In Review: S.H.I.E.L.D. #1

This is not worth $4.99 for a better than average story with middling visuals. Disappointing.

The covers: Twelve covers for you to put into your database. I’m really disappointed that Marvel didn’t credit the artists of the Variant covers with their full names, making it difficult to track down who’s responsible for what. I’m not happy with Editors Tom Brevoort with Ellie Pule. Doing some digging online, I hope I’ve successfully discovered who did what and credited them appropriately. The Main cover is by Julian Totino Tedesco. It’s a shot of Coulson with his pistol ready, Fitz going through his tablet (with A.I. H.E.N.R.Y. on his shoulder), Simmons with a futuristic, probably non-leathal, gun, and May looking ready to fire some assailant out of the sky. Behind them are several superheroes rising up to do battle with an unseen army. Nice focus on the agents with the heroes being their backup. This is the cover I purchased. The first Variant is by Mahmud Asrar & Dono Almara. Against an orange sky with the helicarrier shown in silhouette, Coulson is front and center brandishing a large badge featuring S.H.I.E.L.D.’s iconic eagle. He’s surrounded by the All-New Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man. Good cover that showcases Coulson with the heroes that actually appear in this book. The coloring of the sky is beautiful. John Tyler Christopher’s Variant has Deadpool’s back to the reader as he writes a recipe on a wall, much like the way Coulson was outlining his alien city. Cute idea, but a variant lacking any characters from the actual book is not one I would want. The Mike Deodato & Edgar Delgado cover has the five non-super powered agents running across a floor emblem of this series title, closely followed by the Thing, Spider-Man, Storm, and the traditional Captain America and Thor. The white background sets off the characters, but their colors are so dark they just blob up. Fewer characters, like a focus solely on the agents, would have been better. The David Marquez & Laura Martin Variant features May, Simmons, and Hill with fifteen other female heroes standing atop a building at night looking down at the reader. A bolt of lighting explodes behind them. Super image with the super women of Marvel Comics. I’m not liking the Steve McNiven & Marte Gracia cover. The background is the best part with swirls that harken back to Steranko’s trippy S.H.I.E.L.D. days, but Coulson looks more like Neil Patrick Harris that Clark Gregg. May, at the bottom, looks better and Daredevil looks fine, but of all the characters to be associated with S.H.I.E.L.D. the Man without Fear should be at the bottom of the list. Another Deadpool centric cover rears its unwelcome head on the Sara Pichelli & Almara cover with the bounty hunter sitting in the back of Lola with Coulson and May in the front seat. He’s blasting bullets from his rifles wildly as he says, “Woo-Hoo! Road trip!” Beautiful illustration and coloring that would have been better without the red guy. The next Variant features no Deadpool, but Groot’s in the backseat with Rocket Raccoon driving Lola. Coulson’s trying to stay in the flying car as it executes a right angle descending from the sky to fly forward down a street. Valerio Schiti & Martin have made a great cover, but, again, wasted with the Guardians pointlessly included. An excellent variant is by Ryan Stegman & Romulo Fajardo. An explosion high in the sky has Spider-Man, Captain America, Black Widow, and Coulson plummeting to the ground. Outstanding illustration with Coulson and the Widow looking best, and the coloring great–good transition from the orange blast to the green background. Scottie Young has done a five figure cover on an empty baby blue background. The joke is H.E.N.R.Y. has found the wrong place to perch. Cute, but not hilarious, nor necessary. This rated a cover? A Sketch cover is also available with the book’s title at the top and the traditional lower red band of credits at the bottom. Lots of space to get a sketch from a professional. The final variant is a photocover of Clark Gregg and Ming-Na Wen as Coulson and May. This rocks. More of this, Marvel! Overall grades: Main B-, Variant Asrar A, Variant Christopher D, Variant Deodato C+, Variant Marquez A, Variant McNiven D+, Variant Pichelli D, Variant Schiti D, Variant Stegman A+, Variant Young D, Variant Sketch B+, and Variant Photocover A+  

The story: This first issue’s story, “Perfect Bullets” by Mark Waid, begins with a three page span in Agent Phil Coulson’s life, beginning when he was nine. He’d spend his time compiling data on all the heroes from the Golden Age. As a college freshman he’d continue his data collecting, this time with the modern heroes. Being older, he’s making extrapolations on what he’s seeing the heroes do to make conclusions on their abilities. At twenty-five, as an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. he was able to use the government’s computer systems to add to his knowledge. Last year he was rescued by other agents after being held captive. The only thing that kept his mind sane was listing all the members of the X-Men in the order they joined the team. Last night he won at poker, making his opponents Ms. Marvel and Luke Cage think he’s a telepath. Marvel says, “He know us cold!” This brings readers up to NOW, where Coulson is overseeing the deployment of several heroes, including Iron Man, Blue Marvel, Hyperion, and the Hulk, against Surtur and an army of fire demons. It’s as if all of the realms around Asgard are spilling onto Earth. Seeing something on a screen, Coulson assembles a team including Fitz, Simmons, May, and two other important individuals to check out this something. If you like the series Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., you’ll enjoy this. Be advised, only the characters and their basic characteristics are the same in the Marvel Universe of comics. What’s happened on the series has not happened in the comics. I enjoyed Coulson a lot, more so than the other agents, and his hobby truly is his job. There’s a clever reveal by Waid on Page 13, foreshadowed by a cold “no” on 8. The reveal on 20 was not a surprise, but how this problem is dealt with was good. The resolution to all the destruction is so quick, don’t blink or you’ll miss it. This was too fast to wrap things up. Waid has the final two pages tease a long story arc, but I don’t think I’ll be returning because this was only mildly enjoyable. Overall grade: B

The art: The visuals of this book are average. The pencils are by Carlos Pacheco and inks by Mariano Taibo with Jason Paz. The layouts by Pacheco are fine, with the point of view varying and the panels switched up in interesting ways, such as on Pages 4 and 5, but the devil is in the details, and there aren’t any in this. The agents are the focus but they’re lacking details. Page 8 shows readers clearly what they can expect of the human characters–suggestions sketched out. The Coulson and May at the top of Page 9 are just horrible. The reveal of the female character on 13 shows her to have barely any recognizable features and it seems hair is covering her face so the image didn’t have to be completed. For the double-paged spread of 21 and 22, many of the characters in the middle of the page are blank slates. It’s just a mess. I’m going to pass on every book I see if it has visuals like these at this cover price. Overall grade: C-

The colors: This book is too, too dark from Dono Almara. The first panel on the first page should be so much brighter, but instead it’s like the sun is about to set. True, it’s dinner time, but I’d give the colorist license to make this initial scene brighter. The majority of 2 and 3 should be dark, but the coloring at the game and the following double-page spread are just a blob of a mess. The flames are beautiful, but couldn’t this element have brightened things rather than made them monochromatic? The scenes in the desert suffer from the blahs as well, with brown sand against a purple sky. A blob of a job. Overall grade: D+

The letters: Scene setting, journal writing, computer font, dialogue, character identification, and sounds are provided by VC’s Joe Caramagna. They’re fine, but there is something I’ve never seen from a letterer before: on Page 6 a character says something that’s supposed to be stressed and it’s underlined. Normally stress is shown in italics, but they are already being used for this character’s emphasis in his dialogue. I would expect a larger font to be used to show a greater emphasis than italics, and it is, yet the underlining exists. This is unnecessary and odd, screaming of a rushed job. Overall grade: B

The final line: This is not worth $4.99 for a better than average story with middling visuals. Disappointing. Overall grade: C

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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