Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Top Ten 2000AD Covers in 2013

In the first edition of what I hope will become an annual tradition, Pop Culture Bandit is going to take a look at the different Prog covers that were published during 2013 in an attempt to determine our 'Top Ten 2000AD Covers' for the year. Obviously, this is entirely subjective to me, so if you want to include your own list, please use the comment box below. For reference, the first Prog of the year was Prog 1813 and the various covers can be found at Barney – the unofficial 2000AD database.


10) 2000AD Prog 1827 by Nick Percival

Out of all the covers on this Top Ten list, this might be the bravest one of the bunch due to the level of gore present, thanks to unpleasant visual of Shelley's headless stump. I quite like the dynamic look of the image with the two C3PO-esque robots being crushed underneath Shelley's hulking arms and the fully-painted artistic style makes it look strikingly different from the interior artwork of the Dandridge strip. I can see this definitely appealing to customers on the newsagents shelves, thanks to the eye-catching image and the slight resemblance to Star Wars.


9) 2000AD Prog 1853 by Dave Kendall

The mark of a great piece of cover art is when you wish that the interior artwork was drawn by that guest artist, as is the case here with this fantastic fully-painted image of Gorehead by Dave Kendall, which not only adds a sense of colour to the dinosaur missing from the black and white interior, but manages to convey the scaly, lizard texture to the creature's skin. I would love to see Dave Kendall get a chance to do a short storyline on Flesh, perhaps a Gorehead flashback episode?


8) 2000AD Prog 1833 by Glenn Fabry

The third fully-painted cover in the Top Ten, this cover features the triumphant return of Glenn Fabry to the pages of 2000AD since 2001 with a lovely poster-worthy cover showcasing Judge Anderson. I am a big fan of Fabry's covers from the Preacher series and his painted work still looks amazing here. Okay, so his Anderson does look a bit ginger and it looks like she has a black eye, but it's still a cracking piece of artwork.


7) 2000AD Prog 1852 by INJ Culbard

For his first two covers for 2000AD, INJ Culbard has used a POV technique showcasing the action from the eyes of the character's giving his artwork a unique look amongst that of other artists, as well as setting up a potential theme for his future Brass Sun covers. I prefer this cover over his second, due to the more disorientating nature of it, as it takes a few seconds to register that the viewpoint is coming from the side of a building looking down at the ground, plus the impending danger from the Scythe robot is much more interesting than the pirate airship.


6) 2000AD Prog 1854 by Cliff Robinson & Dylan Teague

This is a great example of a front cover that celebrates the magazine as a whole, and would have been a fantastic fit for Prog 1850 or the end of year annual. It's chocked full of references to the magazine's long history, in fact, there's so many Easter Eggs that it becomes a game, in itself, to correct identify them all. It's a really great job by Cliff Robinson and Dylan Teague and I love the whole design and punk atmosphere to the artwork, which truly sums up the comic in a nutshell.


5) 2000AD Prog 1815 by Darren Douglas

This wraparound cover by newcomer, Darren Douglas, looks great and I love the use of colours and the neon lights of the background. It’s well worth checking out the behind-the-scenes information from the 2000AD Covers Uncovered blog to see how much work when into the piece and more details about Douglas’ background as video game designer. Obviously, someone in the Nerve Centre also liked this piece as it re-appears as the cover art for the Judge Dredd eBook, ‘The Cold Light of Day’. I look forward to seeing some more covers and interior work from the Douglas droid during 2014.


4) 2000AD Prog 1843 by Carl Critchlow

When I initially caught sight of this cover, I instantly knew it would be on my Top Ten list. The use of colours, co-ordinated with the logo, is fantastic with a really evocative dark blue symbolising the depths of the ocean as the purple tentacles of the underwater terror lurches out at Dredd. The story that the cover is representing was one of the more interesting Judge Dredd’s of 2013, featuring Dredd and a team of Judges heading down to the sunken Luna-2 in order to dispatch a nuclear threat to the city. Putting Dredd in an underwater location gave the story a ‘fish out of water’ atmosphere…or technically, 'fish in water', I suppose.


3) 2000AD Prog 1830 by Boo Cook

I absolutely adore this cover, not only for the nostalgia values that it generates from its mock 70s-era 2000AD logo and design, but it is also a sterling example of Boo Cook’s stunning artwork. The concept of the Gunheadz storyline, of a classic 70's military comic turning out to be based on a real scientific experiment, was the perfect reason for this throwback to the old-school cover design, making the Prog stand out from the shelves and playing with the format in a way that also adds another level of meta-commentary to the story itself.


2) 2000AD Prog 1819 by James Harren

I actually begun my weekly reviews of 2000AD with Prog 1824, so I’m unfamiliar with the contents behind this particular cover, but when researching the years’ worth of Progs, this image stood out and begged to be featured on the list. I have no clue whether the cover reflects the artistic style of the story in any way, but the stunning visual of Dredd literally navigating the mindscape of a Perp leaps off the page, making me want to track down this Prog to read the story. James Harren is another newcomer to the Prog, making his cover and interior debut with this Judge Dredd tale, and I hope to see more from him this year.


1) 2000AD Prog 1836 by Leigh Gallagher

Drum roll, please…and the best 2000AD Cover for 2013 goes to this delightfully stylish Defoe cover by Leigh Gallagher, which HAS to be the cover to the next graphic novel collection of the series. I love the use of the Zombie silhouette to frame the secondary image of Defoe and his group of Reek Hunters, utilising a mix of blood red and black inks that captures the mood and essence of the series in one perfect image. It is easily the most impressive piece of artwork I've seen throughout the year, and I'd love to have a poster of it, or even a t-shirt.




So, what do you think? Do you disagree with my Top Ten? Is there a cover that you think was spectacular and should be included in the list, or do you think one of my favourites is way below par? Feel free to post your thoughts below, via my thread on the 2000AD Forum or on my Facebook and Twitter pages

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Review - Agents of SHIELD: 1x10 - "The Bridge"

Agents of SHIELD
Episode 1x10 - "The Bridge"


Synopsis

After three men wearing Centipede devices break into a prison to free a incarcerated military tactician, SHIELD recruit the super-powered Michael Peterson to aid in their search for the escaped prisoner, but can they stay one step ahead of the mysterious organisation?

Review

For its mid-season finale, Agents of SHIELD introduced the concept of a two-parter episode, complete with cliff-hanger, and brought back plenty of plot threads that had appeared across several preceding episodes, making this the most self-referential episode so far, rewarding long-term viewers as the puzzle pieces begun to fit together. The mysterious organisation known as 'Centipede' had returned, seemingly more powerful than before, which prompted SHIELD to enlist their own super-powered hero-in-training, Michael Peterson, the first Centipede-powered experiment, who appeared in the pilot episode.

I was fairly critical of Peterson's character during his first appearance, mainly because I wanted the character to be based on an existing Marvel character, such as Luke Cage, and also because he seemed to be rather dull and two-dimensional. However, with this appearance, Petersen seemed more interesting and 'dialled down' as he was free from the negative influences originating from the cocktail of Extremis and Super-soldier serum in his blood, which caused his anger issues. I also liked the inner-angst as he felt torn between being the hero that his son would be proud of, against being a good father. I have a feeling that Petersen will not be a recurring character after this two-parter, opting to be a better father for his son instead. That's assuming he survives, of course!

As I said, this seemed to be the most self-referential episode of the series so far, establishing Centipede as being responsible for the eye implants that tormented Agent Amador (Eye Spy) who hopefully will return to the team one day, maybe taking up the rotating seventh member spot. The episode also picked up on a lot of the plot points introduced in the episode, The Girl in the Flower Dress, such as the mysterious Clairvoyant and Centipede's grand plan to use its serum to develop an army of super-soldiers, once they iron out a few flaws.

As the stakes got raised throughout the episode, I did wonder why the team didn't get the Avengers involved, besides the out-of-universe reason that the actors who play those characters would demand a massive fee for their appearance. Coulson made a point I hadn't considered during his drive with Ward, the world still thinks he is dead outside of SHIELD, including the Avengers, so it would raise distrust in SHIELD if they were called in to assist the man whose death was used to unite them. Still, it did seem poor tactical planning for SHIELD to attempt to subdue three super-powered enemies with one single super-powered hero.

Ward and May's secret romance continued to generate some interesting developments with May berating him for letting his feelings get in the way of his job, but ironically doing the same herself when she almost blabbed the secret of Skye's parents at her after Ward made it clear that there were no feelings involved in his decision. After Ward's injury at the end of this episode, I suspect we may see more complications from this romance and May's feelings for him when the series returns.

Moreso than previous episodes, there was a greater sense of mystery, particularly surrounding the identity of the Clairvoyant, allowing viewers to generate theories. I think that SHIELD's assumption that Edison Po was kidnapped for his tactical skills is a misdirection on the part of the writers and that he is actually the Clairvoyant, but rather than being aware of it, it is either a second personality or some kind of transformation takes place. Personally, I have the theory that he has some kind of Quatto-esque creature living in his chest, like in Total Recall. The conversation between Po and Raina in the car seemed to suggest this, with Po's over-protective nature about people meeting the Clairvoyant and the fact he appears to be the only one to have contact with him.

One thing about the Clairvoyant I noticed was Coulson's statement that psychics are a myth and do not exist – this seemed similar to the team's approach to telekinesis last episode, which makes me wonder if this is a concerted effort from the writing team to avoid having any characters with traditionally 'mutant-based' powers, possibly due to the fact that Twentieth Century Fox own the cinematic rights to the X-Men franchise. It just seems odd that they would categorically eliminate that particular power-set from the series, although who knows, perhaps the Clairvoyant will be the first psychic in the Marvel Cinematic Universe?

This episode felt somewhat slow-paced, serving to re-introduce Peterson and Centipede, whilst acting as set-up for the final scene where Peterson led Coulson into a trap and the Agent was kidnapped by Raina and Centipede, but the first part of two-parters often have a slower pace than the second. I really enjoyed the cliff-hanger as things started to go wrong with Ward and Peterson seemingly dead, as Coulson is kidnapped and Raina states that they are going to find out 'what happened the day after you died'. Finally, it looks like we might get a definitive idea of what the deal is with Coulson, either that, or Centipede will find out about the back-massage he received in Tahiti.

Score - 8.9 out of 10


Easter Eggs/References
  • Skye is still looking for the SHIELD agent who dropped her off at the orphanage using the information Coulson provided her (The Hub)
  • Scorch's platelets appear to have solved the combustion problem with the Extremis cocktail in Centipede's implants (The Girl in the Flower Dress)
  • Michael Peterson, the original Centipede experiment, joins the team (Pilot)
  • "The Clairvoyant doesn't like to be touched" (The Girl in the Flower Dress)
  • One of the Centipede Soldiers is killed by the same "Kill Switch" implanted in Agent Amador (Eye Spy)

Mysteries
  • As Skye continues to search for answers about her parents – what is the secret that Coulson and May are keeping from her?
  • Who is the Clairvoyant, and which man did they want him to locate? Coulson?
  • Who is the money behind the Centipede organisation?
  • If Centipede was behind the Agent Amador's mission – what was that writing on the wall Ward found when he undertook it for her?
  • Are Ward and Peterson dead?
  • Centipede wants Coulson to tell them about the day after he died – this will probably involve some kind of hypnosis since he doesn't appear to be aware of the truth himself

Next Episode - "The Magical Place"
Coulson uncovers vital information about the mystery of his death, but, with Centipede out for blood, this knowledge may come at the cost of one of the team

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

2000AD Prog 2014 [Annual]

Prog 2014 Cover by Ben Willsher

As with previous Annuals, the cover features Tharg the Mighty and a selection of the more iconic characters, this time bursting forth from his rosette of Sirius. His appearance on the cover is more apt this year as he features in an eight-page story within. I liked the painted style of the cover, but I do feel it is missing some 'oomph' for an end of year Prog.


JUDGE DREDD - THE RIGHT THING
Script - Michael Carroll
Art - Leigh Gallagher
Colours - Chris Blythe
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

In a festive storyline which ushers in the year 2130, Michael Carroll crafts a fun tale filled with the dark humour and the bleak nihilism that is often present during Christmas time in Mega City One - it's worse than EastEnders! Using the familiar trope of 'a citizen misunderstood by the law', Carroll weaves a story around a well-meaning citizen attempting to return stolen money to his local church, only to land himself and the nuns of his church in trouble.

Isn't that bottom Nun a man? Is this a subtle Nuns on the Run reference?

I liked the visual jokes of the various New Year floats such as 'No Opinion', the float that relied on a Citizen survey to name it, and Leigh Gallagher's artwork looked great in colour, after my only experience of his artwork coming from his black & white work on Defoe. I also liked the misdirection at the beginning with the thieves cutting away the wire fence, with the expectation of a big haul, only to reveal that the wire fence itself was the haul. Overall, it was a nice little festive story that didn't overdose on the Christmas theme and welcomed readers to another year in the Big Meg.



ULYSSES SWEET, MANIAC FOR HIRE - CENTRED (Part 1)
Script - Guy Adams
Art - Paul Marshall
Greytones - Chris Blythe
Letters - Ellie de Ville

Being unfamiliar with the original run of Ulysses Sweet from Grant Morrison from Prog 507 – 509, I am unsure how much the character has changed from those appearances, but he does appear to be rather reminiscent of Deadpool from Marvel Comics, with the multiple and conflicting narration boxes being the most obvious comparison, alongside his scared face and unpredictable behaviour. The concept of Psyche-chip is a great one, providing Ulysses with an additional "person" to play off against, somewhat similar to Nikolai Dante's crest.


I really enjoyed the set-up, which managed to explain the status-quo without requiring background knowledge of the character's earlier appearances. The script felt reminiscent of Al Ewing and his work on Zombo, but I was surprised to find it was written by 2000AD newcomer and novelist, Guy Adams, who manages to tell a fun and wacky storyline that I look forward to seeing more of in the upcoming Progs. The artwork by Paul Marshall is great, managing to tell the story clearly and suiting the greytone styles of Chris Blythe.



THE TEN-SECONDERS - HARRIS'S QUEST FOR THE PERFECT XMAS PINT
Script - Rob Williams
Art - Edmund Bagwell
Letters - Simon Bowland

I really enjoyed the final run of The Ten Seconders when it appeared in the Prog earlier in the year with the cataclysmic events adding a genuine feel of tension to the series' conclusion, although I felt that it did end somewhat abruptly for one cast-member, the Welshman, Harris, who was left abandoned a seemingly empty space-craft. This Christmas special epilogue addresses that particular plot point whilst giving readers a sense of what the future holds for the rest of the Earth after the moon was crushed against the side of the Father's ship.


Edmund Bagwell's artwork is amazing, with the best artist's rendition of a pint of beer and pork scratchings that I've ever seen committed to paper and Rob William's post script to the series combines the same sense of humour that Harris represented with a slight sense of danger as the deadly Arachne stalks its human prey across the ship. While we might not see any more episodes of The Ten Seconders in the future, this epilogue worked perfectly as the final send-off to the series giving it a better sense of closure than its original ending did



THE A.B.C. WARRIORS - RETURN TO MARS (Part 1)
Script - Pat Mills
Art - Clint Langley
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

I have recently finished reading the first run of The A.B.C. Warriors, which is lucky as this opening episode would have probably gone over my head completely otherwise. It appears as if Pat Mills is revisiting plot threads from the early days of the series, such as how Happy Shrapnel originally ended up in Hammerstein's A.B.C. Warriors unit, which is a nice throwback to long-term readers and creates a sense of nostalgia, but might be a bit harder for new readers to understand.

I really enjoy Clint Langley's computer-generated artwork on The A.B.C Warriors as it suits the mechanical nature of the characters, although I feel that sometimes the backgrounds can overwhelm the foregrounds, as is the case here with the fogginess and lack of clear panel lines. I am looking forward to reading more, but am cautiously expecting to be thrown completely out of my depth when it begins to become too continuity-heavy and self-referential.



SINISTER DEXTER: THE GENERICAN DREAM - ROOM ONLY
Script - Dan Abnett
Art - PJ Holden
Colours - Dylan Teague
Letters - Ellie de Ville

Sinister Dexter returns with a storyline that ties up one of the loose ends from its last run of stories: Uncle Vanya, who I'd actually forgotten all about until he appeared, so that was good. Acting as a bridge between the last batch of episodes and the upcoming stories in Spring, this double-sized story gave us a glimpse of the four fugitives as they endeavoured to discover more about Tannenbaum.

I wasn't sure about PJ Holden's artwork initially, having been used to Simon Davis' iconic look for the Gunshark duo, and it doesn't quite feel like Sinister Dexter whenever a different artist takes the reins, although John Burns' approach earlier in the year did manage to capture some of the spirit of Davis' artwork, especially with Sinister. As for PJ Holden's work, it does the job well and manages to tell the story with a nifty action sequence between Sinister and Vanya, but for an extended run, I'd prefer to leave art duties in the hands of Simon Davis.



ABSALOM - OLD PALS' ACT
Script - Gordon Rennie
Art - Tiernen Trevallion
Letters - Simon Bowland

As with Sinister Dexter, this felt like a check-in with the series to refresh the reader's memories of the status-quo before the series returns proper, which is precisely what these end-of-year Progs should be for. This is my first real exposure to Absalom and it feels reminiscent of Caballistics Inc (another Gordon Rennie series) mixed with Life on Mars, although that might be due to the flashbacks in this particular story.

I understood the story on a basic level, it appears that Absalom is planning a journey into hell, or a similar dimension, and requires the assistance of his former 'guvnor', in order to rescue his grand-kids, although I must admit the final sequence of panels showing him relaying his assurances to his daughter, which was revealed to be the talking clock did have me scratching my head as to whether he can be trusted. I like the premise of the 'old-school' copper routine mixed with demons and supernatural elements, so this looks to be a fun read when the series returns during the year.



GREY AREA - SOMETHING TO DECLARE
Script - Dan Abnett
Art - Patrick Goddard
Colours - Abigail Ryder
Letters - Ellie de Ville

Despite its status as a returning series, this episode of Grey Area felt like a introduction using the POV of a visiting alien experiencing Planet Earth's border control first-hand. As a new reader to this particular series, I found it very accessible and easy to follow, which I hope continues when the series returns in Prog 1863

It felt somewhat like a self-contained Future Shock in some aspects, so I do wonder how much mileage a full series set in an alien border control could generate, but I look forward to seeing more of this, even if it does remind me of the accusatory stares and questions I received when I travelled through America's borders! However, I did manage to avoid a full cavity-search, unlike the unfortunate alien in this story!



THARG THE MIGHTY - BUILDING A BETTER COMIC
Script - T.M.O
Art - Anthony Williams
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

2000AD has long used the character of Tharg and his various art or script droids to represent the production of the comic within the Nerve Centre in Oxford. The Droid Life strip by Cat Sullivan often references this inner sanctum, but this is the first time in a while that Tharg, himself, has taken centre-stage in a solo-story.


This fun, one-shot harkens back to the past when Tharg regularly interacted with the readership through comic strips in addition to his Nerve Centre intros, but the contents of this particular story seemed at odds with its nostalgic approach, with at least three references to sexual acts and masturbation. Now, I'm not a prude, but I was slightly surprised at the number of double-entrendres in this story and wondered whether the older stories were as crude and whether my innocent pre-teen brain just glossed over the references at the time. It does make me wonder if an adolescent would be able to read this today without asking their parents awkward questions about "Happy Endings". Overall, it was a bit of fun, which maybe went a little too 'Viz magazine' in places, but I think it was better served in the annual, rather than taking up a valuable slot in a regular sized Prog.



STRONTIUM DOG: THE LIFE AND DEATH OF JOHNNY ALPHA - DOGS OF WAR (Part 1)
Script - John Wagner
Art - Carlos Ezquerra
Letters - Simon Bowland

Having dipped in and out of 2000AD since the beginning of 'The Life and Death of Johnny Alpha' storyline, I am aware that Johnny is back from the dead, following the events of 'The Final Solution' and that the current stories now take place after the Strontium Dogs adventures of the late nineties, but I am a little vague on the exact set-up with Johnny and the army of Strontium Dog agents waging a war against the Norms.

Carlos Ezquerra's work continues to be fabulous, cementing his position as the definitive artist for the series, which looks better in colour than the classic black and white days on the series. The script by John Wagner seems epic in its telling, with some interesting sub-plots such as the darker turn that Johnny Alpha has taken since his return from the grave. While I am unfamiliar with some of the subtleties of the story, I really like the direction it seems to be moving in, with actual progress to the lore of the Strontium Dog universe, rather than the “unseen” tales that previously appeared after the character's death. Part of me does long for the more simplistic 'bounty hunter' cases, though, which will hopefully return once this epic storyline is resolved.



OVERALL THOUGHTS / NEXT WEEK:

Oddly, Grey Area skips a week with a Future Shock standing in its place next Prog, but besides that, we have a new Judge Dredd thriller from Rob Williams and Henry Flint, which appears to be the longer storyline that he teased during our interview a few months back. Going by the preview cover on the back page, it looks like Dredd and a crack-team of Judges will be heading to the Titan penal colony, possibly to quell a riot? Any story which puts our favourite law-man in unfamiliar surroundings always appeals to me and I look forward to seeing it in the New Year!


The physical edition of 2000AD Prog 2014 will be available in stores on Wednesday 11th December - Digital copies of this Prog will be available on the same day through the 2000AD app, which can be downloaded onto iOS devices from here.

Keep checking back each week for more reviews and features about 2000AD, the Galaxy's Greatest Comic! Remember to leave your comments below, or contact me on Twitter or through my Facebook page!

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

2000AD Prog 1861

Prog 1861 Cover by Henry Flint

It took me a while to realise that this was another Flesh cover, considering the lack of dinosaurs. It's quite distinctive, even though it feels more like a generic 'Thrill Power Warning' cover than a Flesh one. It would definitely stand out from the shelves, potentially drawing in new readers, although they might be better off with Prog 2014, since this Prog features the conclusions to all four stories.


JUDGE DREDD - FERALS (Part 4)
Script - Emma Beeby
Art - John Burns
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

Dredd manages to locate Tilly and uses her to calm down the vengeful Roman enough to get the Eldster Doctor in custody, resulting in a stand-off between Dredd and the angry Psi-Cadet as he hovers bricks and debris above the Judge whilst he hears his ‘sentencing’. There’s a great one-liner by Dredd once Roman relaxes his telekinetic hold over the debris, deciding not to pursue his attack, when he says ‘Take that to mean that you’re not going to appeal?’

Dredd wasn't above giving a Juve a clip around the ear when the occasion arose

I expressed some concern last week as to whether the ending would be able to strike the balance of giving the Juves a happy ending and serving Dredd’s character realistically. I’m glad to say that the ending that Emma Beeby manages to hit the right notes, with Dredd devising a solution to the situation which benefits the Juves without betraying his role in upholding the law. This was a nice four-part debut outing for Emma Beeby, ably capturing the mood and attitude of the lead character and writing a nice little story tied into established continuity, and I look forward to seeing more solo outings from her.



DAMNATION STATION - AFTER LOSING EVERY BATTLE
Script - Al Ewing
Art - Mark Harrison
Letters - Simon Bowland

Oh, okay, so Tura didn't die in the last episode, as I'd assumed - I guess she was heeding Joe Nowhere's advice about emptying her lungs before releasing herself into the vacuum and somehow ended up rescued, which wasn't at all clear last week through both the images and dialogue. I was under the impression she'd either died, or was another comatose 'casualty' of the war. Besides that minor nitpick, this episode managed to tie up all of the loose ends and still deal a cruel last-minute surprise in the final moments.


There was some nice reveals, such as what happened to Grayle, with Joe absorbing his sole recurring memory of grief causing a poison effect once the Host attempted to feast on Joe. Little clues had been dropped over the course of the last few episodes, but I'd missed them, so it was satisfying to see them all come together here. Not content with a relatively neat ending, Al Ewing throws one last curve-ball in there with Tura's shocking end, which serves to highlight the randomness of the universe, with Joe Nowhere's sacrifice lost in the sands of time. Overall, this was an interesting series with a unique take on the traditional space-war genre, but it's not one that I will likely re-read or pick up in a collected edition.



FLESH - BADLANDERS (Part 12)
Script - Pat Mills
Art - James McKay
Inks - Lee Townsend
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

After the surprise of both Gorehead and McG’s storylines coming to a close, we see the consequences of Angry Planet’s plan, as the new President, General Butler, reveals his allegiances and demands an end to Trans Time’s Flesh harvesting, causing political discord. The storyline seems to shift back to Claw Carver and Earl Reagan, suggesting that the original Flesh characters will retake the limelight for the next series, as seeds are sown for potential storylines that will take fruit when the series returns, such as the inevitable comeuppance for the murderous Pastor, a confrontation between Claw and Vegas and the continued rodeo to Texas.

I’m still not entirely convinced that Gorehead’s story is over, since Flesh has always worked best with an iconic dinosaur at its helm, such as Old One Eye and Big Hungry, so perhaps this diversion onto the stories of Claw Carver and Earl Reagan is misdirection until Gorehead triumphfully returns, bursting out of the quicksand with the chewed up remains of McG hanging from his mouth. Well, a guy can dream…



BRASS SUN - THE DIAMOND AGE (Part 12)
Script - Ian Edginton
Art - INJ Culbard
Letters - Ellie de Ville

As expected, this concluding episode of Book Two of Brass Sun sets up the status quo for the next chapter, introducing a fourth main character to the team and adding a more aerial dynamic to future stories, with the addition of the Nominal Charge, Ariel’s airship. With Book Three titled ‘Floating Worlds’, it looks like we’re going to see a lot more of the skies, and possibly more amazingly realised new worlds.


It was nice to see Ramkin prove his worth and using his sneakiness to convince Ariel to bring them along with her, by pretending to be treasure hunters and appealing to her inner greed, and I am looking forward to seeing what the additional of a new recurring character will bring to the team, especially an ‘outsider’ as it were.

I really look forward to seeing this series develop, and even though there have been complaints of a slow pace, I think this has the potential to be one of the more iconic series of 2000AD’s recent history, possibly rivalling Nikolai Dante in my affections. The amazing art by INJ Culbard and imaginative locations and inhabitants of Ian Edginton combine wonderfully to craft an immersive world that leaps off the page, and I look forward to reading a collected edition soon!



OVERALL THOUGHTS / NEXT WEEK:

It's always a bittersweet event when the current line-up of thrills end; having to say goodbye to story-lines that might not reappear for a year, but eagerly awaiting the next group of stories that haven't been seen for a while. Tharg's Nerve Centre gives us a full listing for the Thrills we can expect in the end of year special, Prog 2014. The recurring series line-up will be: ABC Warriors, Strontium Dog and Ulysses Sweet, with one-off adventures for Sinister Dexter, The Ten Seconders, Grey Area and Absalom, rounded off by a twelve-pager Judge Dredd by Michael Carroll and Leigh Gallagher. All in all, it seems like a nice selection of stories with a strong line-up continuing into the new year.


The physical edition of 2000AD Prog 1861 will be available in stores on Wednesday 4th December - Digital copies of this Prog will be available on the same day through the 2000AD app, which can be downloaded onto iOS devices from here.

Keep checking back each week for more reviews and features about 2000AD, the Galaxy's Greatest Comic! Remember to leave your comments below, or contact me on Twitter or through my Facebook page!

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Review - Agents of SHIELD: 1x09 - "Repairs"

Agents of SHIELD
Episode 1x09 - "Repairs"


Synopsis

When the sole survivor of a mysterious particle accelerator explosion appears to exhibit strange telekinetic abilities, Coulson and the team are called in to welcome another gifted super-human, only to discover that the explanation for the bizarre occurrences surrounding the survivor might be more complicated and dangerous than they initially thought…

Review

Hmmm...so judging by the flash of Ming-Na Wen's side-boob, it looks like not only did May and Ward have sex at the end of the last episode, but they have decided to continue on with some no-strings relationship which they are hiding from the rest of the team. With this episode setting up something of a rivalry between May and Skye, the inevitable reveal of the 'affair' is likely to cause further friction between the pair, although I do think it would have made more sense for Ward and Simmons to have some romantic connection after the small 'moments' the pair shared since he rescued her.

Considering that this episode was advertised as an Agent May-centric one, we don't get the same amount of insight into her back-story as we did with Agent Ward during 'The Well'. Coulson's second-hand account of the traumatic event felt purposefully vague with key words like 'gifted individual' used in order to build up mystery, possibly using established characters from the comics. While I appreciate the addition of more mysteries to the series to fuel speculation and theories, Coulson's description felt unnaturally vague and would have been better backed up with a visual flashback, but I imagine further exploration into May's past will come with later episodes, identifying what exactly happened during that mission to cause May's shift in behaviour. With the mention of a female civilian, perhaps it will tie in with Skye's parents and her father might be the 'gifted individual' who maintained a following?

I really enjoyed the action scenes as the SHIELD team attempted to tackle Tobias as he teleported between dimensions. The scenes reminded me of the 'Nightcrawler in the White House' sequence during X-Men 2 and showcased an effective super-power that doesn't require a huge budget to portray on TV. The moments where Tobias attacked Ward (and later, May) were well-choreographed and some of the best fight sequences seen in the series so far. The episode also managed to strike a nice balance between having its main storyline and the 'B-plot' (Fitz-Simmons and their pranks) which made it feel like a more rounded episode than some of it predecessors.

After nine episodes the show definitely feels like it is developing its own voice and playing with audience expectations with some truly surprising plot twists. This episode managed to continually pull the rug from under the viewer (and the characters themselves) with plot developments occurring that shifted the storyline dramatically from its opening concept. Throughout the episode, we went from a Carrie-esque telekinetic thriller, to what felt like a revenge-driven Ghost story to what was eventually revealed to be a tragedy about a man trapped between dimensions. I love that the actual content of the episodes seem to be more complex than the official synopses imply, which makes them refreshingly interesting to watch, especially since I read the online teasers to get the gist of what will be coming up and still find myself surprised by the twists and turns of each episode.

I am a little bit unsure that the recent upturn of quality will continue with next week's mid-season finale, which promises a return to the Centipede storyline with the Michael Peterson character assisting the SHIELD agents as their super-powered back-up. Considering that the pilot episode was the weakest episode of the series so far, and most of that was due to the uninspiring character of Peterson, who felt like a diluted version of Luke Cage. I am a little reluctant to see him return, especially since there have been much more interesting supporting characters who deserve a second appearance. Still, as I have been proved wrong before with the plot twists, perhaps he will show greater depth as a character once he reappears in a friendly capacity.

Score - 8.9 out of 10


Easter Eggs/References
  • The name of the petrol station in the pre-credits sequence was Roxxon, a fictional energy company that appears in Marvel Comics – (First App: Captain America #180)
  • "I found Mike Peterson before you did" (Pilot)
  • "I didn't go to your stupid SHIELD Hogwarts, or whatever" (Harry Potter)
  • "Mayday, Mayday. Region North, this is SHIELD 616" (The original Marvel Comics Universe is called Earth-616)
  • "There were reports in London, after the spaceship landed, of multiple portals opening and Thor passing between worlds." (Thor: The Dark World)

Mysteries
  • What exactly happened to May to change her? 
  • Who was the 'gifted individual' who had followers/worshippers?
  • Did May lose someone close to her during the incident? The female civilian, perhaps?

Next Episode - "The Bridge"
In a shocking cliffhanger episode, Coulson takes the war back to Centipede, and this time he brings in Mike Peterson for some super-soldier support. As they get closer to the truth, startling secrets are revealed and an unexpected twist threatens the team

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

2000AD Prog 1860

Prog 1860 Cover by Mark Harrison

I found this Damnation Station themed cover to be a bit uninspiring, although the hidden face within the cloud of consciousness that is the Enemy is well done. I'd have preferred a more action-orientated cover showcasing Tura and her struggle against the infected crew members than a more thematic approach of the Earth Stations approaching the Enemy's "face".


JUDGE DREDD - FERALS (Part 3)
Script - Emma Beeby
Art - John Burns
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

I was right in my theory last week that the Juves were being kidnapped for medical tests, and the story goes one step further by featuring the Eldster Defence League (a cute pun on the real-life English Defence League) taking an unorthodox approach to anti-aging by sapping the youth from the Juves that they kidnap.


I must admit that I wasn't expecting poor Brian to die, especially since he was so innocent in the initial episode – it was actually quite sad to see him drained of his life-force in that tube. I have to admit that I'm on Roman's side on this one and the old man should be killed, rather than brought in. I'm intrigued as to what Dredd's stance on the feral youths will be when the immediate threat of the Eldster Defence League has been dealt with – surely, he will have to follow the law and re-home them all, with Roman possibly re-entering the Psi Academy as a Cadet.



DAMNATION STATION - THE HOWLING BEAST ON THE BORDERLINE (Part 3)
Script - Al Ewing
Art - Mark Harrison
Letters - Simon Bowland

Even though I thought Tura was dead based on the events of last issue, her suicide in this issue came as a bit of a shock, adding yet another casualty to Joe Nowhere's quest to destroy the Enemy, although with this double-sized penultimate episode, we don't get long to grieve for her, as the story continues and we see a much larger sacrifice for the greater good as Nowhere destroys the four supporting Earth Stations in an effort to kill the Enemy consciousness.


Curiously, the Host mentions that it cannot feed on the Enemy, but the Enemy can feed on it, which makes me think that Joe Nowhere will redeem himself by feeding upon the Host to protect the rest of the human race from 'The Harvest' the Host has planned. The only loose end I can't seem to figure out is what is happening with Brett Grayle, and why Joe Nowhere gave him the tampered CX-919 to put him into a coma. Hopefully, in next week's series finale, everything will become clear.



FLESH - BADLANDERS (Part 11)
Script - Pat Mills
Art - James McKay
Inks - Lee Townsend
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

Finally, we get our long-awaited confrontation between McG and Gorehead, as the two tussle outside of the normal passage of time. Surprisingly, there isn't a clear winner as both of them end up drowning in quicksand, although Gorehead does appear to munch on McG's legs, so I guess he was technically the victor. Ever the sceptic, I do wonder if either of them are truly dead, as there was no body, and Gorehead seems a bit too iconic to be taken out so easily.


I'm not too sure where the story is heading next, but with the arrival of Claw Carver and Earl Reagan on the base, I'm guessing Vegas will meet her father, and we'll start following the adventures of the original characters from the first book of Flesh from way back in Prog 1.



BRASS SUN - THE DIAMOND AGE (Part 11)
Script - Ian Edginton
Art - INJ Culbard
Letters - Ellie de Ville

After the capture of the trio by the Sky Pirates last week, I was expecting a slow introduction to the new status quo and perhaps a hint of where the next series will be heading, however, what I didn't expect was a whopping massive Skyshark to attack the ship! It seems that because our trio are new to the world of Hot Air, they give off a smell that the Skysharks can track, leading to a sudden attack!

I like the introduction of Ariel O'Conner as a potential new ally for the group, as well as the Sweet Sisters, who act as bounty hunters for the Floating Council, which will probably be the focus of the next storyline, after the group deal with the 'minor' inconvenience of the Skyshark!



OVERALL THOUGHTS / NEXT WEEK:

Next week is the final episodes to all of the current thrills, clearing the plate for the end of year Prog, Prog 2014, which features Strontium Dog and Maniac for Hire: Ulysses Sweet, which I didn't realise had run in the Prog before (way back in Prog 507) - hopefully his reappearance in the Prog will be fairly new-reader friendly!


The physical edition of 2000AD Prog 1860 will be available in stores on Wednesday 27th November - Digital copies of this Prog will be available on the same day through the 2000AD app, which can be downloaded onto iOS devices from here.

Keep checking back each week for more reviews and features about 2000AD, the Galaxy's Greatest Comic! Remember to leave your comments below, or contact me on Twitter or through my Facebook page!

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Review - Agents of SHIELD: 1x08 - "The Well"

Agents of SHIELD
Episode 1x08 - "The Well"


Synopsis

After the events of Thor: The Dark World, a group of Norse mythology fanatics begin the hunt for the three pieces of an ancient Asgardian staff, which is said to gift its bearer with great strength and a beserker rage, leading to a global race to find the artifacts to prevent the deadly threat.

Review

Going into this episode, I was aware that it was a tie-in to the recent cinematic release, Thor: The Dark World and would be reflecting the events of that movie. Unfortunately, I hadn’t actually gotten my ass to the cinema yet, so I approached the episode with trepidation that it might not make sense, or it would spoil the ending of the film. Apart from the initial pre-credits sequence set in London, with the team cleaning up after an Asgardian battle, it required no real prior knowledge, choosing to explore the theme of Asgardians on Earth rather than specific references to the film. Despite this, it was still a wise bit of cross-promotion and I’d like to see more of it when Captain America: The Winter Soldier is released.

As the show continues to rotate the focus onto different members of the team, we have a Ward-centric episode complete with a flashback to a traumatic event of his childhood, which was alluded to in the pilot, shedding some light on the Agent's past. The flashback was expertly constructed to imply that the two boys were Ward and his brother in order to suggest that Ward had failed to save his brother from drowning. It isn’t until the final act that it is revealed that Ward’s brother was actually the one responsible for the boy being in the well, as he was bullying the both of them. It was an effective plot twist - one of many in this episode - that played with the audience's expectations and subverted them causing genuine surprise. I imagine this flashback will come into play again in the future, possibly with Ward’s brother resurfacing as an adult at some point, forcing him to deal with those repressed emotions.

Despite his tragic childhood memories, Ward manages to be quite the ladies-man, with developments on his relationship with all three of the ladies in the team. He initially displays his supportive side to Simmons as she struggles with heights, showing how the bond continues to grow between the two of them, since he saved her life a few episodes ago. Skye shows her own concern for him when he is haunted by the memories of his childhood, asking if it was his brother that he saw, suggesting the two had shared a heart-felt conversation at some point off-screen. But finally, and more shockingly, it seems that he hooks up with Agent May after they share the experience of the Beserker staff. It seems like poor Fitz and Coulson have been well and truly outplayed by Ward.

The episode featured a fantastic guest appearance from Peter MacNicol (most famous for his role in Ghostbusters II) as a retired Asgardian Beserker, whose staff was broken into three pieces and hidden across the world to prevent it being misused. Hiding in plain sight under the identity of Elliot Randolph, a Norse Mythology professor with an eye for the ladies, the actor provided the biggest surprise of the episode in the scene were an angry Ward lunged at him with a penknife in order to prove Coulson's theory. The moment where MacNicol bent the approaching penknife with minimal effort actually elicited a vocal exclamation of surprise from me (the F-word, to be precise) as I hadn't seen it coming at all. I really enjoyed MacNicol's laid-back approach to the character and while it would be difficult to feature him in a regular capacity, I would love to see more appearances from him!

The recurring mystery of Coulson’s resurrection saw some developments with a conversation between Coulson and Randolph clearly defining the memories that Coulson had – there is a blank period between his death and months later where he was in Tahiti. The post-credits stinger featured him waking from a nightmare about Tahiti upon hearing the oft-repeated phrase of "It’s a magical place", which suggests that the phrase may be part of some post-hypnotic conditioning, perhaps, in order to reassert the false memories of Tahiti. I found it very interesting how Randolph’s injury in the final act mirrored the “death” of Coulson, and how Randolph was saved by holding his pierced heart long enough for his natural Asgardian regeneration to heal him. Could Coulson’s resurrection be the exact same process? Is he an Asgardian, or from Asgardian heritage and doesn’t know it?

Overall, I really enjoyed this episode - it had some of the more surprising and unpredictable plot twists of the series so far. I could be reading too much into the plot, but it reminded me of the recent Marvel Comics event, Fear Itself, which involved Asgardian artifacts that the Red Skull's daughter, Sin, used to incite hatred and fear across America. Obviously, this was a hugely scaled-down version of that story-line, but it felt reminiscent of that same basic plot. With next week's episode focusing on Agent May, I'm really looking forward to seeing the traumatic events that affected her in the past and delving into her character, since she's easily the most unexplored character in the show, so far.

Score - 9.2 out of 10


Easter Eggs/References
  • The team are on clean-up duty after an Asgardian attack on London (Thor – The Dark World)
  • Simmons has a slight fear of heights since her suicide attempt (FZZT)
  • “Which means Sid and Nancy might be looking for a complete set” (The Sex Pistols)
  • “You're a guy who saves lives. I can overlook a little Hulk rage” (The Incredible Hulk)

Mysteries
  • What did Ward's flashback mean, and how did that situation resolve itself?
  • What did May see when she held the Berserker Staff?
  • Did May and Ward have sex?
  • Coulson's dream of Tahiti – what did it mean? The repeated use of "It's a magical place" suggests a post-hypnotic suggestion, or memory implant.

Next Episode - "Repairs"
Coulson and his team are haunted by a mysterious force that threatens to destroy them all, and only a secret from May's past can save them

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

2000AD Prog 1859

Prog 1859 Cover by INJ Culbard

This week we have another Brass Sun cover from the strip's interior artist, INJ Culbard, who uses another POV shot, in a similar fashion to his earlier cover from Prog 1852, providing a nice symmetry between the two covers, which both feature raised hands against the sight of upcoming danger. I really like the dynamic viewpoint that Culbard uses here and sense of immersion that the first person perspective allows, bringing the reader up close to the action.


JUDGE DREDD - FERALS (Part 2)
Script - Emma Beeby
Art - John Burns
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

I’m glad to see that the monster is more complex than a mutation or an alien creature, considering the recent stories featuring similar themes. The storyline of strange men kidnapping the Juves using mechanical robots feels like a side mission from the game, Fallout 3. Judging by the dumped dead bodies and the clinical design of the robot antagonists, it looks like the Juves are being kidnapped for some experimental reasons, possibly for medical tests? Perhaps Roman's Psi-powers may be linked to the motives behind the kidnappings - either his powers are a result of prior testing, or they are trying to find him?


As usual, John Burns' painted artwork continues to impress, although I did think that Dredd looked a little Jon Pertwee-esque in one of the panels, but maybe it's just me? I do love the mood that Burns' art evokes and it captures the dilapidated feel of the ruined Sector houses perfectly, but I feel it would struggle with a more futuristic locale.



DAMNATION STATION - THE HOWLING BEAST ON THE BORDERLINE (Part 2)
Script - Al Ewing
Art - Mark Harrison
Letters - Simon Bowland

The Enemy continues their assault on the Earth Stations, overrunning the ship's bar where Tura is drowning her sorrows after her recent encounter with the creatures, only to have them gate-crash her maudlin alone time. With the stakes raised higher than ever before, Joe Nowhere makes the bold decision to open the airlocks, condemning all aboard floor seven to a death in the vacuum, alien and human alike, including Tura.

It looks like we've lost another supporting character, leaving just Joe Nowhere and Brett Grayle in the frame, which adds to the evidence that this might be the final storyline for the series. I have a feeling that Joe Nowhere will make some supreme sacrifice eliminating both threats from mankind, possibly jettisoning Brett's comatose body in an escape pod in order to tell the story of the events to the rest of mankind, back to Earth. Either way, I like this high-stakes dramatic approach as the story races towards its conclusion, even if it has felt a little unevenly paced at times.



FLESH - BADLANDERS (Part 10)
Script - Pat Mills
Art - James McKay
Inks - Lee Townsend
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

While we don't get the McG vs. Gorehead battle that was teased last week, we do see the results of Vegas' terrorism as her activist gang escape, whilst the dinosaur chaos continues, including a rather gory moment with a Triceratops. There's also a little bit of unrealistic 'bullet-time' when Vegas uses her pistol to shoot down the barrel of a rifle, preventing it from firing at her. Even though this slight diversion managed to set the scene with the other characters, I am really looking forward to seeing McG tackling Gorehead next week...unless we get another distraction!!


The one gripe I had with this episode was a bit of confusion that arose when I thought Vegas was the one who'd hidden away with the Pastor, to get killed off-panel, then seemingly reappear again. It wasn't until I'd had a second read-through that I realised it was two separate female characters, which just happened to look very similar. The dialogue clarifies which character is which, but the artwork did confuse me initially.



BRASS SUN - THE DIAMOND AGE (Part 10)
Script - Ian Edginton
Art - INJ Culbard
Letters - Ellie de Ville

As this serial comes to an end, we have another location change in the form of a Sky Pirate ship, capturing our trio of protagonists for unknown reasons. Presumably this additional change in the status quo will set up events for the next story line, as this one heads towards an end.

I've enjoyed how this story-line has kicked up a gear since going off-world, but it does feel like there isn't any clear objective, just a series of random events which the characters are reacting to. Despite criticism of the pacing of the series, the wonderful world-building that Edginton and Culbard have been implementing continues to be top-notch and really pushes this story above the others in the Prog.



FUTURE SHOCK - HOME ARE THE HEROES
Script - AJ Butcher
Art - Nick Dyer
Letters - Ellie de Ville

I quite liked this Future Shock and its allusion to the Trojan Horse, with the aliens gaining access to the domed city by using shape-shifting technology, although it would have fit the analogy better if they had somehow hidden inside the humans, wearing them like skins before bursting out and instigating their invasion. In a way it's a shame the concept was limited to a one-off strip, with a longer duration, it could have been written as a science-fiction version of Homeland, showing the corrupted returned 'hero' in a double-agent role.


AJ Butcher managed to craft a fully realised universe with minimal exposition allowing the characters to set things up in a naturalistic manner using the narrative decision to have the story take place through the young boy's perspective as he awaits his father's return from war. Nick Dyer's art was great, as always, managing to tell the story in a clear manner, using a great design for the alien enemies that reminded me of 'Nemesis' from the Resident Evil series.



OVERALL THOUGHTS / NEXT WEEK:

As with previous weeks, Tharg teases more of the contents of the upcoming Prog 2014, mentioning the Ten Seconders epilogue, which will pick up on the loose end of Harris left aboard the Father's ship and how he manages to return home, if at all. I'm looking forward to this final part giving some closure to the series that felt lacking in the conclusion to its recent run.


The physical edition of 2000AD Prog 1859 will be available in stores on Wednesday 20th November - Digital copies of this Prog will be available on the same day through the 2000AD app, which can be downloaded onto iOS devices from here.

Keep checking back each week for more reviews and features about 2000AD, the Galaxy's Greatest Comic! Remember to leave your comments below, or contact me on Twitter or through my Facebook page!

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Review - Agents of SHIELD: 1x07 - "The Hub"

Agents of SHIELD
Episode 1x07 - "The Hub"


Synopsis

When Coulson and his team arrive on The Hub to hand in some clearance level 8 Intel, events transpire that lead Fitz and Ward into a classified and highly dangerous two-man mission, casting doubt as to whether or not the larger organisation have their best interests in mind.

Review

This episode opened with a great pre-credits sequence that threw the viewer in at the deep end wondering why Coulson had been captured, awaiting torture, slowly revealing the real reason and letting the audience figure it out for themselves. There’s a brief ‘Total Recall’ moment, where Simmons extracts some classified Intel from the double-agent’s nose, prompting the question of how did he get it up there in the first place? With the Clearance Level 8 information in hand, the team make their way to the Hub, for the first time since the Pilot episode, giving us a glimpse into the inner workings of the organisation, outside of Coulson’s team.

Once at the Hub, we are introduced to Victoria Hand, a character introduced by Brian Michael Bendis, a few years ago during the Dark Reign story-line. Hand looks similar to how she does in the comics with the red streak in her black hair, but it doesn't seem like she shares the same characteristics as her comic-book counterpart, who was effectively over her head the whole time, with her abilities “tainted” by her association with Norman Osborn. This version seems more capable and more senior than Sitwell and Coulson, so it will be interesting to see how she develops over time.

Agent Sitwell is also re-introduced after his appearances in Thor and the Marvel One-Shot short films that appear as bonus features on the DVD releases of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films. The inclusion of established characters such as Sitwell and Hand, adds more peripheral characters to the show and the secondary location of The Hub provides the sense of a larger world, rather than having the characters jet-setting about on 'The Bus'. Also, the shadow of the larger organisation also gives the team a sense of accountability and acts as a reminder that their actions do have consequences.

I liked the contrast of the two approaches to field-work, with the more formal version that Sitwell and Hand represent against the haphazard, instinctive approach that Coulson has developed with his close-knit team, and I expect the opposing views on how to perform missions will continue to cause friction between Coulson’s team and the SHIELD management.

It was nice to have the focus alternating to different characters, giving Ward and Fitz a chance to shine and develop their characters a bit more instead of spotlighting Skye, who was been featured heavily in the opening episodes because she acted as the audience proxy, allowing the writers to introduce us to the world of international espionage alongside her. I liked how the scenes with Fitz and Ward were balanced, giving them both moments where their approaches were useful to the mission, rather than the typical narrative of having the inexperienced field operative blunder throughout the mission until he proves himself. It also developed the plot thread from the previous episode, with Fitz determined to prove himself, after Ward "stole" his chance to be the hero when Simmons leapt from the plane.

The episode clearly had a theme of 'secrets', with the key question being whether or not SHIELD as an organisation can be trusted, leading to a slight double-standard where Coulson and May with-hold information from Skye about her parents, whilst Coulson gets mad that the secrets regarding his recovery in Tahiti are unavailable to him. Interestingly, Coulson makes the prophetic statement to Skye that, "If SHIELD are keeping something secret, it's usually for a good reason", which makes me wonder what potentially devastating secret regarding his resurrection may be kept from Coulson, for his own good.

The conclusion of the episode brought forth a lot of information about one of the key mysteries of the show, regarding Skye's parents and why she was placed into an orphanage. It is revealed that a female SHIELD agent was the one who brought Skye to the orphanage, giving her hope that the woman might be her mother, but later on Coulson and May discuss the elements of the truth they are withholding, with a photo in her file suggesting her parents were murdered, although quite why SHIELD were involved is yet to be determined. The whole sub-plot with Skye does raise one potential continuity error though - in the film, Iron Man, it is implied that SHIELD is a relatively new organisation, not even boasting their famous acronym until the final scenes of the movie, but here we have them being active during Skye's childhood.

Overall, this was a fairly solid episode which focused on two characters who hadn't had much chance to develop yet, and established a secondary location and more peripheral characters, giving the series a more rounded feel beyond the initial six protagonists. I'm looking forward to seeing future episodes pushing boundaries further, maybe focusing on the supporting cast so we may one-day see episodes focused on Sitwell, Blake or Hand.

Score - 9.0 out of 10


Easter Eggs/References
  • Extraction of a device via the nostrils (Total Recall)
  • “Wait until you see the Triskelion” – name of SHIELD's base in the Ultimate Universe (First app: Ultimates # 2)
  • Agent Jasper Sitwell, a long supporting SHIELD agent in the comics (First app: Strange Tales # 144)
  • Maximiliano Hern├índez has portrayed Agent Sitwell in Thor, and the Marvel One-Shot short films, The Consultant and Item 47
  • Victoria Hand, a SHIELD accountant who ends up becoming Norman Osborn's deputy in the HAMMER organisation (First app: Dark Avengers # 1)
  • “Don't you do anything rash while I'm gone...like jump out of an airplane” ("FZZT")
  • “He's acting like a robot version of himself right now!” - reference to the popular fan theory that Coulson is a Life Model Decoy, or the Vision.
  • “Barton. Romanoff. They never have an extraction plan.” (The Avengers)

Mysteries

  • Who is the female SHIELD agent who dropped Skye off at the Orphanage?
  • It looks like her parents are dead – Who killed them? Why were SHIELD involved?
  • Coulson doesn't have access to his own 'death and recovery' file, making him suspicious about his resurrection once more

Next Episode - "The Well"
In the aftermath of the events chronicled in the feature film, Thor: The Dark World, Coulson and the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. pick up the pieces - one of which threatens to destroy a member of the team.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...