While we’re on Election Week break with the Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV series, I thought I’d take a peek at the ongoing Marvel comic of the same name. I wrote about S.H.I.E.L.D. #1 about a year ago here, but a lot has happened since then, including this ongoing series. The Agents have become firmly rooted in the Marvel Universe of the comics, and even embroiled in Civil War II. Meet me after the jump for my thoughts on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – the comic series.
The 2015 series, continuing from the first issue I reviewed, was by Mark Waid, and not only was he able to firmly place the TV team into the Marvel Universe, he, with a variety of artists took readers on a tour of various characters and places in that world. We saw vomit monsters at Ms. Marvel’s high school, a break-in at Doctor Strange’s Sanctum Santorum, underground open-heart surgery with the Invisible Woman, rock trolls in the Antarctic with the Scarlet Witch, and invaded the Dark Dimension of Dormammu with the Absorbing Man and the new Howling Commandos. And that was just the first storyline.
The next missions brought the TV versions of characters like Quake, Mister Hyde, and Mockingbird more in line with their Marvel Comics versions. Further adventures tied this version of S.H.I.E.L.D. with Jonathan Hickman’s Illuminati-like secret history of the organization, revealed parallel universe Howards the Duck, had Coulson share an adventure with Dominic Fortune with art by Howard Chaykin, and saw the Agents fight the Scarlet Centurion in Asgard. Waid’s ability to integrate the characters we know and love from TV with those of the comics, and also pull cool and obscure characters from Marvel’s history into the mix, makes this series a must-read for comics readers old and new.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
As Marvel Comics has been doing for more than a few years now, they canceled (or stopped, take your pick) the comic, and restarted with another number one, this one titled Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. by writer Marc Guggenheim and for the first eight issues artist German Peralta. This series puts the team deeper into the MU continuity, and brings in Deathlok and Coulson’s telepathic ex-wife Lola to the mix. This series is more in line with what I always thought the TV series should be, a solid spy drama set decisively in a superhero universe. Guggenheim pulls it off. Not only that, he includes our Agents in various crossover events from the Marvel Universe proper.
First up with issue #3, S.H.I.E.L.D. is involved in Standoff, a mad plot where the town of Pleasant Hill is actually a super-villain holding facility, created by the living Cosmic Cube, the villains are transformed into townspeople with no memory of their past lives. Hmmm… where’s Zatanna when you need her? Things get a little crazy for a while, and Kobik, the living Cube makes alterations to reality, including rejuvenating the then-aged Steve Rogers, and also making him a Hydra agent. Grrrr… don’t get me started.
S.H.I.E.L.D. Joins the Second Civil War
In the actual mini-series Civil War II, S.H.I.E.L.D. is on the sidelines. Director Maria Hill is there, along with hundreds of nameless agents, but that’s about it, and they are barely relevant throughout most of the main event. Here in their home title, it’s a bit different, we get background and behind the scenes stuff. The rift of Civil War II is not just between the superheroes, it’s in S.H.I.E.L.D. too. Hill wants to apprehend Iron Man, Coulson thinks ol’ Shellhead is right.
With Coulson on the run as a loose cannon on Iron Man’s side, Hill calls in the big guns – Elektra, agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. Yeah, I’m not sure how that makes sense either, but it sure is fun to watch her mix with Mockingbird and Agent May, like burning oil and water. This is a fun book, taking all the misery of Civil War II and giving it an espionage edge. I loved it, even Simmons becoming a Deathlok, but let’s not even speak of S.H.E.R.B.I.E. the Robot.
There are some other peculiarities along the way, obviously caused by not knowing what surprises may be coming in the TV series, like Fitz asking May on a date, Grant Ward wearing Iron Man armor, and being reinstated as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, but no matter what happens, we have the actor’s voices in our heads and it works. With this series and the last, no matter the superheroics and fantastic elements added in, it almost always feels like the show. This is one of the better comic adaptations of a television series, props to both Guggenheim and Waid.
The Howling Commandos of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Not so much as connected to the TV series as the other two titles, this is also a fun title, featuring a new new Howling Commandos, a name that used to be synonymous with war comics, and now is more a horror thing. These agents of S.T.A.K.E. are led by Dum Dum Dugan, who now inhabits Life Model Decoys of himself just like NoMan of the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, and include Manphibian, Warwolf, Vampire by Night, Teen Abomination, Hit-Monkey, classic Atlas Comics monster Orrgo, and former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Jasper Sitwell as a zombie. Seriously. Their first opponent is even that golden oldie from the eighties, the Sphinx!
The Miscellaneous Comics of S.H.I.E.L.D.
The fiftieth anniversary of S.H.I.E.L.D. in the comics passed recently and to celebrate, Marvel put out a few one-shots. The Fury issue is an awesome time travel story by David F. Walker (no relation) that teams the Nick Fury of yesterday with today’s version. Kathryn Immonen brought Agent Carter to life in her one-shot, teaming her with Lady Sif in the sixties. A character rarely used before her emergence in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and later TV series, she gets a fine spotlight here.
The female creator-powered Mockingbird one shot also featured the debut of new anti-heroine, the Red Widow. The Cavalry featuring Agent May is good old fashioned espionage, but still with a Marvel Universe feel. The Quake one-shot however seems to focus more on the comics version of the character as opposed to the Skye/Daisy we know from television. That has been a hard pill to swallow that these two versions of the character are in fact one and the same. The story teams her with the Avengers against A.I.M., but it’s not as exciting as it sounds.
Before I end this, there’s one more comic I want to recommend. Coming out of the Secret Wars was the humorous Hank Johnson: Agent of Hydra, a wonderful parody of the old Jim Steranko S.H.I.E.L.D. days. And despite his current political beliefs, I can’t recommend Steranko’s original Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. stuff, amazing comics, and the inspiration for all of the above.