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Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – Repairs (Review)

Ah! We’re half-way through the first season! It’s an episode written by show runners Maurissa Tancharoen & Jed Whedon! This must be the episode that will finally provide direction to a first season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. that has been coasting on autopilot for weeks now!

Well, it was nice idea in theory at any rate.

May day...

May day…

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Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – The Hub (Review)

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has burnt through a lot of goodwill at this point. Offering a television spin-off from one of the most popular and successful movie franchises of the last decade (if not all time) should be easy; giving the show to long-time collaborators of Joss Whedon should only increase the series’ likelihood of success. The show has the budget and the scope to offer an exciting slice of pulpy comic book entertainment, but all the episodes so far have been incredibly generic, and could easily have been lifted from shows like The X-Files or Fringe.

At least The Hub offers us a sense that the writers are finally pitching shows to the niche filled by Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. It’s a story about a massive multi-national spy organisation with dark secrets and impossible technology, which places it firmly in the show’s wheelhouse. There are a lot of problems, mostly with finding the right tone, but it seems like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is at least finally finding its own voice. It’s not a strong or distinct voice yet, but there’s still a faint sliver of hope.

Plane sailing...

Plane sailing…

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Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D – F.Z.Z.T. (Review)

F.Z.Z.T. is a reminder that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is a genre show still in its first season. That might not sound like a good thing, and F.Z.Z.T. isn’t the strongest of the mediocre crop of episodes so far, but it does indicate that there is still potential. The Girl in the Flower Dress teased the possibility that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. might have settled into its own incredibly unambitious niche, and any evidence to the contrary should be welcomed.

F.Z.Z.T. is boring and generic, but at least it’s boring and generic in a way that is different from most of the boring and generic episodes so far. So that’s something.

A Gemma of an idea...?

A Gemma of an idea…?

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Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – Eye-Spy (Review)

Well, we’re still at the point where Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is improving, so that’s something. On the whole, Eye-Spy is a well-produced and stylish piece of television, even if it still feels too light and fluffy and generic for its own good. Like 0-8-4, it feels like the kind of story that the show had to tell at some point, providing an explanation for why Coulson is doing what he is doing and giving him a dark secret from his past. It all feels pretty routine.

Still, there are signs that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. might be finding its feet. We still aren’t getting good television, with the show still feeling a little bit too much like a higher-budget and more stylish NCIS spin-off for its own good, but – like The AssetEye-Spy suggests that it might be possible to get good television at some point in the future.

Masque of the red... er, face...

Masque of the red… er, face…

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Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – The Asset (Review)

Well, The Asset is certainly stronger than The Pilot and 0-8-4, not that those two episodes represent an especially high bar for the show to cross. The Asset is hardly the best episode of television in the history of the medium. It still suffers from many of the same problems as the first two episodes, involving the cast and formula and the constant name-dropping. However, it does tease the possibility of improvement. The Asset isn’t an episode of a brilliant piece of television, but it is an episode that shows the potential to develop into something far more exciting and compelling.

Coulson appreciates the gravity of the situation...

Coulson appreciates the gravity of the situation…

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Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – 0-8-4 (Review)

The first few episodes of any show can be rough. It’s generally about learning to walk before you can run, drawing boundaries before you can cross them. The opening few episodes of a new television show often feel like a party full of people we’ve never met before – the first few hours are timid, awkward, probing. Hopefully, you get more comfortable and casual with the guests, you open up a bit – and before you know it, you’re having a great time. If things don’t seem to improve, you check out early.

Like The Pilot, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s second episode never feels like it’s straining too hard. Indeed, there’s a sense that we’re watching a show go through the motions. After all, Joss Whedon and his production posse are very familiar with constructing first seasons. There’s a sense that the team – led by Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancharoen – have been given the keys to the most expensive car in the garage by Disney and ABC, and so the show feels more like a casual cruise than a pedal-to-the-metal joy ride.

0-8-4 does very little wrong. In fact, it does a lot of smart stuff, essential stuff, homework stuff. Still, it lacks any real sense of fun or joy – there’s no real suggestion that the show is giddily playing with the toys locked away in this particular toy chest. Appropriately enough, given the title, it feels a bit by the numbers.

When it comes to ranking the cast, Coulson is number one with a bullet...

When it comes to ranking the cast, Coulson is number one with a bullet…

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Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D – Pilot (Review)

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is a very competent production. It looks lavish. It connects the dots. It reminds the audience that it’s connected to a string of blockbuster movies without being pushy about it. It introduces a diverse ensemble. It sets up long-running mysteries and story arcs. It’s a tight and focused, and controlled piece of television.

Perhaps too controlled. There’s something oddly restrained and oddly refined about Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., feeling a little smoother and a little more polished than a pilot really should. There’s not a hair out of place, but only because everything has been so meticulously styled. This isn’t a bad thing – the pilot plays remarkably well – but it just feels a bit limp, a bit lifeless.

It’s as if we’ve tuned into a Life Model Decoy of a Joss Whedon show.

Phil us in...

Phil us in…

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Iron Man by David Michelinie & Bob Layton (& John Romita Jr.) Omnibus, Vol 1 (Review/Retrospective)

To get ready for Iron Man 3, we’ll be taking a look at some Iron Man and Avengers stories, both modern and classic. We hope to do two or three a week throughout the month, so check back regularly for the latest update.

It’s hard to believe, given the high profile the character has attained since Robert Downey Jr. first played Tony Stark in Iron Man back in 2008, but Iron Man used to be one of Marvel’s second-tier characters. Of course, like any other comic book character, Iron Man has had his ups and downs. There have been solid runs by great creative teams, and disappointing stories told by writers and artists unsuited to the character. However, Iron Man never really had one of those iconic comic book runs of the seventies and eighties, the kind of high-profile character-defining run like Walt Simonson’s tenure on Thor or Frank Miller’s work on Daredevil or Chris Clarement’s extended run on the X-Men franchise.

Perhaps the closest to such a run from the Bronze Age is the work by David Michelinie and Bob Layton, who actually enjoyed two extended runs writing for the character at the end of the seventies and into the eighties. This gigantic omnibus collection includes the first of those two runs, which were bisected (mostly) by Denny O’Neil’s extended time on the title. While it’s not as cohesive and solid a run as any of the aforementioned examples, it still demonstrates a solid understanding of Iron Man, and features two of the character’s most iconic stories.

You have to whip it...

You have to whip it…

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Secret Warriors Omnibus (Review/Retrospective)

There are plans within plans… wheels within wheels. The old order is waking from a deep sleep any my masters… they hunger for knowledge of this new world.

– Leviathan Disciple

Secret Warriors is an interesting ride. It’s a rather bold narrative, crafted with a great deal of skill by author Jonathan Hickman, exploring an interesting underbelly of the Marvel Universe, while providing a pretty compelling exploration of Marvel’s super-spy Nick Fury. It reads like a densely-packed pulpy espionage thriller, with Hickman cleverly layering the story and gradually peeling back the skin to reveal wheels within wheels. While the climax of the story isn’t as strong as it should be, Secret Warriors still makes for an interesting read, a relatively long-running series that was carefully planned out from the beginning and executed with considerable style.

Secret Agent Man!

Note: There will be spoilers in this here review. Don’t worry, I’ll flag them before we reach them, but given the twisty nature of the narrative, I thought I’d let you know up-front.

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S.H.I.E.L.D: Architects of Forever(Review/Retrospective)

April (and a little bit of May) are “Avengers month” at the m0vie blog. In anticipation of Joss Whedon’s superhero epic, we’ll have a variety of articles and reviews published looking at various aspects of “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.” Today we’re looking at a miniseries exploring the history of S.H.I.E.L.D., the organisation which has played a big role in the Marvel cinematic universe.

Jonathan Hickman is something of a rising star at Marvel, with his acclaimed work on Secret Warriors, Fantastic Four and Ultimate Comics: Ultimates, along with character-centric miniseries like Ultimate Thor and Ultimate Hawkeye. Much like Jason Aaron, the writer has demonstrated a remarkable ability with both the smaller cult characters in the universe, as well as some of its bigger names – it has been argued that Hickman has been doing fascinating things with characters who had stumbled a bit of late in Marvel’s shared universe, like Nick Fury or the “first family” of the company, the Fantastic Four. Hickman has a wonderful talent to combine old established concepts with clever new ideas to produce an interesting result. S.H.I.E.L.D., documenting the history of Marvel’s premiere espionage organisation, demonstrates this quite well.

At least what I understood of it.

The SHIELD protects us...

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