November 13, 2013 9:06am PT by Jim Steranko
Jim Steranko on 'Agents of SHIELD': Does Anyone Know Where This Show Is Going?
Jim Steranko, one of the creators of the Nick Fury character, recaps Agents of SHIELD for THR's Heat Vision every week. Read more about the Marvel Comics writer-artist in a Q&A here.
"I can do everything better in a Brooks Brothers suit!" is the line I wish would have been delivered by Clark Gregg's Coulson in "The Hub," the seventh episode in the ongoing, narcoleptic SHIELD series. Not that it would have articulated the purpose, the intent, the perspective of the show, but at least it may have provided some insight (from a skewed LMD viewpoint) as to why Coulson is no slave to efficiency or logic when he wears a suit into a tropical jungle or a 30-below-zero Siberian tundra. Would you even trust this guy to hold your Pez dispenser?
Note to the ep's writer: Those wise-ass one-liners, put-downs and heckler-stoppers Coulson regaled his captors with in the prologue may work for Fury, but are wildly out of character for SHIELD's No. 2 dramalama. I'll put it this way: As a leader, he may be a sanctimonious skeez, but as a comedian, he's not to be laughed at!
And did anyone notice there was no further development of Centipede and Rising Tide this week? Why? Shouldn't those concepts advance incisively with each new show? And how come no one mentioned the Hub previously? Oops!
As the smoke clears regarding the direction of Agents of SHIELD, it becomes increasingly apparent that the Mission: Impossible matrix (that shaped this and several other eps) works best for the multiple-character show.
So, as we approach the midpoint of season one, does anyone know where SHIELD is going, aside from a multitude of directions that lack conceptual unity? Remember Robert Aldrich's The Dirty Dozen and how well handled the assembly of the team was with their battle assignment, one neatly predicated upon the other? Here, dual agendas often take separate rather than converging paths -- operating alternately with varying degrees of explicitness and compatibility.
Agenda One features the ongoing development of its regulars (at a pace too stunted to win my approval); Agenda Two spotlights the development of the ep's storyline with its accompanying MacGuffin (Overkill, 0-8-4, Virus, etc). The juggling act inevitably works best when the two agendas are dramatically integrated. (I call the technique Converging Plotlines, which has been used successfully for decades by writers from Edgar Rice Burroughs to Tom Clancy to Max Brand.) But the SHIELD handling plays out where one is often at the expense of the other. The result is choppy and unsatisfying at best, downright irritating at worst.
Personally, I feel the series could support the investigation of a mutant, alien, or superpowered entity every segment, although that would require virtuoso-level writing and muscular special effects to keep from appearing insidiously repetitive. However, the concept would link profoundly with its Marvel Universe roots, capitalize on a specialized theme that would keep it squarely in the heroic-action genre, and deliver a weekly origin story, which is often the most compelling aspect of the blockbuster superhero flicks.
The equation isn't as outre as it sounds. Remember, for example, the original Outer Limits, with its monster-of-the-week presentation? Or The X-Files with its metronomic phenomena schedule? See what I mean?
I could live with stiff-upper-lip Coulson and his misfit crew (well, maybe not this crew) turning the SHIELD spotlight on Doctor Doom or Googam, Son of Goom, one week and the Super-Skrull or Fin Fang Foom the next. Of course that would require a little imagination and integrity on a creative level, but aren't those Whedon Family trademarks? Besides, it's positively un-American not to love monsters, even if they're super-monsters! Mega-powered monsters vs. high-tech geeks! (I'll get an advisor credit and a residual check out of these guys yet!)
So, SHIELD, show us whatcha got, ASAP -- and make it as least as compelling as a prosciutto sandwich, so help me Agent Ward!