Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

ABC, Tuesdays 8/7 Central

Sep 25, 2013 Web Exclusive
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The strength of Marvel's film campaign, culminating in the unprecedented success of The Avengers last year, has been to embrace the existing rich universe established by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's comics and expand upon it. Rather than cherry-picking origin stories, producer Alan Fine went in deep with the Marvel Comics brain trust, drawing out the humor, adventurous spirit, and most importantly, a huge collective of improbably inter-connected superheroes with a half-century of context and history.

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. may not have sustained a feature film, but as an ongoing comic book equivalent of CSI, it has enormous potential. As the "men in black" of the Marvel universe, S.H.I.E.L.D. are an organization of hyper-talented and hyper-secretive mortals acting as a liaison between heroes and civilians. As the first episode starts, the clandestine elites—led by a resurrected Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) and Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders)—are busy with damage control in the wake of the climactic New York-based battle from The Avengers. Like the films, it forsakes airtight logic for fun, adventure, and cast chemistry. Perhaps its something about the suspended disbelief of a story based on superheroes, but the persistent jokey asides really work to break up some dark circumstances. The mostly younger cast, including newcomers Chloe Bennett and Brett Dalton, all handle the humor capably without diffusing or undermining the "bad-ass" aspects of their characters. Unlike the films, however, production value is slim and its CG action is often lacking. It is unfortunately in S.H.I.E.L.D.'s best interest to take a page from Star Trek: The Next Generation and tread lightly with the fireworks.

What saves S.H.I.E.L.D. is story. And while the show may stand in the long shadow of some massively appealing big-budget films, it also gets to borrow some story from them as well. The show's creators (who include The Avengers' writer/director Joss Whedon) are crafting a long game, seeding the significance of this organization within the context of the Marvel universe. Ultimately, the whole package ends up being indisputably fun. This may not be the strongest first showing, but if it finds its rhythm soon, playing off of its existing strengths and shedding its weaknesses, this will be a compelling hour. (

Author rating: 6.5/10

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