Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Episode 1: Pilot

 

agents-of-shield-pilot

Marvel/ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. started last week and brings the Marvel Cinematic Universe to television. So how was it–and better yet, how is Agent Coulson still alive?

The series follows up after the events of the Avengers and they never explain how Coulson (still played by Clark Gregg) survived his apparent death. Three words: Life. Model. Decoy. Anywho, he has been reassigned to a super top-secret division of S.H.I.E.L.D. that even the Avengers have no idea about and he is investigating a threat called Rising Tide with a new group of agents. The rest of the first episode is spent with this new team trying to gel and stop a dangerous man who has been equipped with Extremis, as we last saw in Iron Man 3 this summer.

The show was pretty by the numbers and what you would expect from the debut of a new action/drama. Ultimately the agents put aside their differences and stop the villain, and Coulson gets to drive home in a hovercraft convertible sports car just like Jim Steranko would have drawn. It is a decent show that will probably get better, but to me it didn’t have the immediate “WOW~!” factor that Arrow did in its debut.

But what it does have going for it is how awesome Gregg is as an actor. He is awesome as the sarcastic normal person in this fantastic world. I also liked Cobie Smulder’s guest appearance as S.H.I.E.L.D. commander Maria Hill as well. With her primary gig on How I Met Your Mother coming to an end, it would be a safe bet to assume that we will see more of Hill in the next season.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is fine and I’m sure that it will get better. The challenge for them is to find that balance between the movies and finding their own identity as a series.

Uncanny Avengers #9

Uncanny_Avengers_Vol_1_9

What’s the best part of birthdays? Birthday presents! One of my coworkers gave me the recent Uncanny Avengers #9 which comes at a perfect time, since I just got through the first collected volume of the series.

The series is still following the same main plot points from before. The Apocalypse Twins are now shown as adults who seem to have some sort of plan to destroy everything, and it’s up to this group of Avengers to save everything.

To make matters more confusing, it turns out that a lot of these current problems are the result of Kang the Conqueror and Immortus’ influence on the time streams. I know they are the same person, but the fact that both of them have independently messed things up has to count for something.

There’s also a lot of division on the team, between the mutants that make up the group and Thor being on one side, and the traditional Avengers on the other. There’s a lot of yelling when it’s revealed that Wolverine lead the covert mission to kill the young child Apocalypse.

The book ends with the Apocalypse Twins revealing their new Four Horsemen: Banshee, Daken, Grim Reaper and Sentry. Things can’t be going to well for the Uncanny Avengers.

Rick Remender does a great job carrying plot points from not only earlier in this series, but going back to his work on Uncanny X-Force. And on the visual side of things, David Acuna is great in how he creates a very unique take on these classic characters.

RDJ Back As Iron Man!

robert-downey-jr-in-iron-man

Well color me unsurprised.

Marvel just announced that Robert Downey Jr. is going to be wearing the Iron Man suit once again in a press release.

It goes on to say that the Iron Man character will be in Avengers 2 and Avengers 3.

So why the sudden change?

Downey, Jr.’s last two Marvel films, 2012’s “Marvel’s The Avengers” and this year’s “Iron Man 3,” rank as two of the top five grossing films of all time, collectively earning over $2.7 billion worldwide to date.

Simply put, as awesome as he is playing Tony Stark, he’s an even more awesome box office draw. I’ll be the first to extend my congratulations.

Uncanny Avengers: Thor Drinks Lattes And Brainsnatching Fun

Uncanny Avengers #1 reminds me of one of those comics that reminds me of my childhood when my brother and I would pool together all of our super hero toys and make up our own groups. Is USAgent in the Justice League? Sure. Does the Avengers consist of Iron Man, Thor, Batman, Wonder Woman and the Savage Dragon? You betcha. What writer Rick Remender did in this issue was brought together that spirit of non-traditional team ups.

The Marvel Universe is still recovering from the whole Avengers/X-Men feud, and this book sets the stage for the two team’s first real joint partnership. Captain America and Thor are really giving Havok the hard sell on how much they respect him and Charles Xavier’s legacy, and how both sides need to put them past them. And unlike his brother Cyclops, Havok sees the value in working with non-mutantkind. The three get to team up for the first time to stop a lobotomized Avalanche.

The mutual admiration doesn’t extend to Scarlet Witch and Rogue, who will not forgive Wanda for intentionally almost eradicating the mutant population. This all takes place at Professor X’s grave site, which is something he would have never wanted to see. Before they can resolve their differences, Red Skull’s forces arrive to not only take them out but take the Professor’s corpse. Red Skull needs it for some diabolical plot to exterminate the mutant race.

Remender puts this together in a really fun, only in comics way. We have an awkward team up (that is surely to improve as the series go by as they grow personally), lots of big characters and a plot that is simply ridiculous, but in a good way. All the while, he finds a way to make the dialogue work. The only thing that came across kind of odd was the scene where Cap and Thor are talking about stepping out to get something to eat with Havok, and Thor talks about how much he likes lattes. Very silly yes, but it would work. I could totally see the character get into really weird human food like that.

The art is by John Cassaday is great as usual. This is definitely a fun book and I’m sure I’ll catch up with it once it comes out in trade format.

I Would Be Smiling If I Was Thanos

Thanks to the Avengers movie this summer, a lot of characters are doing pretty well for themselves. Hulk has been rejuvenated as a film franchise; Black Widow has generated enough attention to warrant getting her own movie. But the biggest star to come out of the Avengers had under a minute of screen time: I’m talking about Thanos.

Marvel Films head honcho Kevin Feige has said that the purple death worshiper from Jupiter’s moon of Titan will not only be in Avengers 2 but in the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy movie as well.

The last time I remember Thanos being this popular was during the whole Infinity Gauntlet era of the early 1990s. It may have been almost twenty years since he’s been relevant, but a film series will do that for you.

Mighty Fine Agent Coulson of SHIELD Shirts!

It’s no secret that the break-out characters of the Marvel Avengers franchise was SHIELD Agent Phil Coulson. He stole every scene he was in through six movies. Even though he might be dead (but alive in comics continuity), Coulson is still popular.

Marvel and Mighty Fine have a line of Coulson inspired t-shirts! You can view all five shirts in the line here. My favorite is the one pictured, which lovingly pays tribute to Jim Steranko’s cover for Nick Fury: Agent Of S.H.I.E.L.D. #4.

 

Who Are The Avengers Now?

Remember how last year DC Comics did a huge relaunch/re-branding with the New 52? Marvel is doing their version of it called Marvel NOW, which is a jumping on point for new readers. Thanks to this summer’s blockbuster, comic readers are still on an Avengers high.

Marvel gave us a preview of the next era of the Avengers yesterday by previewing the covers of the first three issues of the relaunched series. These covers conveniently form a triptych and show us the new team. So who are the latest characters to make up Earth’s mightiest heroes?

The obligatory big three–Captain America, Thor and Iron Man–are there, each getting their own cover. Their movie cohorts Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye (who is still wearing his film costume) are also on board.

Spider-Man and Wolverine are still part of the team, because, well they are popular. And Spider Woman and Ms. Captain Marvel still make the cut because they were such integral parts of the team during the 2000s. Falcon is there because he’s always appearing as a member.

But there are three people who are new to the team. Cannonball and Sunspot (thanks to Bleeding Cool’s astute observation) get promoted to the big leagues so to speak, leaving the New Mutants/X-Men titles they’ve been hanging around in for the last thirty years. years. But there is a third character, silhouetted in black in the bottom right corner who is a mystery.

I’m going to put my guess out; it’s Ikaris from the Eternals. He hasn’t ever really played a major role in the Marvel Universe, so it would be something new and different. Plus the insignia looks pretty close from a far. You can view a larger image here.

Avengers #27

So this is a random issue I read, thanks to getting it as a birthday gift from a co-worker. Avengers #27 is right in the middle of the Avengers vs. X-Men crossover. I really have no idea what is going on. What ensues is a really bad day for Noh-Varr (the former Marvel Boy who now calls himself the Protector).

It turns out that the Avengers were able to absorb some of the Phoenix Force through Thor’s hammer.

This was a short-lived victory, as they were betrayed by Noh-Varr, who has announced that he is bringing this energy back to his people, the alien Kree race. And by doing this, he’s sent the Avengers on a collision course with the sun.

Thinking that this will gain him brownie points back on his homeworld, Noh-Varr finds out that the Kree’s guiding force the Supreme Intelligence intends to use this weapon to protect themselves and not save Earth. Noh-Varr then takes back the Phoenix Force, making himself an enemy to all Kree. He then winds up getting beaten up by the Avengers, who take the hot potato of Phoenix energy back, informing him that he is no longer welcome on earth. By the end of the issue, Noh-Varr has wound up alienating himself with both the Kree and Earth. It must be lonely, as he literally has nowhere to go.

I wonder if this is an actual writing off of the character, or if he’s going to later appear during the conclusion to this crossover. Maybe he might turn up with the Shi’ar or even the Skrulls?

What made this book so much fun was Walter Simonson’s art. It was perfectly suited for a mini cosmic epic like this. And quite frankly, it was Simonson’s art that made the book for me. Anyway, a fun issue and I can’t wait to get the complete run in a collected volume.

X-Sanction #2-4

It’s six months later and I’ve finally gotten past issue #1 of X-Sanction. This Loeb and McGuinness pretty much sets up the whole Avengers vs. X-Men crossover this summer in a quick manner.

The whole point of X-Sanction was to set up a rift between the two camps. Cable is protecting his adopted daughter Hope–the last mutant and the future savior of mutantkind–from the Avengers. And by protecting her, I mean killing the Avengers.

Cable is under the assumption that they will kill his daughter and he won’t allow that. Loeb uses a series of flashbacks to the future where Cable finds out that the Avengers wind up possessing several weapons designed to kill mutants. Because the Avengers are awesome, Cable is nearly dead thanks to being physically beaten and the techno-organic virus wreaking havoc on his body. Hope–now controlling the Phoenix force–is able to not only save her adopted father, but completely remove the techno-organic virus, something that has not been accomplished in the disease’s twenty plus year history.

What it also accomplishes is a huge distrust between Captain America and Cyclops, which again makes this a starting point for Avengers vs. X-Men.

So should you read this?

I’m going to say its you can pass it. Don’t get me wrong, it all made sense story wise and McGuinness’ art is always great. But at the same time, this is just a feeder story for another crossover.You can skip this and start straight at Avengers vs. X-Men #1 without losing anything.

Avengers 1959 #5

Better late than never. This issue concludes Howard Chaykin’s brilliantly done mini-series Avengers 1959. Is Nick Fury’s rag-tag group of super powered mercenaries able to Geoffrey Sydenham’s nefarious plot to usher in the next age of Nazi dominance thanks to some supernatural help from the evil spirit Dormammu?

Of course he does. He’s Nick Fury.

If there was any criticism of this issue, I guess it could be that it was light on plot. But to me that isn’t an issue; we’re reading the final issue of a short mini-series. Chaykin uses this issue as a violent pay off for the last four issues. His artwork is stellar, imaginatively pitting Kraven, Sabretooth and company against Nazis, zombies and even a group of super villains.

The ending is also left completely open, giving us the possibility that we’ll revisit this pre-Mad Men world. This is available as a collected volume and I highly recommend checking it out.

The Avengers discover Captain America

the Avengers find Captain America frozen

This was a fun picture I took a few years back of the Avengers finding Captain America. We were in the middle of probably the biggest blizzard/winters I’ve ever experienced; there was pretty much two feet of snow accumulated. Anyway, I wanted to take some pictures with my toys out in the snow.

Having recently acquired the Wasp and the mask-less Captain America, it  seemed like a fair enough idea with this picture. I really like how it turned out, but unfortunately it doesn’t really show that Cap is frozen in a block of ice!

I stuck the action figure in a bowl of water, letting it freeze him. I think I might have to do some Photoshopping on it this week…

Avengers: Free Comic Book Day 2009

Let’s take a trip in the old way back machine and look at Marvel’s Free Comic Book Day 2009 offering, which pitted the Avengers against the Avengers–technically Norman Osborn’s Dark Avengers.

The two teams have to put aside their personal differences, mainly Norman and company trying to arrest the other group for treason, and the Avengers proper not taking to kindly to being impersonated by super villains, to help Thor stop the frost giant Ymir from merging his world with Earth.

Brian Bendis does a great job stresssing how much each group really dislikes each other. He also manages to compare the two teams, with the real Avengers being able to work together (and even with their evil counterparts to a lesser extent). Meanwhile, Norman’s kooky crew can’t get along. I also like how Thor is portrayed as being quite aloof, as he is still a little upset with Iron Man over the whole Clor debachle. Young Avengers’ Jim Cheung does an amazing job on the art side of the book.
So how did this book do as a Free Comic Book Day selection? It did a fair job of showing new readers, whether they just came in for a free comic book or a longtime reader, exactly what was going on in the Avengers book. I give it a thumbs up.

Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Movie Review

I finally got to see Avengers and I was completely blown away. I can’t remember the last time I saw a movie like this and was so happy leaving the film. So why was I so impressed with the film?

The film’s director/scriptwriter Joss Whedon did an incredible job tying together five films worth of plot lines and characterizations. The end result is one of the best super hero/comic book adaptation films ever.

The plot is very straight forward; Loki has returned to Earth, allying himself with the alien army the Chitauri in an attempt for him to rule the planet and giving the aliens the Tesseract (cosmic cube) for their help. SHIELD commander Nick Fury has to pull together the best super heroes alongside the top SHIELD agents to stop this. Along the way, Iron Man and company learn that they have to coexist. Can they save the day? Spoilers after the jump…

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Avengers Review: Not Yet

I attempted to go out and see Avengers, but unfortunately the 3D playing was sold out. I mean, come on…what kind of ruffian doesn’t want to see this movie in 3D. If I’m going to go see a movie at midnight, I want the full experience.

So from now until I get to see it, I’m attempting a complete movie spoiler black out. We’ll see how that goes.

Avengers Film: So this is it?

Tonight (well technically tomorrow) Avengers makes its movie debut. For the last four years, Marvel/Paramount/Disney has made five films that have gotten us to the point where Earth’s mightiest heroes together.

What they’ve done is put together a cohesive universe for the Marvel films at least for the Avengers characters. So what does that mean for the future?

Captain America costume

Captain America’s costume was on display at the New York Comic Con.

I read a blog post (from the LA Times I believe; sadly I cannot find the bookmark for it) saying that it may raise the bar for super hero films too high, especially in regards to the number of costumed characters.

They brought up the concern that this would lead to a veritable super hero appearance arms race, with all future films having to have a large cast of characters.

That said, should we be worried about this in regards to future comic book films? To that I’m going to say no. Avengers is a special case. It may be team film, but there is definitely a three-tier system to its characters.

Obviously at the top we have Iron Man, as Robert Downey Jr. has spent the last five years convincing us about how cool the character is. If it wasn’t for Iron Man doing so well, we might have not seen the subsequent Avengers family films. Captain America and Thor are up there as well, but that’s mostly because they had the last two blockbusters.

But after that, there really is a drop off with the rest of the characters. Yes, the Hulk is huge–literally and figuratively–but this is the third launch the character has had in the last decade. Consider him a gamma powered supporting character. That’s about the same for Nick Fury and for a lesser degree with Black Widow. Hawkeye is a step below them, not even being verbally identified during his debut in Thor.

What this film looks to do is less then introduce an audience to new characters, but to tell a story about how three (well four, we’ll give Hulk his due) extreme personalities can put aside their differences to work cohesively in an extremely intense situation.

I still haven’t seen the film yet and plan on doing so shortly. I hope I’m right.

Avengers: Red Zone

Geoff Johns is known for being one of the driving forces at DC comics for the last ten years. It is hard to imagine him working at Marvel, but he did during the earlier part of the last decade. He did some decent stuff on the Avengers book, like the Red Zone storyline.

This story pits the Avengers against one of the biggest fears of the early 2000s: biological warfare. A weapons depot under Mount Rushmore has been compromised, leaking the uber-deadly Red Zone. The team splinters off, dealing with various parts of the outbreak.

Eventually it is revealed that the whole outbreak was a plot between a rogue member of the Department of Defense and the Red Skull as an attempt to blame Wakanda for the attack, thus setting up a United States/Wakanda war. While the team is trying to prevent this international incident they also have to find the Red Skull, because the only cure to Red Zone is based on his blood. How crazy is that?

Along the way, Iron Man and Black Panther have to put aside their suspicious of each other’s motives in order to stop the outbreak. This leads up to a touching scene at the end where they acknowledge their respect of each other.

On the whole, Red Zone is a fun story. It’s very bombastic and cinematic, reminding me a lot of the Dustin Hoffman movie Outbreak, except the Avengers don’t have to deal with any toxic monkeys.

Art on this book was from Olivier Coipel, right before he blew up with House of M. The covers during this story arch were done by JG Jones, with the six of them blending together to tell a larger story. I didn’t know that until Jones explained that to me at a comic book show!

Avengers #16: Cap’s Kooky Quartet

With the new Avengers movie coming out at the end of the week, I feel obligated to talk about the super hero team. Avengers #16 is on of my favorite issues from the 1960s, as the team gets the infamously known as Cap’s Kooky Quartet.

Why? Because the Avengers lineup changes to Captain America leading four reformed villains as Marvel’s premier super hero team. You have Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver who were last seen running around as members of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. And there’s Hawkeye, who debuted as a villain.

I like the way the story is framed around the original Avengers just being worn out and needing to move on. What the story stresses is how the new members of the team wanted to be Avengers. The best part of the story is the last few pages during the press conference with Captain America acknowledged that they have a checkered past and that isn’t a problem. Even better is the last page or so where Iron Man officially leaves the team and walks off. Powerful stuff.

Captain America and the Avengers Arcade Game

The X-Men weren’t the only super hero team to have an arcade game during my childhood. Earth’s mightiest heroes made their gaming debut in 1991′s Captain America and the Avengers.

The arcade game was simple. You and three of your friends (or in my case, my younger brother) could choose from Captain America, Iron Man, Hawkeye and the Vision to take on Marvel’s bad guys. Even at the time, I wondered why they would have chosen Vision over Thor.

The plot is very straightforward. You have to lead the Avengers into battle to stop the Red Skull and his army of mercenary villains from taking over the world. Some of Red Skull’s allies were logical, like Crossbones, Ultron and the Mandarin, all of whom had longstanding feuds with members of the Avengers. But you fight some odder choices like the Juggernaut, who is more appropriate for an X-Men game, and the Sentinels, who really have nothing to worry about with the Avengers.

The really cool thing about the game is the games special attacks, where other Avengers like the Wasp, Quicksilver and Wonder Man drop by to lend a helping hand.

After its debut in the arcades, Capain America and the Avengers was ported to the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis. I think it would make a fun addition to XBOX Live or the PSN, don’t you?

Fear Itself: Avengers

I usually don’t read the tie-in issues of the event comics, but I gave this a shot. Fear Itself: Avengers does a great job supplementing the Fear Itself event, by collecting some issues of Brian Bendis’ Avengers and New Avengers comics from that time, giving insight into how the Earth’s mightiest heroes are dealing with this crisis.

Bendis shares the Avengers point of view of these events in a unique way; the story jumps from the current time to later on when they’re interviewed by an author chronicling the history of the team.

This narration sets the tone for the rest of the book. It’s not what the Avengers did during this crisis that is covered, but how the team dealt with the impact of this event. Luke Cage and Jessica Jones argue about what it means for them to be accepting money from the government to be Avengers. Spider-Man can’t trust  Victoria Hand (a former executive in his enemy Norman Osborn’s H.A.M.M.E.R. forces), who is now serving the Avengers in a similar capacity. Mockingbird is still coming to terms with both her return and Infinity Syrum given powers, while her quasi-ex-husband Hawkeye is growing more attached to Spider-Woman by the way. Squirrel Girl also gets some face time, as she has taken a job as Luke and Jessica’s daughter Danielle’s babysitter, and has to protect the child as the Avengers Mansion is stormed by Sin’s Nazi army. There is so much going on in this book that works to set up future stories just as much as the main Fear Itself book.

Usually these types of books just supplement the crossover, but this goes beyond that. It shows the dynamics of the team, and that these super heroes have the same concerns as we do–financial security, relationships and self-doubt. Not to mention, some awesome art from John Romita Jr., Mike Deodato Jr. and Chris Bachalo.