Jim Steranko on 'Agents of SHIELD': 'Barren of Imagination'

In his THR recap, the comics veteran writes that even though "Yes Men" imports the Lady Sif from the Thor flicks, "We’ve seen all that sword-and-sandal action done better on Xena."
ABC/Kelsey McNeal; Courtesy of Subject
"Agents of SHIELD" (Inset: Jim Steranko)

Jim Steranko, one of the creators of the Nick Fury character, recaps Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. for THR's Heat Vision every week. Read more about the Marvel Comics artist in a Q&A here.


Like most Agents of SHIELD viewers, I kept my fingers crossed that the glamazons touted for the fifteenth episode would blow my hair back like a Trojan Vibrations commercial or at least a Maxwell cassette ad. No such luck, Junior!

Of course they had my attention by waving the promise of big screen-style entertainment in my face for the past week or so. After all, Sif is a cosmic swordswoman who comes with authentic cinematic credits -- a pair of Thor flicks -- but, unfortunately, not enough Kirby Krackle!  

For the record, Jaimie Alexander can deliver an impressive line with dialogue that’s more often than not best read and not said -- and she has striking screen presence. However, a mundane script bristling with a handful of throwaway lines (“You were saying?”), but barren of imagination deeply mitigates even her assets.

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Let me put it this way: We’ve seen all that sword-and-sandal action done better in the Lucy Lawless Xena series almost two decades ago and, while it may have a breath of novelty played against SHIELD’s high-tech ambience, the ol’ blade bit just isn’t compelling enough to cut it. Perhaps more exotic weaponry (such as a sword made of flame or an ax that sends its victims flamboyantly to Hell) may have helped. Even better would be warrior wenches brandishing explosively visual super powers, such as uncanny control of the weather or purple energy bolts from their eyes.

The concept underscores Lorelei’s basic on-screen impotence: that, like too many science-fiction super-power premises, her gift is anti-visual, too cerebral to work effectively in any graphic medium. The conceit that she can bend men to her will has less spectacle than snapshots of an ant farm. Hell, I can name a half dozen old girlfriends who’d make Lorelei look like Dr. Ruth!

Was there anything to like? Sure, more Alexander, somewhere — perhaps a rogue Asgardian exiled to Earth — but with an FX budget bigger than my IQ (couldn’t be easier than that) and out of that silly costume (OK, you know what I mean!). Plus, I was eternally grateful no one mentioned Centipede or the Clairvoyant. And did Skye really have to get well so soon?

One last question: who thinks up those show titles? “Yes Men” just doesn’t pique my interest. Howzbout “Ward Gets Lucky?”