|S.H.I.E.L.D. No. 1, February 2015|
With the words “Inspired By The Hit TV Series!” boldly emblazoned upon its rather lack-lustre and slightly impotent Julian Totino Tedesco front cover, it is easy to see why this first issue of “S.H.I.E.L.D.” could be criticised for being a crass ‘cash-in’ comic. However despite the considerable budget of the American Broadcasting Company, the “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” television programme was always going to struggle to replicate the sheer cacophony of super-powered characters living within the ‘Marvel Universe’.
Indeed, originally Joss Whedon’s vision for the show was for it to simply focus upon the exploits of the law enforcement agency’s ordinary agents, its “peripheral people… the people on the edges of the grand adventures” as opposed to just side-lining them as mere support for popular heroes such as the Black Widow and mighty Thor. The executive producer’s vision has softened with later televised stories featuring the extraordinary likes of Absorbing Man and Asgardian Lorelei. But it is still clearly substantially easier for an artist to draw the Thing and incredible Hulk ‘duking it out’ on paper than have a special effects and costume design team labouring for months in order to bring them to life using computer generated imagery.
However writer Mark Waid would actually appear to have significantly over compensated for this ease of incorporating such ‘heavy hitters’ into the ‘comic book’ world of Supreme Commander Phil Coulson and his fellow S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, as “Perfect Bullets” contains more super-heroes than the leader of a rebel terrorist group can shake a stolen cosmically charged sword at. In fact throughout the issue the Eisner Award-winning American comic book writer boastfully lists the plethora of fan-favourites he’s managed to ‘crowbar’ into its thirty pages.
Fortunately the inclusion of such luminaries as Iron Man, Hulk, Hyperion, Hercules, Captain America and Nova are in many ways superficial distractions with the main storyline focusing upon the “guy with a plan” leading Leo Fitz and xenobiologist Jemma Simmons up against Abu Mussan and rescuing Heimdall, the sentry of Bifrost.
Disappointingly though, all is still not as it seems as Waid appears unable to stop himself from using super-powered heroes in order to save the day. Tasked with straightforward containment, the S.H.I.E.L.D. operatives simply stand by as first the Black Knight and Valkyrie dispatch Mussan and then the Vision defeats the Shard of the Aftertime. Worse, the freelancer appears to have bestowed Coulson with both analytical reasoning and memory powers similar to that of the original Beetle’s chest-plate mounted tactical mini-computer.
Perhaps this story’s best asset though is that all the action is rather well illustrated by penciller Carlos Pacheco, and inked by Mariano Taibo with Jason Paz. Indeed some of the single-page larger drawings, such as the epic scale battle with an army of fire demons and especially the “heavy hitters” tackling the great serpents, are fabulously dynamic.
|The variant cover art of "S.H.I.E.L.D." No. 1 by Skottie Young|