December 11, 2013 9:45am PT by Jim Steranko
Jim Steranko on 'Agents of SHIELD': Full of 'Teeth-Grinding Sensitivity'
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 artist in a Q&A here.
Last night, soap got in my eyes -- and I wasn't even taking a shower! I was watching Agents of SHIELD's big midseason closer: "The Bridge" (where is Sonny Rollins when we need him the most?).
Let me set the record straight because some critics of my weekly critiques have accused me of egomaniacal bias, that because the series doesn't mirror my four-color contribution to the SHIELD saga (Unabashed Plugola: It hasn't been out of print in the past 40 years!), I've given it a low score.
Don't make me laugh, Pecksniff!
Not only do I doubt it could be done (it was a linchpin of another era), I doubt it should be done! My THR criteria is simple: It's about being entertained. And, in this case, entertained in bristling, pedal-to-the-metal SHIELD fashion. The operational word is still SHIELD -- a secret government organization shouldered by the irrepressible Nick Fury, and created to discover, investigate, and terminate -- with Spartan tenacity and knuckle-bare resolution -- the most insidious and lethal international subversives and terrorists.
I'd prefer, upon the investment of an hour of my life, to witness an imaginative, satisfying and complete action-driven story, featuring compelling heroes and villains. (SHIELD can never be Dostoyevsky -- and if I want Dostoyevsky, I'll read Karamazov!)
Personally, I find the idea of taking the time and effort (away from the immediate story) to insert clues that may or may not be harvested a year from now to be tedious at best. I know it's the Whedon Way -- and that may be the crux of the SHIELD teeth-clincher: Whedon or Marvel?
Maybe the success or failure of AOS is a matter of expectations.
It's obvious by episode 10 that the SHIELD audience is looking for explosive, fast-moving, plot-twisting, high-tech adventure -- and not getting it. And perhaps it's equally obvious that the Whedon audience is looking for complex character studies and mega-issues -- and not getting it. Both expectations are valid, but meeting them both successfully may be as vexing as reading the definitive study of quantum mechanics in a hammock during a hurricane.
It was clear in "The Bridge" that the never-ending agonizing -- not only by the good guys, but the bad guys as well -- sucked up valuable narrative time (that's the stuff that moves a story forward) like a Bissell on crack!
Pulling Peterson (J. August Richards) back into the plot had my approval (until he began caterwauling about missing his son), but his importance was ignominiously compressed by Skye weeping about the cruel comments May unloaded on her (probably the best moment in the ep); Coulson's cello-player confessions (couldn't he at least have gotten it up for a fleugelhorn player?); and the jealousy bit (I almost hurled!) where Simmons -- or was it Fitz? -- was measuring Peterson's mojo. Even the other side had its share of teeth-grinding sensitivity, when Raina is told the Clairvoyant has been alerted about her "many virtues" and she responded with: "How sweet!" Yeah, that's one word for it!
Have I just developed a severe allergic reaction to soap or must I accept being flayed to smithereens by every soporific, onscreen character's romantic history? Sufferin' succotash! I tuned in to Agents of SHIELD and got As the World Turns!
Could the avalanche of terminal touchy-feely have anything to do with the fact that the ep was exec produced by a woman (Maurissa Tancharoen), scribed by a woman (Shalisha Francis), and directed by a woman (Holly Dale)? Or am I sexist scum for even asking?
Santa Sez: Don't worry too much about Ward and Peterson not coming back from Hell in January -- maybe they'll take a quickie vacation in Tahiti over the holidays.
Ho! Ho! Ho! Oh! Oh! Oh!
Follow Jim Steranko on Twitter: @iamsteranko