Friday, 9 January 2015

New Beginnings - S.H.I.E.L.D. #1

by Matt Puddy

When the words "Inspired by the Hit TV Series!" are emblazoned across a product, it can simultaneously spread joy and fear in the hearts of fans. Which is why I approached this week’s review with a little bit of trepidation, but also a touch of interest as well. The other thing that I noticed is that Marvel have put a fairly heavyweight team on the project too with Mark Waid writing and Carlos Pacheco providing the pencils.

The comic starts off with a little bit of a history lesson. Starting out when he was just nine years old, we learn that Coulson’s interest in superheroes has been a defining characteristic throughout his life. Back even then he was making notes on the various heroes that were around. This then carried on through his college years and into his S.H.I.E.L.D. training, until he became a strong agent in the field. Finally, when promoted to Officer, we get to see him truly in action. His analytical prowess and tactical skills immediately shine through in this first issue, as he is tested in a battle that erupts on multiple fronts with various enemies. Wanting someone to multitask in this situation is a big ask but Coulson pulls it off.

Coulson - in his own words - is good when it comes to mixing and matching skills. After all he has been studying all of the mutants, robots, gods and heroes since he was born! Whether it is the Fire Demon, the Storm Giant, the new tyrant Abu Mussan or even the mighty Heimdal, Phil has got a handle on it.

Along the way we are briefly introduced to Agents May, Fitz and Simmons (jumping from the TV show into the original comic universe) who have a small input into the story but cement themselves within cannon. Whilst their presence is noted, it is fairly overshadowed by the plethora of superheroes who also flood the pages having to deal with the various threats. What it does really show is that tactically Coulson it a genius! Moving various players and heavy hitters around, this is one huge game of chess that simply left people like Mussan outclassed before they even realised it.

From a story point of view it is packed and quick moving. Even though there are some fan favourites like Iron Man thrown in the mix - along with some cute nods to other older heroes like the original Human Torch - the tale doesn’t feel like it is about anyone other than Coulson.

One thing that felt a little awkward was the timeline and also some of the depictions. Without knowing how old Coulson is (and he is somewhat dated by the TV show this is based on), the timeline feels a little off as we see Superior Iron Man (current) alongside the Hulk (currently Doc Green) and other heroes who should be older than they are due to the continuity, but then comic time has always been elastic and fluid to suit the narrative.

Visually I think a great job has been done. Translating characters from a show to a comic can either be representations or ideas of the original actors, but in this case they have gone for quite accurate depictions so that when you see Fitz, you know it’s Fitz, and everyone knows who Coulson is too. The extra little files at the back of the issue (courtesy of Joe Quesada for one) are also furthering this.

Throughout the comic Pacheco’s work is fantastic as well. It’s clean and fine with tonnes of detail in it to keep the attractive to the reader throughout.

As a first issue it was more character building and informative rather than arc building but it certainly has promise. It’s also a good preamble for those who like the TV series and wanted to see the team they know and love become legitimate parts of the larger Marvel Universe.

Matt Puddy is back baby! (And it's totally Ben's fault he's been gone over Christmas, sorry folks...) 

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