Posted in Comics n Stuff, TV Stuff

Champions of S.H.I.E.L.D. part 2: Season 2

Main Cast:

Agent Phil Coulson –  Clark Gregg

Agent Melinda May  –  Ming Na Wen

Agent Leopold Fitz    – Ian De Caestecker

Agent Gemma Simmons –  Elizabeth Henstridge

‘Skye’   –  Chloe Bennett

Alfonso ‘Mack’ MacKenzie – Henry Simmons

Lance Hunter – Nick Blood

Barbara ‘Bobbi’ Morse – Adrianne Palicki

Recurring Cast:

Glenn Talbot – Adrian Pasdar

Calvin Zabo – Kyle MacLaughlin

Grant Ward – Brett Dalton

Antoine ‘Trip’ Triplett – B.J. Britt

Robert Gonzales – Edward James Olmos

Gordon – Jamie Harris

Raina – Ruth Negga

Overview: First shown on 24 October 2014, season 2 opened capitalised on the strong finish of season 1 and pushed the story forward with an uneven, but highly entertaining 22 episodes. Rather than a huge global organisation, now S.H.I.E.L.D. is the small scrappy underdog against all sides, the US government, Hydra and other groups. Secrets, tension and uncertain loyalties abound.

Initial Status Quo: Several months after the fall of S.H.I.E.L.D. and a newer organisation arises, led by Director Coulson, this small scrappy group is a shadow of it’s former self and bit by bit are rebuilding to take the fight to Hydra, who despite the popular view are still very much a threat. Coulson is having moments of compulsive carvings similar to what happened to John Garrett after receiving the GHC formula in the last season. Skye has changed supervising officers to Melinda May and has become a capable specialist. Simmons is undercover at Hydra, Fitz is struggling to recover after the brain damage he suffered, whilst working with new recruit Alfonso MacKenzie/Mack. The team is also joined by Lance Hunter, a friend to other S.H.I.E.L.D. agents and whilst sceptical of Coulson, trusts him enough to join. As well as Hydra, we have Dr Cal ‘Mr Hyde’ Zabo, Skye’s father who along with Grant Ward who escapes from S.H.I.E.L.D. pushes the plot forward as the secret of the alien writing, Skye’s origins and the strange artifact from the first episodes collide.

The Twist(s) First we find out that Skye is actually an inhuman and halfway through the season she goes through terrigenesis and emerges with vibrational powers. It’s then discovered that there are more inhumans out there, in hiding and terrified of the fearful human race. The second one comes when we learn that Bobbi and Mack are spies for another version of S.H.I.E.L.D. who are convinced that Coulson is the problem with the group and needs to be dealt with. Add into that several different revelations, changing allegiances and a few WTF moments, we get another fast paced finale which leads to more questions, more possibilities and more enjoyment for me.

Stand out episodes:

Love in the Time of Hydra: Bobbi and Mack play their hand and Grant Ward starts to help Agent 33 find closure over the damage done to her by Hydra.

Melinda: Where were learn how the ‘Cavalry’ became the Cavalry and why she spent 5 or 6 years in administration, set against the current Inhumans plot.

SOS: The seperate threads become one solid story and we get several cliff-hanger endings that leave you wanting a little more.

In Closing

Not suffering the finding their feet problems with the last season and having a little less to do with the Marvel Cinematics, allowed this season to breath a little. The cast are more comfortable in their roles and each are given more to do than last time. The expanded cast is a welcome breath of fresh air, with new recruits Mack, Bobbi and Hunter added some much needed flavour to the team. The antagonists are also more interesting and nuanced, from the more enlightened Ward, to his partner/girlfriend Agent 33 to the old school Nazi Daniel Whitehall. We get a look at the Inhumans and that continues Marvels attempts to make Inhumans interesting and relevant, but here it sort of works. (But seriously Marvel, stop trying to make Inhumans a thing, it’s still not working, but we all accept you tried your best.) We get more Asgardians, a Kree, a return of Deathlok and even some villains (we get Mr Hyde, Angar the Screamer and Crusher ‘The Absorbing Man’ Creel) and over all this was a much better season overall and I am glad I got it into my head to start watching these again.

Next Time: Inhumans, robot arms, alien worlds and Secret Warriors.

 

Posted in Comics n Stuff, TV Stuff

Champions of S.H.I.E.L.D. Part 1: Season 1

First airing 27 September 2013 on the US network ABC, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was the first attempt to put the Marvel Cinematic Universe on the small screen with a spin off and 5 netflix series, it can be considered something of a successful attempt.

 

Main Cast:

Agent Phil Coulson –  Clark Gregg

Agent Melinda May  –  Ming Na Wen

Agent Grant Ward   –  Brett Dalton

Agent Leopold Fitz    – Ian De Caestecker

Agent Gemma Simmons  –  Elizabeth Henstridge

‘Skye’   –  Chloe Bennett

Recurring characters

Raina –  Ruth Negga

Victoria Hand   –  Saffron Burrows

John Garret – Bill Paxton

Ian Quinn  – David Conrad

Mike Peterson – J August Richards

Agent Antoine ‘Trip’ Triplett – B J Britt

Agent Maria Hill – Colbie Smulders

Edison Po -Cullen Douglas

Overview: Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. was a gamble, a weekly prime time series, set in the Marvel Universe, but without any of the recognisable characters that could be used in future films, or where there was rights issues. Straight away that takes the Avengers, X-Men, Fantastic Four, Namor and a dozen other characters right off the table, add to that the ridiculous weekly schedule and a TV budget, it would be understandable if this was a brief failure. Right at the start, we are shown that the world has changed since the ‘incident’ when the Chitauri invaded a small part of Manhatten, the Avengers formed and the fantastic elements wherein were exposed to a terrified world.

Initial Status Quo: Our P.O.V. character is Skye, who lands on S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s radar after videoing a superhuman saving a woman from a fire. Quickly recruited for the response team is Grant Ward who is a very James Bond-esque agent. He is interviewed by Maria Hill to gauge his suitability to join a team led my an experienced agent named Coulson. Ward points out that he’s a level 6, so he knows Coulson was killed. Coulson walks in and announces that Ward is now a 7. He then recruits Melinda May from administration to act as pilot and takes Ward and May to the ‘Bus’ which is a converted Jet designated 616. Ward is met by newly field-rated scientist Fitz and Simmons, or Fitzsimmons for short. Investigating the superhuman, they encounter Skye, who helps out and is offered a consultant’s position on the Bus. For the first bunch of episodes, it’s very much like that, we get the team investigating weird cases, unexplained events and battle an organisation called Centipede who along with the ‘Clairvoyant’ are trying to develop super soldiers. In between we have the search for the truth of Skye’s past, the facts behind Coulson’s return and his time in Tahiti and all the time trying to train Skye as an agent. The concepts are fleshed out and the writing is decent enough and there is the sense of it all going somewhere as the Clairvoyant starts manipulating events. The synergy thing of it, is that during the season, Marvel released Thor: The Dark World and an episode fits in around that and then Captain America: Winter Solider happened.

The twist: Winter Soldier had the 3rd act twist that from the beginning, Hydra had infiltrated S.H.I.E.L.D and had been working in the background to make the world more dangerous, so to enable their takeover. The series then stops being what it was and becomes something else. Ward is revealed to be Hydra and thus becomes part of the antagonists for the rest of the season and S.H.I.E.L.D is now considered the same as Hydra, so the team are now outlaws. Now on the run, with minimal resources and betrayed at all sides, this rag tag team becomes not a team within S.H.I.E.L.D but the remainder of the organisation. It ends the season, showing that not all of the threats are dealt with and not all of the mysteries are solved. There are also guest stars, minor twists and turns and ultimately the series ends on a high with a final scene that leaves you wanting to know what happens next.

In closing: I liked this series better on the second watch, not having to wait week by week for each new episode and after a wobbly first half dozen episodes it found it’s footing early on and was consistently enjoyable. It’s not high art or award winning drama and to be honest it’s not really trying to do that, it’s an entertaining show set in the spaces around Marvel’s movies, but more and more are separate from them. The main cast do a great job with Ming Na Wen and Clark Gregg playing wonderfully off one another and the younger cast aren’t as annoying as they could have been. Over all this is a TV show that is worth giving a try for anyone who has a passing interest in the marvel movies and the comics they came from, it’s not the comics, nor the movies, but it’s not bad because of them.

Next Time: Rebuilding S.H.I.E.L.D., rival organisations and terrigenesis.

 

 

Posted in Comics n Stuff, TV Stuff

Champions of S.H.I.E.L.D. Part 0: 

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Quality is no real indicator of how much I will enjoy something, nor to be honest is popularity. Many are the show that despite being critically acclaimed or award winning that have simply passed me by. I am no fan of Breaking Bad and found the Walking Dead  to be unwatchable, but I often enjoy stuff that no one else can tolerate. I freely admit though the show disappeared up it’s own arse at the end, I watched Sanctuary right up until the end.  I am willing to give most action or geeky shows a try. There’s little rhyme or reason for the ones I stick with and due to my many many problems, I always feel that when I like a show, I must qualify my appreciation. I should stop doing that. It’s my opinion after all and the only condition you need give for liking something is that you like it.

So one of the shows I stick with that no one else likes is the 2013 series Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Now I say no one else, but I do know someone, just the one and that’s about it. But the truth is, I like the show. I did in the past and am re-watching it now and enjoying it still. So I want to write about it a bit, look at it season by season and try to work out why I like it so and why anyone else should. I doubt I will change anyone’s mind, but what the hell.

So we start as ever with the beginning.

S.H.I.E.L.D. was introduced in Marvel Comics as Supreme Headquarters International Espionage Law-Enforcement Division starting in Strange Tales 135 back in 1965. It was then and for most of it’s run led by Nicholas J Fury.

strange_tales_135

Halfway between Man from U.N.C.L.E. and 007 it was a spy agency with all kinds of hi-tech gear who battled with A.I.M. and Hydra (AIM being mad scientists and Hydra being the group formed by ex-Nazis such as Baron Von Strucker. It was a way to use some of the interesting WWII characters Marvel had including the Howling Commandos and S.H.I.E.L.D. was used often to springboard new stories and introduce new characters such as Mockingbird, Jasper Sitwell, Quasar, Maria Hill, Sharon Carter, Victoria Hand and others, who started life of as agents. As time went on, S.H.I.E.L.D. changed becoming more of a traditional espionage agency just with sci-fi trappings and connections to several super heroes. Captain America for example is a connected to the agency and often works alongside them. Refashioned into the Strategic Hazard Intervention Espionage Logistics Directorate back in 1991 it carried on as it did before, just with a post cold war mentality. After the Secret Invasion story in the mid-noughties, S.H.I.E.L.D. was done away with in place of H.A.M.M.E.R. which had no real words behind those letters, but S.H.I.E.L.D. returned as it always does. Given it’s unique place in the Marvel Universe and it’s ability to connect to many different heroes for several different reasons, it made sense for the Marvel Cinematic Universe to have it’s own version of SH.I.E.L.D. in this case the Strategic Homeland Intervention Enforcement and Logistics Division, who showed up in Iron Man and Incredible Hulk back in 2008. In Hulk, they simply acted as intelligence providers and arms suppliers, but in Iron Man, we got to see the agents in action, investigating the escape of Tony Stark from the 10 rings camp. Here’s where we met Philip Coulson. Seen as an affable middle management type, he was the everyman in a strange new world, dealing with it as many would, like a job. He returned in Iron Man 2 and led the investigation into Mjolnir in the movie Thor soon after. He showed up in a couple of one-shot episodes that were on the DVD/Blu-Ray releases of these films and then had his role expanded for Avengers in 2012.

By this point, S.H.I.E.L.D. was as much of a character in the movies as anyone else and despite Samuel L Jackson owning the role of the Ultimate version of Nick Fury, it’s face was Clark Gregg’s Agent Coulson. His dramatic final scene in Avengers was a lovely denouement to how the films portayed the agents. A nice little finale

Then they announced a series.

 

Posted in Comics n Stuff

Joy of Comics: Knowing when to walk away

As many know, I was less than enamored with the Nu52 era of DC Comics and so was hesitant and sceptical of the Rebirth initiative from the same company last year. However being a functional comic addict, I gave it a go. I’ll be honest there was some rubbish, but what has been good has been really good.

Two particular stand outs for me have been the Superman titles, Superman and Action Comics which as well as having a recognizable Superman have been both enjoyable and consistently so. The other pleasant surprise has been Greg Rucka’s Wonder Woman.

Starting in Wonder Woman Rebirth and continuing through issues 1-25 it has been an enjoyable, fun and at times touching. Art from Nicola Scott and Liam Sharp and the narrative trick of splitting the title into two storylines, one in the present and the over in the past it’s been a different beast than other comics of the past. It’s worth finding and reading for anyone who either likes Wonder Woman, or indeed would want to like Wonder Woman. But it did have something even fewer comics do, a satisfying end. There’ll be an issue 26 and I know that Rucka has more to say, but this last issue was a nice place to stop. It was a complete tail with a nice final story feel to it and that’s where I am going to leave the comic for a while. It’s nice to stop reading a comic, because there’s a nice place to stop rather than have to for cost, or lack of enjoyment. This is a story I’ll come back to.