When Marvel Studios released Iron Man back in 2008 and Internet rumors were abound that Marvel’s legendary and clandestine organization S.H.I.E.L.D. would make an appearance via a cameo from actor Samuel L. Jackson as Director Nick Fury, an elephant tranquilizer couldn’t put a damper on my “nerd-gasm”. Having a professional cinematic badass like Sam L. playing the comic world’s top spymaster was nothing short of inspired casting ( mirroring Marvel’s choice for using Jackson’s likeness in their “Ultimates” imprint ). And, unfortunately, they couldn’t meet the asking price of my first choice for the role…David Hasselhoff…uh…ok folks…get off the ledge…I’m kidding. However, our introduction to S.H.I.E.L.D. in the film did not come from Fury, but a supporting character named Agent Phil Coulson. “Who’s Coulson”?..you ask. Well…..he’s not Nick Fury. Then, again…neither are we…and that’s what makes him so perfect. Or better, yet…”imperfect”.
Coulson is not a billionaire with a flying rocket suit. He’s not a physically augmented “super-soldier”. Nor a warrior from a parallel dimension who wields a magical hammer. A master assassin? An Olympic class archer? A rage driven, green-skinned behemoth? Nope. “Who’s Coulson”?…you ask. Coulson is US. Coulson is our anchor when Marvel throws everything and the green-skinned, hammer-throwing kitchen sink at us readers. Since his first appearance in Iron Man and it’s sequel, Iron Man 2 ( and along with being a bridge from that movie to Thor ), Coulson has become the unlikeliest and most endearing character to grace the Marvel Universe. So much so, that his tragic death in The Avengers ( at the hand of Thor’s brother, the villainous Loki ), is the galvanizing event that brings this band of egotistical, out of touch, and sometimes uncontrollable members together just in time to save the world from an invading alien army. And it is due to actor Clark Gregg’s brilliantly understated performance, as Coulson, that we comprehend the impact of his death on everyone ( including even the usually stoic Nick Fury ).
However, you can’t keep a good man down and in true comic book fashion, Coulson has been resurrected and placed front and center ( as the lead ) in ABC’s new fall TV series Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. In the pilot, written and helmed by executive producer and Avengers director Joss Whedon, Coulson is placed on active duty after he comes back from ( what he thought was ) a well deserved vacation in Tahiti. However, there is more to his resurrection than both acting director Maria Hill ( actress Cobie Smulders, back in a cameo ) and S.H.I.E.L.D. physician Dr. Steiten ( played by Firefly and Barney Miller actor Ron Glass ) are letting on. However, were not given the chance to ponder further on this mystery. When an onlooker in downtown Manhattan, captures the rescue of a young woman from a burning building by a mysterious, super powered, and hooded figure ( played by Angel star J. August Richards ) on her smartphone, Coulson immediately begins to assemble a crack team of S.H.I.E.L.D specialists to investigate the event and to handle any repercussions that may arise. Among this group is Agent Grant Ward ( actor Brett Dalton ), Agent Melinda May ( actress Ming-Na Wen ), and lab and field techs Leo Fitz ( actor Iain De Caestecker ) and Jemma Simmons ( Elizabeth Henstridge ). Or, as Coulson calls them, “Fitz-Simmons”.
This show, in my opinion, is another nail in Warner Brothers/ DC’s cinematic coffin. IT’S. JUST. THAT. GOOD. As far as I’m concerned, Marvel should just hand over any future projects to Whedon’s Mutant Enemy production house. The man understands action, drama, humor and, most important, how to balance all three. The effects are incredible, showcasing all the cool S.H.I.E.L.D. tech toys the agents play with. None of these, tho, hold a candle to the team’s mobile headquarters…..a tricked out high grade military aircraft, making it possible for the team to respond to any threat around the globe. As for the cast, their interplay is nothing short of inspired. There’s a classic scene in the pilot ( in which Coulson turns an interrogation, hilariously, on Agent Ward’s ear ). The Marvel Universe ( both comic and film ) references and in-jokes fly fast and furious with this show being the perfect fertile ground for laying the seeds for future Marvel adaptations.
Who cares if DC cast Ben Affleck as Batman in the next Superman film. With Marvel’s batting average…………….you think anyone one’s gonna notice?