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Jim Steranko on 'Agents of SHIELD': 'Exhibiting Some Fire'

The comics veteran writes that the quality upswing continues with "The Only Light in the Darkness," which boasted "eruptions of raw conflict and confrontation."

Agents of SHIELD 4/22 Still - H 2014
Justin Lubin/ABC
"Marvel's Agents of SHIELD'

[WARNING: Spoilers ahead from Tuesday's episode of Marvel's Agents of SHIELD, "The Only Light in the Darkness"]

For more than a half year, I’ve ranted, rattled and ruminated over the techno-spy series’ milquetoast approach to action drama -- warm, fuzzy, and so touchy-feely, it would make Oprah OD from a glucose spike!

Why in hell would anyone engage the SHIELD concept, abort the emphasis on fantastic weaponry and white-knuckle action, and morph the Agents of SHIELD characters into apathetic, soap-opera cutouts eternally spilling their tepid guts between commercial breaks? Hollywood conceit or just rampant miscalculation?

STORY: Jim Steranko on 'Agents of SHIELD': 'Back to Its Old Tricks'

Even Ibsen would have blanched at the agonizingly-slow pace at which narrative and character elements unfold, week after week, month after month, eon after eon -- clearly not SHIELD style. I may not know much, but I know the SHIELD premise, and it’s not endless chatter.

That’s why the switcheroo dictated by the show’s producers over the past few episodes has been welcomed by all concerned. I’ve done almost everything except pray to the Cathode God that the show’s prime movers pit the SHIELD crew against each other in white-knuckle clashes that sizzle with tension, to transform the goody-two-shoes mannerisms and ho-hum dialogue into eruptions of raw conflict and confrontation.

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So, while the teeth-grinding quiescence of salting plot and character bits continues unabated, at least the protagonists are exhibiting some fire in their delivery, particularly agents Coulson, Ward and (best of them all) May.

And no, I’m not even remotely suggesting the THR reviews were instrumental in creating the turnaround, just that the observation was stated here first and often. Even against the ponderous, actionless format (the first act of this week’s foray, for example, actually dragged past the half-hour point, which may be about 20 minutes too long!), the heat of the characters’ aggression brought some welcome life into play -- in addition to providing the actors with an opportunity to exercise some of their thespian skills.

The Bottom Line: All chatter (no matter how cute and clever) and no action make AOS a disappointing hour — because, let’s face it, AOS ain’t no Ibsen!