Caroline Bialas ’18 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
It was only a matter of time before Marvel and ABC Productions’ collaborative television series, Agents of Shield, made its transition from screen to page. The series continues to prove how it constantly derives and reworks from the original comic book material, especially recently from Skye’s major reveal in the show’s winter finale. But, this December 31st, the hit TV series made its first impact on the comic book medium. While characters such as Coulson and the show’s most recent addition Bobbi Morse have already been seen on page, the TV-series-original characters such as the tough-as-nails Melinda May and the lovable FitzSimmons duo (Leo Fitz and Jemma Simmons) are finding their way in the new comic series, but not without a few notable exclusions.
The timeline of the comic series remains rather vague. Beginning with Coulson’s childhood and progressing to the quoted “NOW,” the series feels as if it takes place before the first season of the Agents of Shield television series, but also seems to take place after the recent developments in the Marvel comic universe this year—with Thor now being portrayed by a woman and with Sam Wilson now holding place as Captain America. Additionally, if any fans of the television series were hoping to obtain any answers regarding the mid-season finale’s huge reveals, this new comic series will unfortunately not deliver….at least yet. Some major members of the Agents of Shield cast of characters that are actually missing in action this first issue, include Skye, Ward, Lance Hunter, Bobbi Morse, and Raina just to name a few. The comic series does not pick up from where we left off, and honestly this issue may look like Agents of Shield in a technical sense, but it doesn’t feel like Agents of Shield.
This first issue clearly tries to take advantage of the freedoms of working on the page rather than the screen, but while the comic series is being written by a whole different group of writers than those on the television series, one cannot help but wonder if any of these plots or characters surfacing on the page could be future plans for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This first comic seems to lean away from the more sci-fi and espionage plotlines that we tend to see in the Agents of Shield episodes, and instead focuses on the fantasy elements of Heimdall, Bifrost, and the Realms. Again, this might be a move for Marvel to bring in elements and characters that would be too difficult or expensive to bring into a forty-five minute episode, but it also contributes to this comic series feeling less like its television counterpart—in fact I would venture to say that this first issue is its own Realm entirely.
While it still is only the first issue, it seems peculiar how little attention the TV-series-derived characters are actually given (who were of course a major advertising point for the comic series). It is even said within the comic that the lovable scientist, Jemma Simmons, “barely got her feet wet.” Instead this series’ first issue seems to fan out and engulf many characters over its thirty-two pages, including at times a full page or full two-page artwork of Marvel heroes from all parts of the universe simply ‘battling it out’. For this reason, the series seems to lack focus thus far—balancing somewhere between focusing on the legions of Marvel heroes in its universe and the smaller group of Agents of Shield characters for which the comic series is being advertised.
Admittedly, it could be quite interesting to see this new Shield series take advantage of these ‘freedoms of the page’ and to bring in and interact with characters and plotlines that otherwise could not be done on the show, but I remain more than a bit leery that they are being a little too ambitious with this standing as the series opening. None the less however, the strange vagueness of the first issue has left the door open and curiosity peaked for more specific plotlines to potentially arise and develop in the next few issues.
As far as the look of the comic goes, the cover art by Julian Totino Tedesco is stunning in its depiction of some of Agents of Shield’s most-loved characters. And, inside the comic, the artwork by Mariano Taibo, Jason Paz, Dono Almara, and Joe Caramagna remains impressive, though not atypical or unique to many other currently ongoing Marvel series. Additionally, the comics’ internal art undergoes one final change for its small almost newspaper-strip style comic titled Fitz and H.E.N.R.Y, which finds its home on the last and thirty-third page of the comic. Written and drawn by Joe Quesada, this strip seems to be an ongoing addition to future issues as well. It depicts a slightly more cartoonized Leo Fitz as he works to build and program his new artificial intelligence interface, which die-heart fans of the TV series will rejoice comes in the form of a small monkey named Henry. While this addition to the first issue is small, it was in fact one of my favorite parts of the series’ first issue, as it seemed to do the best job of the whole to draw and expand upon the TV-universe that we know, and even demand some of the show’s perks and quirks.
And so, while it is understandable that the comic series does not wish to continue right from the TV series’ recent and explosive mid-season finale, the new Shield comic series’ opening issue seems to lack direction so far, as it tries to bring Marvel hero after Marvel hero onto its pages. As a result it feels rather stiff, but leaves room for potential and hopeful development in future issues. Also, the addition of the corresponding Fitz and H.E.N.R.Y. strip is a nice touch that will hopefully rub off on the rest on the new series, as its seems to do the best job of representing the television-series source material, but will ultimately not be enough to satisfy Agents of Shield TV fans through the long months until the premiere of season two, part two.