W: Mark Waid
A: Carlos Pacheco
This series really was inevitable.
From the day that ABC Studios green-lit Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., it was a foregone conclusion to anyone who’s paid attention to the synergy-driven strategy of multimedia conglomerates that, sooner or later, the characters who make up the show’s core cast would find their way onto the printed page.
We are shown a day in the life of Phil Coulson, the smart-aleck, charming, and gloriously geeky character brought to life in the Marvel Cinematic Universe by Clark Gregg. Coulson is the consummate fan. He has the sort of deep knowledge and understanding of the denizens of the Marvel Universe which would make him a nightmare to debate on any online forum. For the five people reading this series who haven’t seen him on screen, Waid does well at bringing them up to speed with a rapid-fire origin story consisting of scenes of him as a boy, in college, and in the early days of his career with the spy organization. From there the story becomes a fairly standard “let’s prevent the end of the world” adventure yarn, the lone caveat being that the heroes aren’t calling the shots: Coulson is.
Mark Waid handles this character as if he were made for him. If the writer and this character were to meet in a convention hall, it would be anyone’s guess as to who would possess the greater knowledge of comic book characters and their history. (My money’s on Waid by a nose, only because he knows a thing or two about the library of the “Distinguished Competition”) The off-the-cuff snark and wit which made Coulson a fan favorite among film audiences is present from the very first page. In short, Waid absolutely nails the character.
As far as the rest of the story goes, it’s really a Coulson tale from beginning to end. He’s the star of the issue in a way he has rarely been in the recent episodes of the TV show. Whether this continues to be the case as the comic series or whether Waid will choose to flesh out the rest of the cast remains to be seen.
One notable absence from the title is that of Skye. Not to spoil the mid-season finale of the show, but there’s a very good reason for that. Moving on.
Carlos Pacheco has, for a while, been largely devoted to cover work. In handling the interiors for this issue, he performs well, if not perfectly. His individual panels are always full of action, even in the most mundane settings. Remarkably, the only panels which show characters in static poses come in the midst of the story’s most action-packed scenes, something which does a tremendous job of conveying Coulson’s cool-under-fire persona.
The one area where Pacheco struggles a bit is in handling the character models themselves. Where most characters are open to artist interpretation in terms of their features, here Pacheco is trying to hew as close as possible to the real-life appearances of the actors who portray these characters on the show. The result is a somewhat inconsistent depiction of the leads which varies from almost perfect to “who the heck am I looking at?”
Jason Paz’s inks are, perhaps, the weak link in the art. They come off as somewhat flat, giving the characters an overly two-dimensional feel. One can only hope that his work will improve in subsequent issues.
On colors, Dona Almara does a superb job. The palette has a certain old-school feel, but the modern shading techniques give it a crisp, polished appearance which really makes it pop.
For a series based on a show spun out of a movie franchise, “S.H.I.E.L.D. #1” is a fine debut. It’s fun, charming, and finely executed. While it loses a couple of points on the finer points of the art, Mark Waid was the perfect choice to write this book, and delivers with aplomb. Definitely a good read.