Wednesday, 30 April 2014

2000AD Prog 1879

Prog 1879 Cover by Phil Winslade

This week we have a beautiful fully painted Judge Dredd cover by Phil Winslade, which feels rather retro in style, evoking memories of early Dredd stories and a 1980's vision of the future. The neon-striped lights in the background manage to convey a feeling of cyberpunk disco, as well as referencing the nightclub-centric episode contained within, presenting a nice blend of synergy (intentional or otherwise) between both the cover artist and interior artist.


JUDGE DREDD - SHOOTERS NIGHT (Part 1)
Script - John Wagner
Art - John McCrea
Colours - Chris Blythe
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

This week’s Dredd features a rather bleak and depressing storyline ripped right from the headlines of today, with a depressed student embarking on a ‘spree shooting’ during a teen birthday party at an anti-grav disco. Dredd arrives on the scene and quickly dispatches the perp, but despite it seeming like an open and shut case, he remains un-nerved by the fact the attack occurred a day earlier than the teen had planned on his calendar.

The best Dredd stories are ones which comment on an element of modern-day living with a science-fiction spin, and this story tackles the unfortunately recurring issues in America surrounding gun-crime, particularly high-school shootings. I have a feeling that this story will take a political turn and address the very relevant topic of gun control and how it leads towards disenchanted youth performing the most heinous of crimes. I’m very intrigued to see where this story leads and what John Wagner has to say about the issue through the prism of Mega City One.


While I am familiar with John McCrea’s artwork from the wonderful Hitman series that he worked on alongside Garth Ennis for DC Comics, his artwork here looked decidedly different with thinner line-work and shading across the character’s faces. I think it looked great and I particularly liked the full page piece depicting the anti-grav disco, with what appears to be the gorilla from the Dairy Milk advert on drums!



SLAINE: THE BRUTANIA CHRONICLES - A SIMPLE KILLING (Part 6)
Script - Pat Mills
Art - Simon Davis
Letters - Ellie de Ville

In a fast-paced installment of Slaine, our titular hero loses Sinead to a group of vicious, but topless mermaids who drag the metamorphosing girl down to the depths of the sea. I’m a bit confused as to what actually caused the change in Sinead – whether it was something to do with the Gloops they were fighting, or a side-effect from the ceremony performed by the Drune Lords. Despite a rather sudden departure from the series, I doubt we've seen the last of her, and she will likely reappear for a last minute rescue from the sea, especially if Slaine sinks the Drune Lord’s island.


Simon Davis’ artwork continues to amaze me with a flawless use of panel layouts to generate a sense of tension and a frantic pace to events. The appearance of topless mermaids always improves a storyline, and Simon Davis’ interpretation of the creatures manages to combine beauty with a fierce and deadly nature. With each episode, I am further convinced that Simon Davis may be the best artist for this series, with a truly perfect fit between script, art and mood. While I really enjoyed his work on Sinister Dexter, I would not complain if he decided to remain solely on Slaine from now on.



OUTLIER (Part 6)
Script - T.C. Eglington
Art - Karl Richardson
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

This week’s episode of Outlier focuses on Ramona’s plans to capture Caul, providing a glimpse at her ruthless personality as she engineers the murder of one of her former colleagues in order to encourage the other members of the Outlier to come to her secure building, presumably to act as bait for Caul so she can capture him and sell the Human-Hurde hybrid onto the highest bidder. We also get a brief snapshot into Carcer’s past, which seems to indicate his parents were killed by the Hurde, but they did something to him, notably his eyes. I really like the slow tease of the mysteries in this series, using flashbacks to undercover secrets behind the Outlier voyage and the Hurde.

Apparently Carcer is an important part of Ramona’s plans to capture Caul – which makes me suspect that she is aware of some link between the two men that perhaps even they themselves are unaware of. Going back to the first installment, there seemed to be some symmetry in both the way they were both posed and the shared repetition of a line of dialogue, so I wouldn't be entirely surprised to discover some kind of symbiotic link between the two men. I'm looking forward to this storyline developing and seeing some big revelations in the upcoming weeks once the main players are all assembled in the one place.



SINISTER DEXTER: THE GENERICAN DREAM - GUN SHY (Part 6)
Script - Dan Abnett
Art - Smudge
Letters - Ellie de Ville

Somewhat surprisingly, this concluding part for Sinister Dexter marks the end of the current run of adventures for the time being, although the series is scheduled to return in the near-future. I must admit that I expected the series to continue with a second storyline as part of the same block of stories, perhaps with a different artist supporting Dan Abnett's script. This episode wraps things up neatly and puts our resident gun-sharks back onto the pathway to Moses Tannenbaum, as well as introducing two new pursuing agents in the form of Woody Fougery and Ali “Kitten” Heels – I’m sure there’s puns related to their names, but for some reason, I cannot figure them out. Feel free to spill the beans in the comment page, readers!



JAEGIR - STRIGOI (Part 6)
Script - Gordon Rennie
Art - Simon Coleby
Colour - Len O'Grady
Letters - Simon Bowland

More surprisingly than Sinister Dexter ending this Prog was the sudden and abrupt conclusion to the current Jaegir storyline, which I expected to run for a few episodes more than it did. Grigoru, the Strigoi, was taken out somewhat quickly by Jaegir and her team, although the most interesting aspect of the episode was the revelation that Jaegir herself is tainted with the same Strigoi gene, placing her on a deadly time limit before she succumbs to the illness and becomes a similar creature.


The episode ends with a potential status quo for the series, positioning Jaegir as a monster hunter rather than seeking out war criminals within the Nort army. I like the idea of gruesome creatures as a result from rejected experiments that must be hunted down and exterminated, although perhaps the series will need to work out the balance between set-up and pay off a bit better than it did in this first outing. The series is set to return in June and I look forward to seeing how it evolves and grows. With a bit more world-building and action sequences, this could be a really strong recurring series set within the Rogue Trooper world, minus the blue skinned soldier himself.



OVERALL THOUGHTS / NEXT WEEK:

This Prog had the introduction of a nice new Dredd thriller, but also the surprising conclusions to Sinister Dexter and Jaegir, although both series’ are set to return in the near future. Hopefully Sinister Dexter will see further developments to its current overarching plot line, whereas Jaegir could do with some greater world-building. I’m not sure what to expect next Prog, which is part of the fun! Maybe we will see another Tharg’s 3rillers and some Future Shocks, until Jaegir returns in June?


The physical edition of 2000AD Prog 1879 will be available in stores on Wednesday 30th April - 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, 26 April 2014

Review - Agents of SHIELD: 1x17 - "Turn, Turn, Turn"

Agents of SHIELD
Episode 1x17 - "Turn, Turn, Turn"


Synopsis

With 'The Bus' on auto-pilot heading towards 'The Hub', Coulson and his team must work out who they can trust, before a long-dormant threat rears its head and tears SHIELD apart from the inside.

Review

As a direct tie-in episode which takes place during the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, I was worried that having not seen the movie yet that I would be at a disadvantage, however, the episode manages to remain relatively self-contained with the majority of the action taking place on the Hub, rather than the Triskelion, with basic references to the 'main action' occurring off-screen, such as Nick Fury's apparent demise and the scale of the Hydra infiltration. While I'm sure it enriches the storyline to have a broader understanding of the different events that are occurring simultaneously, this episode is able to be followed by audience members who have yet to watch the cinematic release.

After a really strong episode last week setting up a sense of distrust amongst the team, this episode continues in the same vein, opening up the paranoia to extend to the whole SHIELD organisation as it is revealed that a number of high-ranking agents are actually Hydra Sleeper Agents, waiting for the signal to turn traitor. This also ties in neatly with the identity of the Clairvoyant, which is finally revealed, after two decoys, to be Agent Garrett, who has been working for Hydra behind the scenes, as well as trying to work out what happened to Coulson after his 'death'.

I really liked the misdirection with Coulson and Victoria Hand both suspecting the other one as being a traitor. As I said in my review of 'End of the Beginning', I suspected that there was more to the supposed revelation at the end of that episode that Hand was the Clairvoyant, and I was right, however, the scene where she appeared to confirm her allegiance to Hydra in front of Simmons and Triplett had me convinced and quickly abandoning my theory, only to have my original thoughts confirmed when she revealed it was a test to sniff out sleeper agents. This episode literally had me flip-flopping like a pancake throughout, which is a testament to its smart writing and willingness to play with audience expectations.

Hand's Hand

In keeping with the series so far, the end of episode stinger delivered a fantastic twist, which unfortunately had been partially spoiled for me on the date this episode originally aired, but lost none of its impact. With Agent Ward revealed to be an undercover Agent of Hydra and actually killing innocent SHIELD agents and Victoria Hand in cold blood, he instantly changed his stance from hero to villain, forcing the audience to re-evaluate him as a character, questioning his motives and feelings towards Skye, May and the rest of the team. It is quite frankly the most shocking twist the show has delivered yet, and I applaud the decision to not only reveal one of the core cast as a traitor, but to have them kill off another supporting character with little remorse. I truly cannot wait to see how this sub-plot will develop, and the reactions of the team as they discover his true allegiance. Judging from his actions in the stinger, there is little chance for redemption for the character, and I imagine he will have to go 'full-bad guy' soon enough.

Despite all the chaos and upheaval going on around him, Coulson manages to have some superb little moments, such as the bad-ass way he shoots May with the Icer without warning to remove her from the complex situation, then when he transports the unconscious May to the holding cell, he tells Ward that, “She's a Sleeper...I mean, the other kind of Sleeper”, which made me giggle. As did his celebratory “boo-yah” upon defeating the two drones that were attacking Agent Garrett. It was these little moments that helped break up the tension of the episode, reminding the audience of the 'Whedon-esque' humour that has permeated this series since the beginning.

In conclusion, this was a total game-changer of an episode, which raised doubt on where the show (and its characters) will go from here, now that SHIELD is in a critical state. Aside from creating a new direction and status quo for the series, it also completely pulled the rug out from under the audience in terms of their perception of one of the core cast members, making them question everything they had seen prior to that moment. This episode feels like a critical 'check-point' in terms of the show's overall continuity and the repercussions are likely to be felt for a long time in both the Agents of SHIELD TV show, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a whole. Those that stopped watching this series in the initial weeks have missed out on some fantastic storytelling, and I strongly suspect there will be a large amount of lapsed fans returning to the fold now the show's connections to the Marvel Cinematic Universe have been strengthened even further.


Score - 9.3 out of 10


Easter Eggs/References
  • Agent Weaver, the headmaster of SHIELD academy's Science Division, was first introduced in "Seeds".
  • Garrett nicknames the drones following him "Joanie" and "Chachi" in a reference to the characters from Happy Days.
  • Hydra is a world-wide subversive organisation dedicated to global domination, often clashing with SHIELD within the Marvel Comics Universe (First app: Strange Tales # 135)
  • "I thought Hydra was defeated in World War Two" (Captain America)
  • "Cut off a limb, and two more will take its place" - Coulson quotes the famous phrase used by Hydra Agents in the comics.
  • "Director Fury is dead" - ties in with Fury's status at the end of Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
  • "Remember in that bar in Dublin, you offered to talk. I didn't want to talk, I needed to keep things compartmentalised" ("The Well")
  • Coulson uses the concussion grenade to disable Garrett ("0-8-4")

Mysteries
  • Why does Garrett want access to the GH-325 drug?
  • What made Agent Ward turn to Hydra? Is it something to do with his family history?

Next Episode - "Providence"
With Colonel Glenn Talbot now on their trail, Coulson and his team seek refuge in the last place anyone would look, where they begin to uncover S.H.I.E.L.D.'s most dangerous secrets - secrets that could destroy them all!

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

2000AD Prog 1878

Prog 1878 Cover by Simon Coleby & Len O' Grady

This is a beautiful cover from the Jaegir art team of Simon Coleby and Len O'Grady, which features a brilliant mix of colours with the shadow of the Strigoi hovering over both Jaegir and Klaur. This could be an early contender for Prog of the Year, with the blend of colours (particularly the blue of the Strigoi contrasted with the green of the Nort uniforms) really bringing the image to life.


JUDGE DREDD - MEGA-CITY CONFIDENTIAL (Part 5)
Script - John Wagner
Art - Colin MacNeil
Colours - Chris Blythe
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

After four weeks of build-up, we finally have the grand reveal of Sector 7’s purpose, and while it is slightly predictable – I mean, it could only really have been some Orwellian invasion of privacy – it manages to create a unique situation for the Justice department whereupon it must reverse its decision and risk looking foolish. I really liked how this storyline placed the Judges in the role of the villain, although Dredd seemed rather reluctant in his duties here, even acknowledging Sector 7’s operation as a “rare mistake by Hershey” – is this something a young Dredd would have thought? As always, John Wagner provides an interesting glimpse into the inner psyche of the future’s toughest law-man, showing as more than a thug with a badge. Interestingly, Dredd is absent from the meeting with the Chief Judge where they discuss the ‘Blixen’ problem, therefore keeping it ambiguous as to whether the Judges were behind Blixen’s murder, as well as abstaining him from any potential fallout that may result.


Overall, this was a thrilling story and I loved the artwork by Colin MacNeil, which made use of shadows effectively, helping to create an uneasy sense of paranoia about the Mega City streets – a paranoia that turned out to be justified in the end. Often the Judges within the story had their faces obscured by the shadows, particularly Dredd, further demonstrating how they remain anonymous compared to the citizens who are exposed by the secret camera surveillance. The final panel helps hammer home the consequences of Erika Easterhouse’s actions and the fierce ‘justice’ of the Judges in both keeping its secret and punishing those who helped to expose it.



SLAINE: THE BRUTANIA CHRONICLES - A SIMPLE KILLING (Part 5)
Script - Pat Mills
Art - Simon Davis
Letters - Ellie de Ville

After a frenetic action-packed episode last week, things slow down briefly as both Slaine and Sinead get up to speed on events. There’s a bit of heavy-handed dialogue as Slaine and Sinead learn each other’s identity which probably only feels clunky because the characters are discovering what we, the audience, have known for the last three installments. However, the action doesn't let up for too long as Sinead begins to turn into a mermaid-esque creature, although it’s unclear at this stage as to whether it is as a result of the Gloops or perhaps something more complicated.

I’m running out of ways to gush profusely about this gorgeous artwork, but this week, I noticed that besides the actual beauty of Simon Davis’ painted pages, there is also a great deal of skill in how he frames the sequences, creating an almost cinematic quality as the ‘camera angles’ focus on the metamorphosis occurring in Sinead’s legs, whilst the two protagonists converse. I also love how he can make a ‘talking heads’ episode (or perhaps, “talking legs” in this instance) seem to possess the same level of dynamic movement and varied panel placement as the most action-orientated of episodes. It helps keep the story fresh and moving along at a great pace, even if there’s no actual movement going on. 



OUTLIER (Part 5)
Script - T.C. Eglington
Art - Karl Richardson
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

This episode was full of surprises and revelations, which has sparked new theories into the mystery behind the Outlier. Firstly, I must admit that I didn't expect Caul to sprout wings and fly out from his trap, despite the use of animal appendages in two other episodes.  It was nice way to resolve the cliff-hanger, without seeming like a deus-ex-machina. To further add to the surprises, I wasn't expecting the encounter between Carcer and Caul to end so abruptly, although I strongly suspect that we might see more of Carcer’s “skill set” as a result of their brief skirmish.


We also got our first proper look at the Hurde, and the level of brutality they exhibit, although it seems like it is less torture and more of a thirst for knowledge into how other species work. With the name ‘Hurde’ sounding like a blend of ‘Horde’ and ‘Herd’, I suspect that there is some kind of ‘hive mind’ or ‘knowledge-sharing’ occurring and that the creatures seem to absorb the strengths of the species that they encounter, which might account for the numerous animal traits that Caul possesses.

Delving into my current wacky theory for the series, perhaps Caul isn't actually Caul at all, and merely the latest physical manifestation of the Hurde species after what it has learned from the humans. However, this wouldn't account for the personal nature of Caul’s revenge, unless perhaps this was also absorbed into the species along with the new physical appearance. It seems like there’s still a missing piece to the puzzle in how Caul escaped and why he possesses increased powers, as well as Carcer’s own experience with the creatures.



SINISTER DEXTER: THE GENERICAN DREAM - GUN SHY (Part 5)
Script - Dan Abnett
Art - Smudge
Letters - Ellie de Ville

Until now, this storyline has shown Sinister and Dexter to be rather ineffectual, getting captured by both gangs and moved about like pawns in a chess game, so it was refreshing to see them get their hands on some weaponry and actually make their presence known. Artist, Smudge, got the chance to draw some dynamic action sequences with the Gunshark duo taking down the Pastor’s army of cultists.


Taken on its own merits, this has been a fun Sinister Dexter storyline, which takes the strip out of its Euro-trash roots and adds a more American flavour, with biker gangs and religious cults populating the story, however, as part of the overall Sinister Dexter mythos, it feels like the strip is meandering and stalling from resolving its ongoing plot with the Moses Tannenbaum. Hopefully, next week’s installment can provide the sense of forward momentum and bring the main plot back to the forefront.



JAEGIR - STRIGOI (Part 5)
Script - Gordon Rennie
Art - Simon Coleby
Colour - Len O'Grady
Letters - Simon Bowland

Jaegir continues to provide some fantastic character development, showcasing the lead character’s complex relationship with her father, which seems to define her current actions. I feel like the strip has taken a massive leap in quality since the change of location to Atalia’s castle home, with a more varied colour palette and much-needed characterisation for both Jaegir and her team-mates. The use of flashbacks to underscore the current events and provide context behind Jaegir’s decisions helps develop her as a character moreso than the earlier depictions of her duties as a war-criminal hunter. The threat of the Strigoi becomes more prominent in this episode, with a face-to-face confrontation promised for next week.



OVERALL THOUGHTS / NEXT WEEK:

Next week sees the start of a new Judge Dredd story, which is always exciting as it could be anything from a fun single-parter to the beginning of a mega-epic. Elsewhere in the Prog, it feels like we’re hitting the halfway point for Slaine, Outlier and Jaegir, whereas Sinister Dexter appears to be heading towards the conclusion of its current storyline, although it might be that it launches into a second story-arc underneath the same ‘Generican Dream’ banner. Overall, the Prog is continuing to hit a strong stride and all of the stories have been really impressive so far!


The physical edition of 2000AD Prog 1878 will be available in stores on Wednesday 23rd April - 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!

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Review - South Park: The Stick of Truth

South Park: The Stick of Truth
Available on Sony PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360


South Park has had numerous video-game adaptations throughout the lifetime of the show, such as its initial 'First Person Shooter' game on the Nintendo 64, or the lesser-known PSone game Chef's Luv Shack which blended a quiz show format with the game's iconic characters. There was also a South Park Rally game which attempted to replicate the success of Mario Kart, but was met with minimal success. It wasn't until 2009 that the show's creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, came up with the idea of a South Park RPG that would be set in a living, breathing South Park and look exactly like the TV series itself. However, the development was fraught with issues, and while there were other South Park games (Let's Go Tower Defence Play, and Tenorman's Revenge) released in the interim, it wouldn't be until 2014 that the long-awaited RPG, The Stick of Truth, made it into stores.

The game allows you to create your own 'new kid' visiting South Park, who gets quickly embroiled in the town-wide live-action role playing that the boys of the school are involved in, becoming 'Douche-bag', one of Cartman's loyal assistants against Kyle's army of elves. However, things begin to escalate when aliens begin abducting town-members, underpants gnomes begin abducting underpants, and wait...is that a crab-person? There's a fun blend between the fictional game that the town's kids are involved in and the very real extraterrestrial threat that is engulfing the small Colorado town, as the two plot threads intertwine towards a dramatic conclusion.


As with the TV show itself, the game offers a witty satirical look at the videogame industry, most notably the overuse of Nazi Zombies in games such as Call of Duty by including the enemy type in this game for no discernible reason. There is also reference to the over-exploration featured in traditional Japanese RPG’s with certain houses having ‘surprises’ in store for unexpected visitor. Alongside this commentary on the industry, the game feels like a love-letter to the RPG industry with the whole of Canada designed to look like an old-school 8-bit RPG, reminiscent of the early Final Fantasy games on the NES, with pixelated backgrounds and a ‘world map’ to explore.

As well as references to videogames, the game is packed full of in-jokes related to the TV show’s seventeen year history with hundreds of ‘junk’ items that can be collected and sold on for cash that represent some of the most obscure moments from the programme’s past, such as Cherokee Hair Tampons or the Okama Gamesphere. Long-term South Park fans will get a massive kick out of collecting some of these random items – personally, I ended up carrying ‘Honey Boo Boo’s Pig Heart’ around with me for the majority of the game, despite it having no discernible use.

Vocally, the game is pitch-perfect with all of the characters voiced to the same quality as the TV show, even obscure characters that only appeared in one episode. This attention to detail really helps create an immersive feel, leading you to really feel like the new kid in the town of South Park. Even the storyline feels like a typical South Park episode, blending common themes seen in the show, such as gross-out gags, wild conspiracy theories, alien invasions and a sinister government agency acting in an increasingly irresponsible manner, whilst the kids are unaware of the true global (and universal) implications of events around them.

One of the boss battles - the dreaded Penis Mouse!

Gameplay – The game feels like a blend of Final Fantasy and Zelda, placing equal importance on the tactics used outside of the battlefield with the actual turn-based battles. Using a well-placed fart (don’t ask!) can give your characters a massive advantage when entering a tough battle. The turn-based battles have a reasonably detailed list of moves (although it doesn't quite match up with the same level of detail seen in some JRPGs) but there is a heavy emphasis on interactive quick time events, with button-bashing, timed button pushes and rotating thumbsticks required to optimise attack and defence strategies.

Graphics – It literally feels like you are controlling the events of an episode of South Park, with the character models represented just as accurately as in the HD broadcasts of the programme. While detractors of the show’s animated style might find ways to complain, this is the most authentic looking game based on an animated series that I've ever seen.

Achievements/Trophies – There’s nothing too tough here and it is entirely possible to get a complete set of achievements after a few playthroughs and siding with different factions. There are also some humour-based achievements that require you to dress your customisable character in a certain manner against enemies. I particularly liked the Breaking Bad themed achievement, where you must dress your character as Heisenberg before taking on some meth dealers.

Longevity – There are wealth of collectibles (Chinpokomon, friend requests and equipment) for the hardcore completists out there, with achievement rewards associated with each list. Unfortunately, there isn't much in the terms of side-quests and the actual main story quest can be completed in a relatively short time, if you ignore the other items and optional battles.

In conclusion, this is a perfect game for fans of the show, or JRPG fans looking for a hugely irreverent take on the genre. It feels like an attempt to bring the genre into the mainstream by focusing on the non-battle aspects moreso than experience grinding, item customisation and countless mini-quests. It also tries to distance itself from the stereotypical RPG by removing ‘random battles’ and adding an element of interaction to the turn-based battles, rather than letting it become selecting attacks from a series of menu screens. While it is a joy to play and one of the best games of the year, so far, those with a sensitive disposition and aversion to penis mice, the F-word and fart jokes should probably stick to the safety of Zelda or Final Fantasy.

Score - 9.5 out of 10

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Review - Agents of SHIELD: 1x16 - "End of the Beginning"

Agents of SHIELD
Episode 1x16 - "End of the Beginning"


Synopsis

Coulson and SHIELD focus their efforts on identifying the enigmatic Clairvoyant, whilst fighting off deadly attacks from his cyborg bodyguard, Deathlok.

Review

Wow, what an episode! After a slight Asgardian-themed diversion with Lady Sif, last episode, this marked a return to the Centipede/Clairvoyant storyline that has driven the season so far, and rather than beginning a slow-burn up until the season finale, this episode saw shocking revelations a-plenty, including the potential unveiling of the Clairvoyant's identity and potential distrust within Coulson's team, itself.

Immediately from the outset, this episode felt bigger in scale than its predecessors, with an action-packed pre-credits sequence showing the Clairvoyant's bodyguard, Deathlok, chasing down Agents Garrett and Triplett, which led to a high-stakes meeting between all of the supporting SHIELD cast members to date. After brief cameos and introductions in the previous fifteen episodes, it was very cool to see Agents Hand, Sitwell, Blake, Garrett and Triplett all converge together in one episode – it felt like a mini-version of The Avengers...albeit with high-ranking SHIELD officials instead of superheroes.

The show wasted no time in setting the agenda for this episode – To discover the identity of the Clairvoyant – which instantly raised my interest, as this particular ongoing mystery had caught my attention, leading me to consider a range of suspects originated from the Marvel Comics, such as MODOK, Wolfgang von Strucker and Arnim Zola. Just the anticipation of a reveal managed to elevate the quality of this episode, but then the focus on Deathlok and tying plot threads together so deftly, helped maintain a near-cinematic standard throughout the forty minutes. While I enjoyed the more straight-forward approach seen in 'Yes Men', the number of twists and turns in this espionage-laden episode resonated with me much more, and I would love to see more of this element of the show explored in future episodes.

As with 'T.R.A.C.K.S', there was a slight experimentation with the narrative structure of the episode, with the teams split into three groups allowing for the main cast to interact with members of the supporting cast. I particularly liked the Agent May / Blake dynamic, and despite how badly he came out of his encounter with Deathlok, I do hope we see him again in the future. Aside from developing character relationships, the separate narratives running simultaneously also allowed the writers to ramp up the mystery and tension surrounding the suspects, as the audience tried to guess which one would be the Clairvoyant.


After my initial dislike of the Mike Peterson character, and gradual acceptance of him in a heroic capacity during 'The Bridge', I must admit that I am now completely in favour of him in this Deathlok incarnation, especially as he is becoming less human, with more cybernetic enhancements. The sequence where he was monitored in infra-red not only subtly referenced the character's look in the comics, but also helped to highlight how much of his humanity has been lost with the excessive metal plating under the skin. While his time under the Clairvoyant's rule might be coming to an end, I do hope we continue to see Deathlok in this morally grey role, rather than a clear-cut hero or villain.

The whole sequence as the team descended upon "The Clairvoyant", only to find the incapacitated Thomas Nash, hooked up to a series of monitors and a voice-box, was eerily effective, and I admit it had me googling the name 'Thomas Nash' to find out if it was an alias for a more well-known character from the comic books. I was fully sold on this weird man making cryptic threats being the head of Centipede, until Agent Ward put a bullet through his chest. That was when I started to question whether or not this was a 'decoy' to throw Coulson off the scent, and surprisingly, the characters managed to think the same, even going as far as to advance my theory on-screen in front of me! I had bought into the whole 'psychic' act that I didn't consider that it was only information that could be gleaned from SHIELD files, and the 'Coulson shaped' gap in his knowledge was due to insufficient clearance on those files. While the show could have run some hefty mileage out of the Thomas Nash decoy trick, it was refreshing to see Coulson and Skye work out the truth quickly and progressing the storyline on, rather than stagnating.

The final act of the episode is where the stakes got sufficiently raised, with the paranoia levels rising amongst Coulson and his team. The discovery of Agent May's surreptitious updates to an unknown recipient and Ward's convenient silencing of Thomas Nash started to raise doubts in Coulson's mind as to whether he could trust the members of his team, but then the final moment where Agent Hand controls 'The Bus', ordering her men to eliminate everyone aboard, except Coulson, seemed to imply that she was the Clairvoyant all along, although personally I am not entirely convinced and would not be surprised if this was another double-bluff and the real Clairvoyant turned out to be Agent Garrett, mainly because Bill Paxton is a bigger name actor than Saffron Burrows. Either way, the cliffhanger was terribly effective, because I am chomping at the bit to watch the next episode to find out more!

For an episode with such big reveals, there were still some interesting character moments, such as Skye's official induction as a SHIELD agent and, most notably, Agent Ward losing control of his emotions and killing Thomas Nash for threatening Skye, although it does seem out of character for him to lose it like that, which adds weight to Coulson's suspicions. Overall, this was a fantastic episode that managed to keep the same pace and urgency of a Hollywood blockbuster and acted as a brilliant prelude to Captain America: The Winter Soldier, where the story is set to continue, with next week's episode taking place in parallel with the dramatic events from that movie.


Score - 9.4 out of 10


Easter Eggs/References
  • The Gifted Index - SHIELD's list of people who have displayed super-powers ("Pilot")
  • 'The Canadian government recruited Thomas Nash for a Department H program.' - Department H is the Canadian program that monitors super-powered individuals in Canada and has their own team known as Alpha Flight. (First app: Uncanny X-Men # 140)
  • Infra-red shot of Deathlok closer resembles his traditional design from the comic books.

Mysteries
  • Ward's family is described by Triplett as the "cable version of the Kennedys" suggesting a level of dysfunction that has yet to be explored fully.
  • The Clairvoyant seems to be aware of Skye's 'unique origins' saying that she will die giving up her secret to them.
  • Who is the real Clairvoyant? It appears to be Victoria Hand, but this hasn't been confirmed yet.
  • Who does May give her updates to? Is it Victoria Hand, or perhaps Nick Fury?

Next Episode - "Turn, Turn, Turn"
Coulson and his team find themselves without anyone they can trust, only to discover that they are trapped with a traitor in their midst

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

2000AD Prog 1877

Prog 1877 Cover by Ben Willsher

While there’s no denying that this cover image by Ben Willsher is striking, it doesn't quite fit the contents of the current Judge Dredd strip, which has been less about window-crashing action and more of a cerebral and atmospheric tale. Perhaps a shot of Dredd’s visor looming over Max Blixen to represent the Justice Department pursuing him would have been a better fit for the current story. Apart from the slight mismatch of tone, the image also suffers slightly from having too many glass shards, which detracts from the fantastic image of Dredd on his Lawmaster bike. Overall, it seems a bit too cluttered and the light blue font for the tagline seems an ineffectual choice against the masses of glass shards.


JUDGE DREDD - MEGA-CITY CONFIDENTIAL (Part 4)
Script - John Wagner
Art - Colin MacNeil
Colours - Chris Blythe
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

The Nerve Centre teases this week’s installment of ‘Mega City Confidential’ as the penultimate episode, with the long-awaited reveal of Sector 7’s big secret set for next week. This has been one of the more tightly-plotted and devilishly intriguing Dredd’s for some time – As with Titan earlier in the year, I have been on tenterhooks awaiting each new episode for some clue as to the truth behind Sector 7. John Wagner has set up a thrilling mystery over the last four episodes and I am confident he can deliver a satisfying ending to the storyline. The artwork by Colin MacNeil has been instrumental in crafting a pitch-perfect atmosphere to accompany Wagner's tense script, with his darker depiction of Mega City One, rich with shadows and a menacing tone.


Despite the sombre tone to the story, Wagner still manages to inject some levity to proceedings

With Max Blixen operating outside of Mega City One, it appears the Judges will be powerless to stop the truth from coming out, which from the point of view of a reader desperate to solve the mystery, is a good thing. I am very intrigued to find out just how deep this secret goes and what the possible repercussions might be. Even though next week's episode is the final part of this storyline, I have a feeling that this will have far-reaching repercussions in Dredd's universe, and frankly, I can't drokkin' wait!



SLAINE: THE BRUTANIA CHRONICLES - A SIMPLE KILLING (Part 4)
Script - Pat Mills
Art - Simon Davis
Letters - Ellie de Ville

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I find myself praising Simon Davis’ amazing artwork once more, with two beautiful double-page spreads back-to-back, showing Slaine in conflict against the Sea Devils. The way that Davis’ use of colours captures the light of the camp fire illuminating Slaine and Sinead against the darkness is sublime, and really heightens the mood of the night-time attack. His depiction of the reptilian “gloops” is fantastic as well and really manages to evoke a feral, bloodthirsty look.

Interestingly, there are multiple mentions of Slaine’s father in this chapter, which seems like foreshadowing to me. I’m not too familiar with Slaine’s parentage, but perhaps there is the chance that he will come into contact with his father, either literally or spiritually, at some point in this adventure. Overall, I am continuing to enjoy this story, despite a minor lapse last week with a fairly disjointed installment that lost some of the momentum of the initial two parts, and with a mere four episodes, Simon Davis has launched himself high up the leader-board of Slaine artists.



OUTLIER (Part 4)
Script - T.C. Eglington
Art - Karl Richardson
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

This episode continues with the high-octane action of the previous installment, with the two soldiers (Jay and Sol) appearing to have the upper hand over Caul, although I’m intrigued to find out what he has to say about the other former shipmate of the Outlier, Jess, and whether he will be able to convince them to let him go, or perhaps, he has a female accomplice who will come to his aid. We’re also getting closer to having our protagonist, Carcer, finally come face-to-face with the main antagonist, Caul, which might give us some more clues as to whether there is a connection between the two, after the subtle hints in the first episode.


T.C Eglington's script continues to keep me interested with entertaining action set-pieces breaking up the mystery, ensuring a balanced pace that alternates between exposition and moments of frenzied carnage. Karl Richardson conjures up a spectacular double-page spread, with a myriad of alien creatures chasing Caul through the jungle landscape. It’s a beautiful piece of artwork and would have made a brilliant choice for the cover, or even a potential poster for subscribers (hint, hint!).



SINISTER DEXTER: THE GENERICAN DREAM - GUN SHY (Part 4)
Script - Dan Abnett
Art - Smudge
Letters - Ellie de Ville

I really liked how Tracy took the initiative this episode, exposing C-Bomb’s duplicity and engineering a solid escape plan for the boys without any bloodshed, well, that was until D-Fibb jumped the gun and attacked the Cultists headquarters. I must admit I was quite impressed how quickly things seemed to get resolved as I half-expected Tracy and Piper to find Finny and Ray brain-washed and spouting out cultist nonsense, which would have been another ‘roadblock’ in the way of the larger Generica storyline. I have a feeling that this diversion will be resolved in the next installment and we’ll see a different chapter with another tale from the road-trip across Generica, probably focusing on another element of Americana with a twist.



JAEGIR - STRIGOI (Part 4)
Script - Gordon Rennie
Art - Simon Coleby
Colour - Len O'Grady
Letters - Simon Bowland

This episode saw a marked change in the colours used in Jaegir, which moved away from the rust coloured skies seen in the initial chapters for a more clear and natural looking countryside setting. Jaegir’s castle looks rather Germanic in appearance, which further fuels the similarities between the Norts and the Nazis, creating a complex moral dilemma for the reader, reading about protagonists that were formerly enemies in another series.

This episode saw a greater focus on the character of Jaegir, hinting at a traumatic incident during her childhood with her father, as well as intimate liaisons between her and Grigoru, before he settled down and got married. This complicated ‘baggage’ should make for some interesting emotional drama as she must now hunt down her former lover.


We also get introductions to some of Jaegir’s teammates, previously glimpsed in the background or via off-screen dialog, giving greater context to the events of the last episode where her team worked through the rest of her outstanding contracts. I misunderstood the relationship between the characters, thinking that they were new characters imposed unto Jaegir to ‘babysit’ her Strigoi hunt, but it appears that they are old comrades.

Overall, this was a strong change of direction for the strip, bringing the character into a different location and providing some much needed back-story and supporting cast to make us, the reader, care for Atalia Jaegir and her mission.



OVERALL THOUGHTS / NEXT WEEK:

Artwork dominated this issue with three fantastic double-page spreads seen in Outlier and Slaine, representing the fantastic artistic talent that 2000AD manages to cultivate within its pages. There was also a fair amount of action in the two strips, lavishly brought to life by Karl Richardson and Simon Davis.

I am really looking forward to next week’s Prog, which promises the shocking revelations of Sector 7 in Judge Dredd and a blood-soaked climax to Sinister Dexter’s current story. I’m also keen to discover more curious details about the doomed voyage of the Outlier and find out what will happen next to complicate Slaine’s ‘simple killing’.


The physical edition of 2000AD Prog 1877 will be available in stores on Wednesday 16th April - 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, 12 April 2014

Review - Agents of SHIELD: 1x15 - "Yes Men"

Agents of SHIELD
Episode 1x15 - "Yes Men"


Synopsis

Lorelei, an escaped prisoner from Asgard with the ability to control the minds of men, attempts to raise her own army on Earth but soon pursued by Lady Sif and the Agents of SHIELD. Meanwhile, Skye recovers after her near-death experience, while Coulson agonises over revealing what he discovered in the Guest House facility.

Review

After a number of episodes focusing on the main overarching mythology of the show involving Centipede and the Clairvoyant, it was nice to return to the 'villain of the week' format for one episode. By including a big-name actress from the Marvel movies, in the form of Jaimie Alexander's Lady Sif, it helped this episode feel more important and less like filler when compared to the more serialised episodes in the season.

With cameos from Samuel L Jackson and Cobie Smulders earlier in the season, it was great to see an extended guest appearance from a prominent character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While we are very unlikely to see any of the core Avengers actors appearing in episodes, it is wise of the show to appeal to the second-tier actors/characters for guest spots and Jaime Alexander's Lady Sif strikes the right balance of fame to be recognisable and affordable for the show, as well as providing a more fitting tie-in to Thor: The Dark World than the show's earlier episode, 'The Well'.

It was nice to see the character of Lady Sif given more focus than in either of the Thor movies, as well as being the first character outside of SHIELD to react to Coulson's resurrection. Coulson put the kibosh on Sif passing on the news to Thor, presumably so they can have the Avengers become reunited with Coulson in a later sequel? Clad in her Asgardian armor, Lady Sif provided the team with some much needed super-power, most evident during the scene in the biker bar, so it wasn't surprising that she bonded with SHIELD's very own deadliest woman, Agent May.

I really enjoyed the character of Lorelei, played by Elena Satine, and her power-set of being able to control the minds of men through words and touch made for an interesting dynamic with both Ward and Fitz turned against the team. In the comics, she is the younger sister of the more well-known Thor villain, The Enchantress, but there was no reference made to the connection here, possibly because The Enchantress has yet to be introduced into the Thor movies. One minor nit-pick was the way in which the darker consequences of her powers, such as, forcing a man to murder his wife and having sex with Agent Ward against his will, weren't really addressed, although perhaps the latter will have longer reaching consequences in future episodes, although it seems unlikely considering the way it was brushed aside in the conclusion of this episode.


Even though this had the feel of a stand-alone episode, it still managed to advance several of the ongoing sub-plots from the season, particularly the relationship between Ward and May. I predicted that Ward's confession to Lorelei that he was in love with 'someone he worked with' didn't apply to May, but rather interestingly the episode didn't reveal which one of other female team members that Ward had feelings for. Personally, I think that the Ward/Skye bond that has built up over their training sessions might be another case of misdirection and his true affections are directed at Simmons, causing a potential love-triangle with Agent Triplett, or possibly a love-pentagon, if you throw in Fitz and Skye into the mix also!

Another interesting development in the ongoing sub-plots occurred when Coulson asked Lady Sif about the various blue-skinned alien races she had encountered in an attempt to identify the creature he discovered in the Guest House facility last episode. Rather curiously, the Asgardian mentioned both the Kree and Frost Giants amongst some lesser-known alien races from the comics. Unfortunately, the fact that these two races were mentioned could be either foreshadowing for the eventual reveal, or a way to remove them from the list of suspects by addressing them early on. It seems like, for now, the mystery will have to continue – presumably for a season finale reveal?

I'm really enjoying the way the episodes are paced recently with the final few minutes, usually in the post-credits stinger, offering a tantalising tease for the upcoming episode. In this instance, we got a very shocking reveal that Agent May is reporting secrets from the team to an unknown source, presumably Victoria Hand and the SHIELD HQ, as well as possessing some knowledge of the “G.H. creature” herself. I'd imagine that this breach of trust will be uncovered sooner or later, resulting in a greater fracture amongst the team than when Skye was caught with her Rising Tide boyfriend, way back in 'The Girl in the Flower Dress'.

Overall, this was a strong episode that managed to perform a much stronger connection to the recent Thor: The Dark World events, whilst continuing to service the plot points from earlier in the season. It was a perfect example of the balance between mythological and stand-alone elements that the show should have been achieving during its first half, but instead acts as evidence that the series is evolving and learning from its earlier missteps.


Score - 8.8 out of 10


Easter Eggs/References

Mysteries
  • Is May reporting directly to the SHIELD bosses and betraying Coulson's trust? She appears to already know about the 'G.H.' creature and merely needed confirmation that Coulson knew, but what else does May know?
  • Does Ward like Skye or Simmons? It seems logical to pair him with Skye, but he does seem to be flirting with Simmons slightly, therefore giving him a potential love triangle with Agent Triplett?

Next Episode - "End of the Beginning"
Agents Garrett (Bill Paxton) and Triplett are back to help Coulson's team track down S.H.I.E.L.D.'S nefarious enemy--the Clairvoyant. But will Deathlok destroy them all to protect his master's identity?

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

2000AD Prog 1876

Prog 1876 Cover by Alex Ronald

Great photo-realistic depiction of Sinister Dexter by Alex Ronald, who also produced the brilliantly creepy Ulysses Sweet cover for Prog 1869 in February. I like the way he has the two gun-sharks leaping through the window with guns blazing and the realistic look he has adopted for Sinister, who can sometimes be drawn as a caricature clown. One minor nitpick is the missing ‘Fony’ label above Dexter’s right eye, but other than that, this is a refreshingly different look for the Downlode duo.


JUDGE DREDD - MEGA-CITY CONFIDENTIAL (Part 3)
Script - John Wagner
Art - Colin MacNeil
Colours - Chris Blythe
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

This week’s installment addressed a few of my concerns from the previous episode, namely about how Max Blixen is able to run Mega City Confidential without interference from the Judges, but as he explains to Erika, he purposefully avoids any real ‘dirt digging’ on the Justice department and merely gives the impression that he is cutting-edge and subversive. Although, even though he is allowed to operate, he certainly isn't liked by the Judges as Dredd gives him short shrift once their ‘partnership’ comes to an end.


The story manages to effortlessly pass the baton onto another character, with Max Blixen becoming the main protagonist, whilst Erika Easterhouse presumably undergoes some ‘re-education’ at the hands of the Judges. I think that Blixen is a stronger central character with a more compelling moral dilemma ahead of him, whether to continue being a ‘sell-out’ stooge to the Judges or whether to follow his journalistic integrity and reveal the truth to the public.

Three parts in and we, the reader, are still in the dark as to the true nature of the mysterious Sector 7, with little in the way of clues. I think it’s likely to be something to do with privacy and freedom of speech, especially considering the involvement of Max Blixen as the protagonist. I am a bit concerned that it might be a McGuffin and we never find out what is on the data slug, like the briefcase from Pulp Fiction. Hopefully, that isn't the case and this storyline has some real consequences, or at the very least, a strong pay-off to the mystery for the readers.



SLAINE: THE BRUTANIA CHRONICLES - A SIMPLE KILLING (Part 3)
Script - Pat Mills
Art - Simon Davis
Letters - Ellie de Ville

Events continue to get more complicated as this once ‘simple killing’ evolves into a more detailed quest, with the involvement of the Drunes, who wish to use the girl, Sinead, as a vessel for their Serpent Egg with the aim to produce deadly monsters. It appears that she escaped of her own accord and made her way to Slaine, but I wouldn't be surprised if this is misdirection and she has some beast brewing in her belly waiting to burst out the most inopportune moment.

There is a greater emphasis on Celtic mythology in this episode, which left me a little confused, with references to the Green Man celebrations and Beltain. It didn't really seem relevant to the story and appeared to be there as a demonstration of Slaine’s Celtic roots and Pagan beliefs. Simon Davis’ artwork continues to impress and his depictions of the celebrations are beautiful with a mix of different colours showcasing the joyous glee on Slaine’s face as the Green Man contrasted with the solemn moment where he burns Niamh’s wedding dress. There is the promise of some action next week as Slaine comes up against the Sea Devils and I look forward to seeing some more action scenes depicted by Simon Davis’ beautiful painted artwork.



OUTLIER (Part 3)
Script - T.C. Eglington
Art - Karl Richardson
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

This week, we get a glimpse into the back-story behind the murders with our first experience of the crew of the Outlier and their encounter with the Hurde, which led to Caul transforming from an unassuming ship chef to a seemingly unstoppable killing machine. I suspect that this version of events is slightly unreliable and I expect that we’ll get an alternative view of how things transpired when Caul inevitably confronts the former Captain of the Outlier.


The artwork by Karl Richardson looks fantastic and really benefits from the change of scenery, with a burst of new colours showcasing the range of fauna and jungle plants. I also like the idea of Caul being pitted against two soldier types on a hunting planet – there’s an element of Predator about the whole set-up and it’s more interesting to see a balanced match-up, rather than seeing Caul butcher unprepared prey.



SINISTER DEXTER: THE GENERICAN DREAM - GUN SHY (Part 3)
Script - Dan Abnett
Art - Smudge
Letters - Ellie de Ville

The storyline continues to utilise the location of Generica to make commentary on elements of American lifestyle, with the religious cult featured in this episode resembling a cross between the real-world Westboro Baptist Church and the murderous cult seen in Kevin Smith’s Red State. There are also references to the infamous Jim Jones mass-suicide with the poisoned Kool-Aid, and I suspect we might see our gun-shark anti-heroes undergo some brainwashing.

Sinister Dexter has always been known for being pun and quip-heavy, with the Downlode duo often making light of events, even in the most deadly of situations, but I felt that the jokes fell a bit short in this episode, such as the exchange between Sinister and the Pastor: “Friends, you have come to us with violence in your hearts, and that has offended God.” “Why? He invented it”. The artwork by Smudge continues to impress, managing to capture the feel of a classic Sinister Dexter adventure without the assistance of a full colour palette.



JAEGIR - STRIGOI (Part 3)
Script - Gordon Rennie
Art - Simon Coleby
Colour - Len O'Grady
Letters - Simon Bowland

This episode felt slightly disorientating with the narration from Jaegir and Klaur overlaid on images of other people assassinating the targets. I think it was meant to showcase the Strigoi Hunters assisting Jaegir on her duties, in order to expedite her assistance on the Kuttner case. At first glance, however, I thought Jaegir had just dyed her hair red and was wearing a face-mask – perhaps this sequence would have been easier to follow if we’d been fully introduced to the rest of the team first.


It was nice to see more examples of Jaegir’s “day job” before she undergoes this special mission, but the episode did feel like filler delaying the main plot, which is ironic since this was Jaegir’s intention within the story, tying up loose ends before embarking on this main mission. Perhaps it might have been useful to have a few short introduction stories to set up Jaegir’s role in the Nort hierarchy before embarking on a story that puts her in a ‘fish out of water’ role, working alongside the Strigoi Hunters.



OVERALL THOUGHTS / NEXT WEEK:

While it feels like I have been overly negative on some of the stories in this Prog, it's still a pretty strong line-up and there's a lot of potential in the stories as they continue to develop further. I’m hoping that next week sees the reveal of the big Sector 7 secret in Judge Dredd, as well as some action-packed sequences across both Slaine and Outlier. I’m not as optimistic about Sinister Dexter, which seems to be hitting a slump and almost going through the motions, and Jaegir is something of a wild-card and one that I am curious to see more of.


The physical edition of 2000AD Prog 1876 will be available in stores on Wednesday 9th April - 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, 5 April 2014

Review - Agents of SHIELD: 1x14 - "T.A.H.I.T.I."

Agents of SHIELD
Episode 1x14 - "T.A.H.I.T.I."


Synopsis

With Skye's life on the line, the team attempt to track down the location where Coulson was resurrected in the hope of replicating the process, however things become more complicated when Agent John Garrett (played by guest-star, Bill Paxton) arrives to take Ian Quinn into custody.

Review

This episode felt like a spiritual sequel to the mid-season premiere, ‘The Magical Place’ directly addressing the unanswered questions surrounding Coulson’s resurrection. While it might not have entirely answered how Coulson was able to survive a heart-piercing, it certainly suggested that it was a bit more mystical and other-worldly than it first seemed which certainly appeals to me. As with the previous episode, it seemed to build up to a crescendo with lots of reveals and dramatic moments in the final five minutes of the episode.

It appears that the robot brain surgery glimpsed in the flashback from ‘The Magical Place’ was merely to implant the Tahiti memories into Coulson’s brain, and not actually part of his resurrection, but rather it was something to do with the various GH chemicals extracted from the blue creature that Coulson discovered within the Guest House facility. Talking of which, the scene where Coulson came across the creature might be the most thrilling moment in the series to date and spun my head into a flurry of theories. It felt like an episode of LOST with a mind-fuck of a reveal buried inside a secret hatch!

Personally, I think that the creature is one of the alien races already established in Marvel Comics, possibly acting as a tie-in to the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy movie, which has a strong space setting. With tie-ins to all of the phase two Marvel Cinematic Movies (Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World and Captain America: The Winter Soldier), it would not be a total shock to find out that the TV show will also be seeding plot details for the next movie in the franchise. As to the creature’s identity, the blue hue suggests it might be a Frost Giant from the Thor universe, but it could also be one of the Kree and Skrull aliens, whose DNA could prove to have healing properties, and are relatively humanoid in appearance. Given Skye’s dramatic reaction to the serum, it could be that she shares DNA with the creature, perhaps being half-Kree or half-Skrull? This is all wild speculation at this point, but I am eagerly awaiting further clues to the mystery!


The episode saw the introduction of Agent John Garrett (played by Bill Paxton of Aliens fame) who seemed to be an old-school butt kicking kind of agent; however, there was something about him that seemed a little bit suspicious. I wouldn't be too surprised if he turns out to be working for Centipede and in league with Ian Quinn, despite his rough treatment of the man in this episode. As well as setting up John Garrett as a recurring character, we were also introduced to Agent Triplett, who seems to be enamored with Simmons, which might cause further love triangle problems in the frankly complicated love lives of the SHIELD agents. At my count it seems like there’s some sexual tension between Coulson and May, who happens to be having casual sex with Ward, who also has sexual tension with Simmons and Skye, both of whom Fitz appears to be in love with. Wow, it’s like a love pentagon…or perhaps even a hexagon?

After the ‘double tap’ approach that Quinn took to shooting Skye, I had suspected that she had been targeted by the Clairvoyant to be ‘bait’ to replicate Coulson’s resurrection, and I found myself actually rooting alongside the enemy in wanting to force SHIELD’s hand to uncover the secret behind Coulson’s resurrection. It is interesting that apparently the Clairvoyant can see everything apart from what happened to Coulson after his death, suggesting that perhaps the Clairvoyant knows about Skye’s origins and was still willing to sacrifice her, or perhaps he knew she wasn't in any real danger of dying due to her 0-8-4 status. I do like how the Clairvoyant appears to be one step ahead of SHIELD with complex plans-within-plans and I am looking forward to seeing this storyline unravel, hopefully in a satisfying way!

The episode’s title refers to both the Tahiti implants that Coulson was given, as well as the mysterious acronym found outside the room that contains the blue creature. I doubt that we’ll get an explanation for why that room was labelled up as T.A.H.I.T.I. but in an attempt for a fabled "no-prize", I’m going to provide a potential answer – could the acronym stand for 'The Alien Hidden In The Infirmary'? Sometimes the simplest answer is the only answer!

The episode ends with a tease for next week introducing the Asgardian villainess, Lorelei, who has the ability to control the minds of men. It has been well publicized that Jaimie Alexander, who played Lady Sif in the Thor movies will be appearing for the episode, providing a much stronger connection to Thor: The Dark World than seen in the earlier tie-in episode, ‘The Well’.

Overall, this was easily one of the best episodes of the series, thus far, providing some real edge-of-the-seat moments, particularly when Coulson investigated the mysterious back room in the Guest House facility. While the action sequences were fun, I do think the brand seems to excel when it is creating mysteries, either through its narrative structure as seen in ‘T.R.A.C.K.S.’ or with its long running subplots.

Score - 9.1 out of 10


Easter Eggs/References
  • Agent Garrett is a reference to the Marvel Comics character, John Garrett, who was a SHIELD agent who became a cyborg to save his life (First app: Elektra Assassin # 2)
  • Lorelei is the younger sister of The Enchantress, an Asgardian enemy of Thor (First app: Thor #337)

Mysteries
  • How did Quinn learn “the hard way” that obeying the Clairvoyant was in his best interest?
  • What was the purpose behind the Guest House? Who were the men guarding it?
  • What does T.A.H.I.T.I. stand for?
  • What was the creature that Coulson found in the secret room?
  • Why did the GH-325 affect Skye differently to Coulson? Is it because of her 0-8-4 origins?

Next Episode - "Yes Men"
When Coulson and his team are attacked by Lorelei, a deadly seductress escaped from Asgard, Thor's Lady Sif, her long-time nemesis, steps in to try to save them.
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