is disappointing because it’s a rare opportunity to show a male physical type other than ‘built’ and ‘extra built’ in a main character.Note: I didn’t know when first writing this up that the artists on this title will be rotating with each mission, which is fantastic and makes me even more excited to continue with it – here’s hoping that the other artists have more of a bead on FitzSimmons. The cute extras in the comic like the character profiles and the special Fitz & monkey strip at the end suggest that there’s going to be some wildly different interpretations of the science kids. My favourite version of them so far is (surprise surprise) the Skottie Young cover variant. If Skottie Young came in to pencil Fitz for all of SHIELD’s artists I would be a happy woman.
But What Did I Miss?: NOTHING, this is a perfect Issue 1. It isn’t reliant on your knowledge of earlier stories or events, it’s introducing you gradually to the team and they actually go on a mission instead of standing around talking about things that previously happened to them. (No I wasn’t burned by Mighty Avengers at all). A title with appeal to Marvel viewers that actually might be aimed at new and casual comics readers. SHOCK.
Would Read Issue 2?: Yep, absolutely. (a bunch of Agents of SHIELD geekery to follow, please ignore if you don’t care about the show) A lot of the promo material including variant covers teases the exciting possibilities of including Marvel 616 characters who are unlikely to get to play with Coulson and the gang in the TV show, like Deadpool, the X-Men, etc. but my main interest is in the reimaginings (or established 616 Marvel versions) of the characters I know from the show. I’ll be especially fascinated to see if they bring in Daisy Johnson considering recent plot twists, hehehe. I would love to see Mack and Trip included because both characters have so many interesting layers to them, and also to see Black Widow, Hawkeye and Mockingbird appear, hopefully with some official acknowledgement of Lance Hunter rather than simply swapping Clint in for him. (no reason Bobbi can’t have two deadbeat ex husbands!) But I’d also be happy to simply sit back and enjoy Melinda May being amazing, and some un-traumatised Fitz and Simmons in new settings. WARD IS NOT ALLOWED TO PLAY.