Saturday, 31 May 2014

Review - Agents of SHIELD: 1x22 - "Beginning of the End"

Agents of SHIELD
Episode 1x22 - "Beginning of the End"


Synopsis

With a newly rejuvenated Garrett working on his grand plan to begin the next stage of human evolution, Coulson and his team must infiltrate his base, whilst out-manned and out-gunned, in order to save the day once more.

Review

Straight off the bat this episode revealed a coy playfulness with its audience, often attributed to Joss Whedon's storytelling style, using a 'bait-and-switch' approach reminiscent of the opening to his horror movie, Cabin in the Woods, with an employee being shown around an office, only to reveal to the viewer that this is the Cybertek offices and on the computer screen is the cliff-hanger to the previous episode about to play out. It's a fun narrative trick and later plays into the story, but it showcases a more 'Whedon-esque' approach to the show which marks it out as more unique than other action-adventure network dramas.

This season finale played expertly with a number of plot threads, much like an conductor leading an orchestra, managing to concentrate on resolving the ongoing 'Clairvoyant' plot-line, whilst setting up interesting sub-plots for the future, such as Coulson's promotion, Raina and Skye's “evolution”, Fitz's health and the ever-present Gravitonium cube. With a confirmed second season on the cards, the show was confident enough to let some of its mysteries roll over, which might frustrate fans hoping to find out what the blue alien was, or what exactly is the deal with Skye's parents. One of my criticisms of the early episodes of the show was the lack of ongoing mysteries, and I have to say that this criticism has definitely been answered. While the show is still quite willing to set up and answer questions in the space of one episode, such as the Cybertek employee incentive scheme, it is also able to develop much more involved and lengthier mysteries.

I'm slightly sad to see Bill Paxton leave the show. His scenery-chewing approach to double-agent SHIELD Agent Garrett will be sorely missed, although his exit did provide us with one of the more amusing 'Whedon-esque' moments of the whole series, when Coulson cuts short his 'resurrection', playing against the familiar tropes of comic-books and TV serials to offer a genuine laugh-out-loud moment. I must admit I liked the irony that after ingesting the GH-325 he actually became the Clairvoyant that he had pretended to be, with an increased insight into the inner workings of the universe, which bordered on the insane. So insane, in fact, he decided to kill someone using a piece of their own rib-cage.


Even though we lost Garrett this episode, I was glad to see that Agent Ward was kept alive, albeit severely incapacitated after a much-anticipated face-off with spurned lover, Agent May. The fight sequence between the two SHIELD agents was very impressive and May's 'nailgun in the foot' attack was certainly a gruesome way to end the conflict. I expect we will see Ward return in the future, especially if Raina's vague hints about Skye's true nature bear fruit. I can see some similarities between Ward and Angel/Angelus from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and I think he would fit that 'anti-hero' role quite well, especially now that Garrett isn't around to manipulate him.

Another character who I expect to see return in a morally grey capacity is the cyborg bodyguard, Deathlok, who showed his true colours once Skye could guarantee his son's safety. While J. August Richards' acting wasn't that great at times and probably suited a cold, emotionless robot, the character of Michael Peterson definitely improved once he was given a more complex storyline and I hope when he returns in the next season, he is given more moral dilemmas to test his acting range and keep him interesting as a character.

The most fascinating element of the episode, however, was Raina, who once again seemed to indicate she was something more than a “girl in a flower dress” and had some secret inside of her. Her question to Garrett, “What will I become?” suggests that she has some dormant super-powers, implying that due to their shared DNA that Skye has possibly got the same potential within her. One theory is that perhaps Raina and Skye are both 'Inhumans' from the Marvel Comics Universe, an evolved race of super-humans who rely on the Terrigen Mists to activate their super-powers, which accounts for Raina's desire to see her true potential unlocked and reveal what is within her DNA. The end of episode stinger shows Raina meeting Skye's father, hinting that she may have a relationship with him, possibly even being Skye's mother? I cannot wait to see this sub-plot develop further in the second season.

One thing that definitely boosted the appeal of this show was the extended cameo from Samuel L Jackson who brought Nick Fury to assist Coulson against Garrett and Ward. The chemistry between Coulson and Fury is really good with plenty of one-liners being slung around between the pair of them, making it a shame that Jackson's appearances are so seldom, although I guess it does make those episodes where he does appear all that much more special. Now we've had Nick Fury, Maria Hill and Lady Sif cross-over from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I wonder which one of the other 'big name' characters will make it over. Personally, I think we might see Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) appear next, but probably without his green-skinned alter-ego.

Overall, this was a really effective and well-paced season finale, which resolved the main storyline to this initial season, whilst setting up plenty of new mysteries for the next. Judging from the way things ended this episode, I'd imagine Season Two will be focused on the concept of 'evolved humans' with Skye's background and parentage taking the bulk of the focus, possibly linking into the origins of the GH-325 serum. After the more spy-centric tone to the latter half of this season, it will be interesting to see a more alien and cosmic approach for the second. I can't wait to see the show return and to see how things develop between the core cast members, especially now Coulson is in charge of SHIELD.


Score - 9.4 out of 10


Easter Eggs/References
  • The mysterious 'alien' writing that both Coulson and Garrett wrote down first appeared in "Eye Spy" when Ward took a photo of it in a laboratory as part of an undercover mission.

Mysteries
  • What does the 'alien' writing on the wall mean? Is it a side-effect of the GH-325 serum?
  • What will I become?” - Does Raina have dormant powers? Does this mean Skye does too?
  • What part does Skye have in this 'evolution' Garrett and Raina speak of?
  • Billy Koenig – Is he a Life Model Decoy or Eric's twin brother?
  • Will this new version of SHIELD need to work in the shadows, as technically Coulson and his team are still fugitives, wanted by Glenn Talbot and the authorities.
  • Who is Skye's father, and what relationship does Raina have with him?

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

2000AD Sci-Fi Special 2014

Sci-Fi Special 2014 Cover by James Biggie

This is a very eye-catching and slightly psychedelic cover from newcomer to the Prog, James Biggie, showcasing some of the more recognisable characters that can be found within, appealing to lapsed readers or those with a passing interest in the comic. The different logo and brighter colours help to differentiate this ‘Sci-Fi Special’ from the ordinary weekly Prog, although I’m not 100% sold on the minimalist approach used on the characters here.


JUDGE DREDD - JINXED!
Script - Emma Beeby
Art - Eoin Coveney
Colours - John-Paul Bove
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

This story marks the second solo outing for Emma Beeby, who holds the honour of being the first female to write for the character, with her initial storyline ‘Ferals’ appearing in Progs 1858 – 1861. Partnered with new art droid, Eoin Coveney, this fun ‘one-shot’ story returns to the more humourous style of storytelling, which has largely been absent from the strip since the cataclysmic ‘Day of Chaos’ storyline. It manages to strike the right balance between funny and parody, avoiding being too cartoonish, and I liked the nice ‘nod’ to the end of ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ with the cursed artifact being placed in storage alongside other relics.


With a Future Shock already under his belt (Prog 1867), newcomer Eoin Coveney's take on Dredd has echoes of Cliff Robinson's art style, making him a perfect fit for the character, evoking memories of classic Judge Dredd artists. I would definitely love to see him return in the Prog proper, along with colorist John-Paul Bove, who does a fantastic job at bringing the strip to life and crafting a light-hearted slapstick atmosphere.



ROBO-HUNTER - THE BODJ JOB
Script - Alec Worley
Art - Mark Simmons
Letters - Ellie de Ville

After undergoing a number of changes, most notably the replacement of Sam Slade as the main character with his granddaughter Samantha Slade, this 'lost adventure' returns to the classic era of the Robo-Hunter series, successfully capturing the light-hearted wackiness of the early John Wagner and Ian Gibson stories. There is even a nod to both creators in the opening panel with the two wanted posters displaying them as the missing droids that Sam is searching for.



Alec Worley's script is a delight, delivering pitch-perfect lines into the mouths of Sam, Hoagy and Stogie as well offering a humourous satire on Ikea, represented in the strip as Bodj, both referring to the brand's Swedish origins and the 'bodge job' nature of its furnishings. Worley keeps the puns running with a very familiar looking Swedish foursome acting as the antagonists of the storyline, establishing a light-hearted core to the storyline. Mark Simmons' artwork is fantastic and evokes memories of Ian Gibson's tenure on the strip without being a direct carbon-copy. I could quite happily read an extended run of Robo-Hunter 'lost stories' from this superb creative team.



FUTURE SHOCKS - THE EXPOSE
Script - Jody Leheup
Art - Jefte Palo
Letters - Simon Bowland

This is a nice little Future Shock by newcomers, Jody Leheup and Jefte Palo, which manages to effectively craft a solid status-quo and deliver a neat twist at the end evoking memories of sci-fi classic 'Soylent Green'. I really liked the central concept of capturing the 'soul' from the human brain in its death throes and placing it into a robotic 'prison' and I also liked the sudden 'punch to the gut' reveal that the protagonist had undergone the same fate. I really liked the stylised approach to Jefte Palo's artwork and thought it suited the grey-scale colour scheme and would love to see him do more Future Shocks in the future.



DURHAM RED - THE CALLING
Script - Robert Murphy
Art - Duane Redhead
Colours - Kirsty Swan
Letters - Ellie de Ville

I really like the Durham Red character – I mean, she's a sexy, redhead vampire bounty hunter, what's not to like? - but it felt like she got written into a bit of a corner after leaving the Strontium Dog universe and embarking on epic adventures in the future with Dan Abnett and Mark Harrison's 'Scarlet Cantos' storyline. So, I expected this storyline to be another 'lost adventure' in the same manner as 'The Nobody Wants This Job Job' storyline which ran in Progs 1785 – 1790, but was pleasantly surprised to find out that this was actually a continuation of the Abnett / Harrison incarnation of the character, offering a brand-new direction for Red following her 'Mutant Messiah' stage.

In a Future Shocks manner, this story from Robert Murphy packs a nice little twist which works in line with the character and showcases her 'bitch' persona well to readers not familiar with her. The hint that she is considering a return to bounty-hunting gives hope to a 'back to basics' approach in the near future, making her accessible again to readers who may have gotten lost with the more complex nature of her far-future exploits. The artwork by Duane Redhead is really impressive and he manages to capture the sexiness of the character, as well as her dangerous nature when she reveals herself to be vampire. I really hope this one-off storyline leads to a regular series from this creative team, as it would be great to see Durham Red back in the Prog proper.



ORLOK: AGENT OF EAST-MEG ONE
Script - Arthur Wyatt
Art - Jake Lynch
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

Having Orlok as the central character of a strip is an unusual choice, especially considering the character is long dead, but this storyline by Dredd: Underbelly writer, Arthur Wyatt, is a fun slice of East-Meg One espionage set in the past of the Judge Dredd universe. Maybe it's because Arthur Wyatt is associated with the movie version of Judge Dredd, but reading this strip made me realise that Orlok would be a brilliant antagonist for a sequel (if one happens) or at the very least, another comic-book sequel.

The strip had some brilliant artwork from Jake Lynch, which feels reminiscent to Jock's style. I really love the scratchy, rawness to the artwork, which looks fantastic in black and white and suits the grimy spy-drama feel of the storyline. It's almost a shame that Orlok is dead in the main Judge Dredd continuity as it would be nice to see him revisited in future stories, although perhaps if Wyatt is fond of the character, he might reappear in the movie universe instead.



ROGUE TROOPER - DREGS OF WAR
Script - Guy Adams
Art - Darren Douglas
Letters - Simon Bowland

As with Robo-Hunter and Durham Red, Rogue Trooper is another character who found himself straying from his central concept, with confusing multiple continuities and a retelling of his origin, and really benefits from this 'back to basics' one-off storyline to capture the core essence of the character and represent him for new and lapsed readers.


This return visit to the character comes from newcomers, Guy Adams (who recently wrote Ulysses Sweet: Maniac for Hire) and Darren Douglas who has provided some beautiful covers for the Prog recently. Wisely ignoring the nitty-gritty of Rogue's history and mission, Adams quickly establishes the idea behind bio-chips without lengthy exposition and throws Rogue into his future-war setting, amazingly rendered by Darren Douglas' sublime artwork. It's an action-orientated storyline, tailored towards Douglas' skill at creating dynamic, high-octane set pieces, such as when the zombified soldiers advance on Rogue.

This is a great showcase for Guy Adams' scripting abilities, allowing him to demonstrate his aptitude for writing serious drama, after his more satirical script for Ulysses Sweet, and it also works as a great example of Darren Douglas' interior artwork. Hopefully both will return in the main Prog soon!



OVERALL THOUGHTS:

I think it was a fantastic idea to bring back the Sci-Fi summer specials, as it works perfectly as the counterbalance to the end of year annual. I also hope that Tharg continues to use the 'new writers on old thrills' concept as it was a really interesting experience to see old characters revisited by new voices. Personally, the highlight of the special was a very authentic Robo-Hunter tale that felt ripped straight out of a Prog in the early 80's. I was also intrigued by the potential new status quo for Durham Red and whether this would inspire future stories in the main Prog. Overall, I feel like this was a resounding success and I would very much love to see this return in June 2015!


The physical edition of the 2000AD Sci-Fi Special will be available in stores on Wednesday 28th May - 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!

Review - Brass Sun # 1 (of 6)

Brass Sun # 1 (of 6)
Written by: Ian Edginton
Art by: I.N.J. Culbard

Brass Sun is a recent addition to the 2000AD line-up, first appearing in a serialised form in Prog 1800 with the story, 'Wheel of the Worlds', before reappearing with its second book, 'The Diamond Age' shortly afterwards in Prog 1850. The series has a very distinct feel and atmosphere to other stories that have appeared in the anthology, which might be why it has proven so popular with the readers, leading to it being chosen as 2000AD's first foray into the monthly US-sized comic format. This six-issue miniseries will collect the initial two books that have already appeared in 2000AD, as well as the third, yet to be released, chapter: 'Floating Worlds'.

The series is set in The Orrery, a “clock-punk” solar system made up of a 'Brass Sun' surrounded by planets rotating on cogs. However, the life-giving Brass Sun has begun to slow, causing an ice age to occur on the most distant planets, which has not gone unnoticed. The series' lead protagonist, Wren, and her grandfather, have discovered that the whole system of planets is in danger, but are unable to appeal to the society they live in, which is deeply religious and believes in the 'Cog' rather than scientific facts. This conflict between science and faith forms the backbone of this first issue, as both Wren and her grandfather must begin their journeys to save the whole solar-system.



I absolutely loved this first issue, from its perfectly-designed front cover layout to the final page cliffhanger. As an introduction to the series, it does a fantastic job of crafting a truly unique looking universe with its 'clock-punk' designed world. The characters are superbly written, with the female lead, Wren, looking to follow in the footsteps of 2000AD's long-held tradition of strong, female protagonists, such Judge AndersonDurham Red and Halo Jones.

In the space of thirty pages, Ian Edginton manages to create some really strong characters with complex motivations. Even though it was the first issue, the confrontation between Cadwallader and the Lord Archimandrite felt like the resolution of months of foreshadowing, and the events that occurred on the bridge had a climactic feel to them, rather than the initial beginnings of Wren's quest. It's a testament to Edginton's skill as a writer that the reader is able to quickly identify with the characters and become attached to them within such a short space of time.


Alongside the fantastic script, the other major factor in the successful world-building is the absolutely beautiful and sublime artwork from I.N.J. Culbard, which manages to evoke memories of Hayao Miyazaki's Studio Ghibli films, particularly Nausicaa: Valley of the Wind, which the story shares many similarities with. As well as the clockwork design of the solar-system and the planets within it, Culbard's artwork works seamlessly with Edginton's words to stir up the emotions and bring a flavour of epic fantasy to the proceedings. However, despite Culbard's ability to bring a sense of beauty to the storyline, he also manages to convey the brutal violence that also occurs, with Cadwallader's brutal treatment at the hands of the Lord Archimandrite, as well as the injuries Wren receives trying to escape. While there is a sense of Studio Ghibli about this serial, it is quick to remind the reader of the brutal realities of the situation Wren is in, as well as raising the stakes if she should fail in her quest.

Overall, this is a truly brilliant opening issue to the Brass Sun storyline and a fantastic choice by 2000AD to launch their US-sized comics line. The series will appeal to fans of old-school fantasy epics, and there is a raft of subtle echoes to fantasy classics such as: Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal and The Never-Ending Story within the script. Fans of this genre and those movies would do well to pick up this first issue and get immersed in this 'clock-punk' epic at the ground floor.


Score - 9.4 out of 10

Brass Sun # 1 is now available in all good comic shops, including Forbidden Planet, as well as on the 2000AD webshop. Be sure to put in a standing order for the remaining issues in the series when you pick up your copy!

2000AD Prog 1883

Prog 1883 Cover by Nick Percival

This is a fantastic photo-realistic cover with a reality-blurring twist representing the central theme of the Judge Dredd story found within. It’s great to see Nick Percival’s stunning artwork back in the Prog, and this cover is a treat for the eyes which perfectly demonstrates his artistic prowess.


JUDGE DREDD - TRAUMATOWN (Part 1)
Script - Michael Carroll
Art - Nick Percival
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

This week’s Dredd sees the return of art droid Nick Percival in his first Judge Dredd storyline since ‘Goodnight Kiss’ way back in Prog 940. Despite only a handful of appearances in 2000AD, his beautiful artwork definitely stands out, evoking a gritty, brutal and realistic atmosphere that makes him well-suited to both Judge Dredd and Slaine, which he worked on during the mid-nineties.


Also returning is script droid, Michael Carroll, who revisits on-going plot threads from his earlier storyline ‘New Tricks’ from Prog 1850, with the appearance of Judge’s Joyce and Pax establishing a supporting cast for the aging lawman. It also appears that Carroll is touching upon the recurring theme of Dredd’s mental stability, referenced by Rob Williams during his recent storylines, ‘Titan’ and ‘The Man Comes Around’ with Dredd undergoing further hallucinations and visions, which are now affecting his judgment. I’m slightly skeptical as to whether this is actually going to resolve Rob William’s plot-point, and whether it is actually a red herring aimed at readers expecting a clear-cut resolution. I strongly suspect that the source of Dredd’s current hallucinations in this story may be down to a faulty sleep machine, but as a twist, it will transpire that Dredd is still undergoing his long-term vision issues, which will be resolved at a later date by the Williams droid himself.

Overall, this is a cracking start to another Dredd storyline with strong artwork and a sturdy script riddled with mystery. I’m looking forward to seeing this one develop further!



SLAINE: THE BRUTANIA CHRONICLES - A SIMPLE KILLING (Part 10)
Script - Pat Mills
Art - Simon Davis
Letters - Ellie de Ville

Despite her escape from a terrible fate at the hands of the Drune Lords earlier in the tale, this episode sees Sinead undergo torturous experiments to instill obedience and presumably, turn her into a trap for Slaine – I’d imagine some hideous creature is likely to burst out of her stomach at the most inopportune moment. In terms of developments for our lead character, after a grueling fight against one forest giant, it looks like he has to encounter several more, which should provide Simon Davis with some opportunities to flex his artistic muscles on another dynamic and spectacular fight sequence next week.



OUTLIER (Part 10)
Script - T.C. Eglington
Art - Karl Richardson
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

Outlier ends with a bang, quite literally, as Caul explodes destroying his captors and leaving Carcer to face the authorities and provide a report of the chaos. There is a semblance of a ‘happy ending’ for Caul, whose original form remains trapped in the Hurde archive along with his love, Jessica, for eternity. It’s a bittersweet ending, however, as she remains just out of reach in another water-tank.

My one criticism of the storyline was that the character of Carcer seemed superfluous to the plot, serving as a brief introduction to the murders through a crime-scene format, and then closing the story with his report to the authorities. Ultimately, he made little to no impact on the actual plot, which is surprising as the first episode suggested he would be more connected to events with the repetition of lines spoken by Caul implying some kind of relationship between the two, which never came to fruition. Overall, it was an enjoyable and often visually impressive story about revenge, but the series seemed to lack any distinctive twist to set it apart and make it memorable.



INDIGO PRIME - PERFECT DAY (Part 4)
Script - John Smith
Art - Lee Carter
Letters - Simon Bowland

Artist, Lee Carter, knocks it out of the park with a double page spread filled with intimate details of the ‘Transhumanfest party’ at the end of time. Much like his full page spread of TV screens in last week’s Prog, the panel contains plenty of little pop-culture references and Easter eggs for eagle-eyed readers, such as what appears to be the Penguins from Batman Returns and Ernie from Sesame Street.


Script-wise, John Smith's story continues to concentrate on Schroder’s trip around the multiverse, allowing Lee Carter to indulge in some truly fantastic visuals. However, it appears that things may become more complicated with an external threat to Schroder’s voyage and a ghostly apparition in the final panel. I’m really beginning to enjoy this story now and the bat-shit craziness of it all.



THARG'S 3RILLERS: IN SECONDS FLAT  (Part 1)
Script - Eddie Robson
Art - Andrew Currie
Colour - Abigail Ryder
Letters - Ellie de Ville

This new Tharg’s 3rillers is very reminiscent of a previous story in the series, 'Survival Geeks' both in terms of its humourous approach and its artistic appearance. The story takes place in contemporary times and fits into a genre I like to call, “Sci-Fi Light”, which offers a light-hearted adventure set in the confines of a relatable universe, nearly identical to our own. It reminds me of the ongoing series, Bec & Kawl, which often provided a satirical and causal break from the more serious drama within the Prog.


I like the central concept of a man travelling back in time every year and living out a fresh year alongside his other incarnations, although I do wonder why he would go to these lengths to keep in close proximity with his earlier and future selves. Luckily, it appears that this question is central to the storyline, as our protagonist is unable to answer before being interrupted by an alien with a large gun. This seems like a fun time-travel romp and hopefully with a clever, little twist in the tale too.



OVERALL THOUGHTS / NEXT WEEK:

This week provided two strong introductions in the form of a thrilling new Judge Dredd adventure and a fun little Tharg’s 3riller, as well as seeing off Outlier. Both Slaine and Indigo Prime seem to be building up to bigger confrontations, which will likely occur in the next Prog. With a gap in the line-up, I imagine we’ll get another quick Sinister/Dexter or Jaegir adventure before the next ‘jumping on point’ Prog occurs.


The physical edition of 2000AD Prog 1883 will be available in stores on Wednesday 28th May - 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, 24 May 2014

Review - Agents of SHIELD: 1x21 - "Ragtag"

Agents of SHIELD
Episode 1x21 - "Ragtag"


Synopsis

Cut off from SHIELD's resources, Coulson and his team embark on a low-tech mission to discover the whereabouts of the remaining Hydra forces, whilst a series of flashbacks reveal the dynamics of Ward and Garrett's relationship.

Review

As the penultimate episode of the season, it was expected that this would be mainly set-up for the finale and the episode does suffer slightly because of it, losing some of the momentum that had built up around the discovery of Ward’s betrayal. However, there are still some very interesting revelations here, such as Garrett’s terminal illness, which explains his desire to synthesize the ‘miracle’ GH-325 drug and provides a more personal motivation behind his obsession with Coulson’s resurrection. The reveal that he was the original Deathlok ‘patient zero’ also sheds some light on why he chose to rebuild Mike Peterson as the new and improved model, with Mike’s abandonment echoing the same trauma that he himself endured.

The backbone of this episode was the flashback storyline which delved into the history between Ward and Garrett, explaining his rebellious past with his parents and older brother and positioning the older SHIELD agent as a twisted father figure, moulding the younger agent in his image. While the flashbacks were slightly dull in places, it did a good job in painting the relationship between the two men, and offers a semblance of hope that Ward might be redeemed one day – I mean, he was practically brainwashed into joining Hydra, wasn't he? I really liked the ambiguity surrounding his decision whether to kill the dog or not, and how it paralleled his decision regarding Fitz and Simmons.

Another key mystery which was revisited in this episode was that of Skye's origins, which had taken a backseat to Coulson's resurrection and the emergence of Hydra. Curiously, the new details regarding her parents and 0-8-4 beginnings comes from Raina, who seems to suggest she has some kind of connection with the girl, telling Ward that “inside she and I have something in common” implying they both share the same unique DNA. Later on, she reveals more details about the small Chinese village which was wiped out in order to find Skye, telling Ward that it was actually Skye's parents who performed the massacre. With access to this vital information, it appears that Raina is more important to the central mythology than we realised and perhaps has a darker, more complicated history than we have seen so far. I hope that we see a conversation between her and Skye in the finale to propel the mystery of Skye's parentage into the forefront of Season 2.

The episode ends with a really effective cliffhanger as Coulson, Skye, May and Triplett are outnumbered by several Centipede soldiers, one of whom is wielding the Asgardian Barbarian staff. Plus, we have the issue of Fitz and Simmons presumably sinking to the bottom of the ocean in a airtight container - although if anyone could get out of that situation, it would be those two geniuses. While it's extremely likely that Coulson and his team will somehow defeat Ward, Garrett and the Hydra remnants, I'm more interested to see how the events set up the status quo for next Season - Will Ward be held accountable for his crimes? Will Coulson and his team still be without a larger organisation, and on the run? Will we get any answers to the long-standing mysteries of GH-325 and Skye's parents? I'm expecting to enjoy the high-octane action promised in the season finale, but I think I'll be looking forward to seeing how things are once the dust settles and where the show plans to go from here.


Score - 9.0 out of 10


Easter Eggs/References
  • Coulson finds a drawer labelled 'Brand Corporation' in Cybertek's file room – As with Cybertek, the Brand Corporation is a subsidiary of Roxxon and specialises in robotics and inter-dimensional exploration (First app: Amazing Adventures Vol. 2 # 11)
  • Another drawer Coulson spots is labelled 'Metrobank Correspondence' – Metrobank is another subsidiary of Roxxon and a front for the Nth Command organisation (First app: Captain America # 289)
  • The 'Rush Cleaning Services' Van that the team uses to wait outside Cybertek has the number 616 on it - a reference to both the SHIELD call-sign of The Bus and the numbered designation of the Marvel Universe within the multi-verse

Mysteries
  • What is Raina's connection to Skye? Could they be blood related, or are they both 0-8-4's?
  • According to Raina, Skye's parents were the ones who destroyed the Chinese village to find her as a baby - Why?

Next Episode - "Beginning of the End"
Dark secrets are revealed as Coulson and his team put everything on the line to stop Garrett and the forces of Hydra, on the explosive season finale of "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." 

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

2000AD Prog 1882

Prog 1882 Cover by Simon Davis

This week's Prog features an absolutely beautiful wraparound cover by Slaine artist Simon Davis depicting our barbarian hero mid-battle against the Forest Giant he encountered last week. It's a stunning piece of painted artwork and would look lovely without the logos, in a poster format. When the inevitable hardcover collection of this current Slaine adventure comes out, it is going to be blessed with some truly fantastic pieces of art within it.


JUDGE DREDD - SHOOTERS NIGHT (Part 4)
Script - John Wagner
Art - John McCrea
Colours - Chris Blythe
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

In this concluding episode of 'Shooters Night', we learn the full extent of Jimmy Zane's spree-shooting plot, and its more far-reaching than the Judges first expected, leading to a 'punch in the gut' moment when Dredd realises that there are more groups out there, unaccounted for. John Wagner manages to take the reader through a range of emotions with an effective, but vicious plot twist that sees Dredd fail on a fairly grand scale, with over one thousand citizens dead because of his misjudgement during his interview with the psychiatrist, Steinstein.


I can't remember an instance where Dredd failed to uphold the law on such a massive scale, aside from the mega-epics, but he usually triumphs in the end – here, he has to swallow the loss and accept his part in failing to protect the city. Following on from Rob Williams' recent storylines, 'Titan' and 'Fit', there seems to be a focus on Dredd's age effecting his performance as a Judge, and from the previews released online, next week's storyline, 'Traumatown' looks to explore this even further. Art-wise, John McCrea's work has been brilliant on this storyline, and the panel where Jimmy Zane and Hannibal meet their end in a hail of bullets is fantastic. Hopefully, we will see him return for some more adventures in Mega-City One soon!



SLAINE: THE BRUTANIA CHRONICLES - A SIMPLE KILLING (Part 9)
Script - Pat Mills
Art - Simon Davis
Letters - Ellie de Ville

At the risk of sounding like a broken record (again!), but this is another amazing feat of storytelling by the Simon Davis droid, ably assisted by Pat Mills' script. The battle between Slaine and the Forest Giant is expertly depicted by Davis, who makes use of panel space and size to create a dynamic sense of action as the two axe-wielders clash. The liberal use of blood once Slaine beheads his enemy helps exaggerate the brutal violence and contrasts nicely against the green backgrounds of the previously serene forest location.


Whilst Simon Davis handles the bulk of the storytelling in this action-packed chapter with his sublime artistic direction of events, Pat Mills adds a secondary layer in the background with the two mysterious observers commenting on the "hero disease" that Slaine is 'afflicted by' and how they intend to cure him by giving him the death he appears to crave based on his foolhardy actions. Over the past few instalments, there has been some effective foreshadowing that Slaine is heading towards a fatal trap, leading me to expect a rather shocking cliffhanger at the end of this chapter from 'The Brutania Chronicles'.



OUTLIER (Part 9)
Script - T.C. Eglington
Art - Karl Richardson
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

In this penultimate episode, we received a reason why the Hurde had released Caul to go on his journey of revenge, which was because they were unfamiliar with the emotion and wanted to see it explored, which might account for the unusually bloodthirsty approach that Caul has taken, rather than specifically targeting Ramona, who as the Captain, should be most accountable for abandoning him on the Hurde ship.

I really liked the concept of 'Armorigami' droids, which had a fantastic design by Karl Richardson, highlighting their ability to learn and adapt from Caul's behaviour patterns. They seemed like a worthy foe to counteract and defeat the Hurde-enhanced Caul, who up until now had seemed near-unbeatable. With next week's episode bringing a conclusion to the series, hopefully there will be some kind of reveal on a connection between Caul and Carcer, otherwise that particular element of the series will seem like a red herring.



INDIGO PRIME - PERFECT DAY (Part 3)
Script - John Smith
Art - Lee Carter
Letters - Simon Bowland

This series is shaping up to feature some gloriously over-the-top science fiction elements, with the central concept of a dying Nazi wishing to travel the multi-verse with his undead daughter and two snappily dressed chaperones, as well as a secondary plot point involving two genetically monsters having "giant monster sex" on Jekyll Island. As with last episode, the narrative has settled down after a somewhat confusing first installment, and going back and reading the three episodes as a whole makes for a much more cohesive experience. I'm enjoying this main storyline of Danny and Unthur taking Schroder on a tour of the multi-verse, and hope that it doesn't get too cluttered with the other sub-plots which were referenced in the initial episode in Prog 1880.

Art-wise, Lee Carter continues to blend his realistic style with truly out-of-this-world visuals, as evidenced by the massive panel depicting two genetically altered monsters having some rather creepy sexual intercourse. With the appearance of a nude, stuffed Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip in the first episode, and now usage of the word “Bukkake” to describe the climax to the “giant monster sex”, it is clear that this serial is aimed towards mature readers, both in terms of the content and the complexity of the plot, and being familiar with John Smith's work on the excellent Cradlegrave, I look forward to seeing how he plans to disturb and challenge the reader with this storyline.



THARG'S 3RILLERS: COLONY  (Part 3)
Script - Kek-W
Art - Vince Locke
Colour - Adam Brown
Letters - Ellie de Ville

After the protagonist appeared to surrender last episode, it is revealed that this was a bluff as both he and his friend attack the collective directly to prevent a hostile invasion from aliens. While it could have been possibly shrunken into a Future Shock size, I think the three-part format really worked for the storyline, allowing for the setting and concept to develop, whilst throwing in a simple, but brilliant twist at the end, which I didn't see coming. Overall, it was a great little one-off from Kek-W and Vince Locke, and perfectly fit in the Tharg's 3riller's mould.


In a blog post last year, I once discussed which 2000AD series could be made into films or TV shows, and I suggested that Tharg's Future Shocks would make a great TV series, using the 'Tales from the Crypt' anthology format, and I think that this Tharg's 3riller is so cinematic in scope and rich with atmosphere, that it would make for a brilliant one-hour 'TV movie'.



OVERALL THOUGHTS / NEXT WEEK:

After several teases online, I am looking forward to the beginning of 'Traumatown', a Judge Dredd story from Michael Carroll and Nick Percival, which promises to explore Dredd's state of mind, following his recent traumatic experiences. Percival hasn't done interiors for the magazine since the Slaine story, 'King of Hearts' way back in Prog 1033, although his artwork is most well-known for his Judge Dredd storyline, 'Goodnight Kiss' back in Prog 940. Aside from a new beginning, we also have the conclusion to Outlier, which hopefully will provide both some answers and some closure to the adventure.


The physical edition of 2000AD Prog 1882 will be available in stores on Wednesday 21st May - 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, 17 May 2014

Review - Agents of SHIELD: 1x20 - "Nothing Personal"

Agents of SHIELD
Episode 1x20 - "Nothing Personal"


Synopsis

Coulson and his team struggle to come to terms with the revelation that they've had a traitor in their midst the whole time, whilst Skye must outsmart both Ward and Deathlok to prevent important SHIELD data from getting into Hydra's hands.

Review

Ever since the mid-season break, Agents of SHIELD has seen an uptake in quality, introducing some great guest-stars such as Bill Paxton, whilst strengthening its ties to both the Marvel Comic and Cinematic Universes with appearances from Deathlok and Lady Sif. However, the show seems to have truly sky-rocketed in quality with its recent episodes focused on the aftermath of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which saw Hydra infiltrate SHIELD and effectively destroy it within. Suddenly this supplementary TV show has become essential viewing in order to watch the Marvel Cinematic Universe develop before Avengers: Age of Ultron is released in 2015.

After the 'horror movie' vibe from last episode, this week's installment saw the show return to the action-adventure genre as Coulson's team dealt with the revelation of Ward's betrayal and attempted to rescue Skye from the clutches of Hydra. The episode was perfectly paced – stringing out the tension between Ward and Skye as she attempted to outsmart him without alerting him to the fact she was aware of his duplicity. The moment the secret was out, I was on the edge of my seat, teetering ever closer to the floor once Deathlok appeared in the fore as a desperate Skye made her escape. This was the most cinematic episode that the show has ever produced, even moreso than “Yes Men” which acted as an epilogue to Thor: The Dark World. The sequence with Coulson rescuing Skye from the Bus from both Deathlok and Ward had to be the most thrilling and rewarding moment from the show yet, delivering some nifty fan-service by showcasing the flying car, Lola, in a dramatic escape.

While the episode managed to stand on its own two feet and deliver a fantastic storyline, there was a great deal of plot construction for the future here too. Seeds were planted for a new status quo for the SHIELD team, with Maria Hill referencing a 'privatised global security team' funded by Tony Stark replacing the now-defunct SHIELD organisation. Could this be where Coulson and his team end up after dealing with Garrett and the remnants of Hydra? Maybe the show will be renamed 'Agents of STARK'?

It was nice to see Maria Hill again, although I don't feel Cobie Smulders is as interesting as Saffron Burrows was as Victoria Hand – she seems to lack the same authority and confidence as her comic-book counterpart and I have to agree with Agent Ward's summation of her that “Fury wanted some eye candy on the helicarrier”. With her stint on How I Met Your Mother at an end, this episode seemed to suggest a more long-term position for Maria Hill as Coulson's superior, if the team were to accept the offer of working for Stark. I would like to see more from her, and see her develop into a stronger, more complex character than has been seen so far in the films and brief cameos in this show.

This episode also finally 'outed' Agent Ward as a traitor to the whole team, with Fitz taking the revelation particularly badly. He seemed to display some Asperger syndrome traits in his behaviour, and I wonder if the writers plan on exploring this as a plot-point. The rest of the team react in shock and anger, as expected, although we don't get to see much of May's reaction as she is absent for the majority of the episode chasing up leads on Coulson's resurrection. I'm looking forward to seeing the emotions that come to the fore when these characters finally meet up with Ward in person.

I really enjoyed the interaction between Ward and Skye as their relationship went through a number of changes, with Ward sucker-punched by her betrayal in the diner, and his creepy 'Nazi Puppy Dog' routine as he tried to rationalise his defection and convince her to do the same. Ward clearly has feelings for Skye and despite her claims to the contrary, the fact that she revealed the secret of the hard-drive to stop Deathlok from killing him suggests she still harbours some feelings towards Ward. I hope that this relationship continues to grow more complex as the episodes continue with a 'star-crossed' lovers routine developing akin to the early Buffy/Angel relationship in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.


The highlight of the episode has to be the Coulson rescue aboard the Bus, which not only showed off some impressive CGI action as Lola plummeted towards the ground, but really captured a sense of danger with Coulson outnumbered with both Ward and Deathlok aboard. I loved the sequence where Skye pointed out that Deathlok was aboard, and how Coulson switched from bravely advancing to wisely retreating. The whole sequence was pitch-perfect, with a fantastic pay-off as Lola landed in a parking space, as the valet charged the two wind-swept Agents a $20 parking fee.

As usual, the episode ended with a shocking twist in its stinger segment as May unveiled the identity of who was responsible for the T.A.H.I.T.I. project, and it appears the Coulson himself was at one point in charge of the project, designed to save the life of The Avengers should one fall in battle, but ironically used on him instead. Interestingly, Coulson points out the side-effects of the resurrection, which were mental deterioration and complete psychosis, explaining that only memory implants had been mildly successful in preventing this from occurring in test subjects. I'm guessing that now Coulson is aware of the process, he may begin to experience these side-effects himself – creating an even more unpredictable element in the team.

Overall, this was quite possibly the best episode that the show has produced so far, and rather excitedly, there's still two more to come. The plot threads are coming together nicely, and while I'd imagine the finale will deal with the immediate threat of Garrett and his Hydra remnants – the secret of Coulson's resurrection and the larger issue of where the team belongs in the world is likely to be the driving force of the second Season. I really can't wait to see where this show goes from now on, especially the whole 'Evil Ward' subplot – I just hope they don't kill him off in the Season Finale!


Score - 9.5 out of 10


Easter Eggs/References
  • One of the questions that Congress asked Maria Hill was "Who, or what, is a Man-Thing?" - Man-Thing is a fictional monster appearing in the Marvel Comics Universe (First app: Savage Tales # 1)
  • May suspects Alexander Pierce ordered Coulson's resurrection (Captain America: The Winter Soldier)
  • “The Red Skull, founder of Hydra, was a big fat frickin' Nazi” (Captain America)
  • “Say hello to Stark for me...oh yeah, never mind, he thinks I'm dead” (The Avengers)

Mysteries
  • Hill:You don't owe Garrett anything
    Ward:You're wrong” - Why exactly is Ward so loyal to Garrett and Hydra?
  • Are Coulson and Skye at risk of developing the mental side-effects of the T.A.H.I.T.I. Project?
  • What alien species is the 'Guest Host'?

Next Episode - "Ragtag"
In the last episode before the epic season finale, Ward's betrayal and Hydra's shocking secrets are revealed as Coulson's team goes undercover on a mission that leaves no one unscathed

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

2000AD Prog 1881

Prog 1881 Cover by Glenn Fabry & Kevin Molen

This is a fantastic cover from classic 2000AD art droid, Glenn Fabry, best known for his early work on Slaine. Fabry has a long history of impressive covers, most notably producing each of the single issue covers for Vertigo's Preacher series. I adore the level of detail that has gone into his work, from the intricate architecture in the background to the five skeleton crew members in the foreground. One minor nit-pick is the awkward positioning of Dredd, himself, who appears to be on bended knee, looking like he is about to propose, rather than looming over the criminals as an ever-present threat.


JUDGE DREDD - SHOOTERS NIGHT (Part 3)
Script - John Wagner
Art - John McCrea
Colours - Chris Blythe
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

I really liked the multiple narrative strands used in this episode as Dredd and his fellow Judges cracked down on the spree-shooting suspect to prevent them from performing the planned mega-spree under the orders of Jimmy Zane. There was a real sense of pace to the events as they unfolded simultaneously, showcasing the more procedural element to a Judge’s job, as they worked to apprehend the various spree-shooter suspects in a variety of ways.



I really liked the Day of the Dead costumes that the suspects wore – while it might not be the most conspicuous of costume choices, it certainly made for interesting visuals and helped the reader identify the various criminals as the script jumped from suspect to suspect. John McCrea’s artwork continues to impress with a fantastic level of detail in his line-work and a frenetic pace to the events, particularly the sequence where Dredd subdues a perp holding a hostage.



SLAINE: THE BRUTANIA CHRONICLES - A SIMPLE KILLING (Part 8)
Script - Pat Mills
Art - Simon Davis
Letters - Ellie de Ville

There isn't much plot advancement in this week’s episode of Slaine, as we follow our titular hero as he makes his way across the Isle of Monadh to rescue Sinead. However, when the artwork looks as beautiful as Simon Davis’ does, it is tough to criticise the length of the journey and much more enjoyable to sit back and survey the jaw-dropping scenery brought to life on the page. The opening pages are flush with amazing colour, but there is danger beneath the surface, as Davis creates a sense of tension by highlighting areas where the Drune Lords are following Slaine in camouflage. The final few pages promise an unusual fight as Slaine squares up…and I mean, up… to a forest giant.



The episode makes reference to earlier Slaine adventures, which I have begun to read, with Slough Feg, the Lord Weird, being mentioned by his offspring. It’s an interesting parallel of fathers, following Slaine’s own introspective look at his relationship with his own father earlier in the story, to finding out that the mysterious force behind Slaine’s current predicament is a descendant of Slough Feg. With its gentle pace, it feels like this whole adventure is the prologue to a much larger story with Slough Feg's legacy featuring prominently. I'd imagine we won't get a resolution to this current adventure at the end of this book, but a cliffhanger for the next series.



OUTLIER (Part 8)
Script - T.C. Eglington
Art - Karl Richardson
Letters - Annie Parkhouse

As expected, this episode we get an alternative version of the events that led to Caul's change, with Ramona condemning both him and Jess to a fate worse than death because she was a spurned lover. While this does clarify why Caul would want revenge on Ramona, his senseless killing of the other Outlier staff seems a bit over-the-top, especially since they had little to do with the decision to abandon him.



Karl Richardson’s artwork is fantastic with a great double-page spread demonstrating the level of chaos that Caul can cause with his Hurde technology. With all of the pieces coming together, it feels like we’re nearing the conclusion of this tale, although I’m unsure as to whether there will be a shocking twist in the tale – perhaps this has been a simple case of revenge from the beginning. It still feels like there should be something a bit more behind the events, especially with Carcer, who has been largely there to provide first-hand POV of Caul’s crimes and hasn't impacted the plot directly.



INDIGO PRIME - PERFECT DAY (Part 2)
Script - John Smith
Art - Lee Carter
Letters - Simon Bowland

With a single narrative to follow in this Prog, I found it much easier to process the events of this episode without complication as Danny and Unthur prepare to take a dying Nazi on a tour of the multiverse. I really like the weird juxtaposition between the multi-verse shenanigans and references to our culture, such as Pulp Fiction.

The artwork by Lee Carter continues to impress, especially the full page depicting Danny’s wall of television screen, which appears laden with in-jokes. I liked the glimpse at the insect version of ‘I’m a Celebrity’ that he mentions in the script and what appears to be an alternate version of Bagpuss. Also, keen eyes may notice that Danny’s drink of choice happens to be John Smith’s Bitter in a very meta reference to the script droid himself! It’s still early days, but this strip seems to be showing potential and hopefully will continue to draw me in despite its initial confusing installment.



THARG'S 3RILLERS: COLONY  (Part 2)
Script - Kek-W
Art - Vince Locke
Colour - Adam Brown
Letters - Ellie de Ville

Creepier things begin to happen in the colony as Kek-W continues to craft a horror movie tone in his script with a distinctive Russian flavour. This episode sees an alien virus introduced to the colony which increases productivity in the work force – Tharg needs to keep quiet about this, otherwise they will start putting it into the water supply at my day job!

The virus does have its side effects, however, with the work force preparing for the arrival of ‘The Collective’, even undergoing physical changes themselves. The episode maintains a strong ‘Invasion of the Body Snatchers’ vibe, concluding with a surprise twist as our browbeaten protagonist appears to give in to the alien swarm, offering to join them himself.



OVERALL THOUGHTS / NEXT WEEK:

Art-wise, the Prog is a treat for the optical sensors, with some absolutely gorgeous double-page spreads from Simon Davis in Slaine and Karl Richardson in Outlier. Add in Lee Carter's sublime ultra-realistic approach in Indigo Prime, as well as John McCrea and Vince Locke's work in their respective strips, and you have a Prog filled to the brim with top-notch artistic talent.

Next Prog sees the final episodes of Judge Dredd and Colony, possibly heralding the return of either Jaegir or Sinister Dexter to the pages of the Prog, alongside a new Dredd epic, heavily rumoured to be 'Trauma Town' by Michael Carroll and Nick Percival. I can barely wait - this is the moment to be a 2000AD fan - it's firing on all cylinders and shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon!


The physical edition of 2000AD Prog 1881 will be available in stores on Wednesday 14th May - 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, 10 May 2014

Review - Agents of SHIELD: 1x19 - "The Only Light in the Darkness"

Agents of SHIELD
Episode 1x19 - "The Only Light in the Darkness"


Synopsis

Whilst Agent Ward attempts to get Skye to decrypt the SHIELD hard-drive before his double-agent status is discovered, the rest of the team track down one of the escapees from The Fridge who has ties to Coulson's past.

Review

After a strong mythology-led episode, this week saw a return to the 'villain of the week' format, dealing with the aftermath of the breakout at The Fridge, specifically the escape of Marcus Daniels, a super-powered psychopath obsessed with Coulson's ex-girlfriend. It also explored the agents adjustment to the new SHIELD status quo, with limited resources and no back-up as they struggled to contain Daniels. The strongest element of the episode, however, was Agent Ward's attempts to avoid detection as a Hydra spy whilst trying to get Skye to decrypt the hard-drive filled with SHIELD notes.

The character of Marcus Daniels was an interesting one, with a curious power set, but unfortunately he didn't get too much screen-time or in-depth character motivation besides his obsessive personality. There were too many plates to spin in this episode with the introduction of Audrey Nathan (Coulson's Cellist ex-girlfriend) and Ward's double-agent sub-plot taking place in the Providence secret base, so it felt that Daniels (aka Blackout from the Comics) was slightly misrepresented. Hopefully his apparent demise was merely him teleporting into the dark-force and he will reconstitute himself somewhere for a Season 2 reappearance, hoping reuniting Audrey and Coulson in the process. It was refreshing to see him as an established character with his origin story occurring prior to the series, allowing the show to hit the ground running and not have to have a lengthy explanation of how he got his powers, however, this may have contributed to the brief nature of his appearance.

Referenced in several episodes of the series, as well as in The Avengers, viewers finally got to put a face and a name to Coulson's cellist ex-girlfriend, who believed him to be dead after 'The Battle of New York' – it was a bit cheesy to have Coulson save her (with some Ghostbusters-inspired Gamma Ray guns) but not reveal his identity to her, but by casting Whedon-alumni, Amy Acker, in the role, I have suspicions that we will see her character again, and a reunion of sorts. In fact, with SHIELD all but gone, I wouldn't be surprised if her character somehow ended up joining the ragtag group of ex-Agents.

It was also interesting to see the parallels between the key relationships in the show, with Coulson and the Cellist kept apart because of his dedication to his job, Fitz deciding to keep his feelings about Simmons to himself because it might change things between them, and Skye and Ward unable to have a relationship because they work for opposite organisations. I look forward to seeing how these relationships continue to evolve and if any of them get a happy ending.

While the Blackout storyline was a fun diversion from the main Hydra storyline, quite literally for the characters involved, this episode really came into its own with the Agent Ward double-agent plot, as he attempted to access the hard-drive data without exposing his true intentions. The more obstacles that got in his way, the more tense things got, and I was just waiting for him to let the mask slip and kidnap Skye. It was fun watching him interact with the characters, knowing more about his motivations behind each word, and really demonstrated some great acting by Brett Dalton. Also, Chloe Bennett's reaction to discovering one of her closest allies on the team was in fact a murderous Hydra agent was pitch-perfect and her little break-down in the bathroom was some of the best acting in the series to date. Equally impressive, and slightly hard to believe, was the way the character managed to compose herself and figure out Ward's 'penny in the door' trap to prevent him for realising she was onto him.


One of the most interesting sequences of the episode was Koenig's lie-detector test on the main cast, which was not only dramatically exciting because of the Ward situation, but also revealed some interesting facts about our heroes. For instance, May was married once, Skye's real name is 'Mary Sue Poots' (a reference to both her 'Mary Sue' qualities and fans who thought her true identity would be a recognisable Marvel character). On a more character-driven note, we found out that Fitz is in love with Simmons, Triplett has a famous grandfather and Simmons, herself, is something of a Whovian. However, none of these revelations matched the 'edge-of-the-seat' scale of Eric Koenig pulling out a gun and questioning Ward on his loyalty to SHIELD – It was spectacular story-telling and one of the most tense moments of the episode.

The moment where things came to a head and Ward murdered Koenig (off-screen with a garrotte) turned the episode on its head, and it became about whether Skye would discover the truth about Ward, and whether Ward would be forced to kill or kidnap the one person he seemed to care about on the team – although the way he gave advice to Fitz seemed to suggest he might have stronger bonds to the team than he likes to think. The whole sequence where Skye used Koenig's lanyard-tracker programme on the tablet felt reminiscent of Aliens, with the recurring bleep sounds adding to the horror vibe, as she discovered Koenig's corpse and Ward's approaching footsteps. It was absolutely perfectly handled with Audrey's cello music playing underneath Skye's cautious search. Congratulations to the director of the episode, Vincent Misiano, for injecting an authentic horror vibe into a science-fiction adventure show.

Overall, this was a really fun episode that blended the 'villain of the week' trope with some real developments in the ongoing Hydra storyline. I'd imagine that these final three episodes will be fairly Hydra-intensive, with the remaining plot threads (Deathlok, Graviton, Raina and Ian Quinn) making their presence known before the inevitable confrontation between Coulson's team and  Garrett. I'm really looking forward to the plot strands coming together, and there's enough mysteries (Skye's 0-8-4 status, the Blue Alien) to keep the show going into Season 2.


Score - 9.2 out of 10


Easter Eggs/References
  • Marcus Daniels is known as the supervillian, 'Blackout' in the Marvel Comics Universe (First app: Nova # 19)
  • Agent Triplett's grandfather was one of the Howling Commandos. In the comics, the Commandos were a special unit led by Nick Fury during World War Two (First app: Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos # 1)
  • Koenig interrogates the SHIELD agents about Project Insight and Alexander Pierce (Captain America: The Winter Soldier)
  • Skye's real name is 'Mary Sue Poots' - debunking fan-theories that she might be a well-known character underneath a pseudonym and referencing her 'Mary Sue' qualities.
  • When asked what she would want with her on a desert island during her lie detector test, Simmons said “The TARDIS” suggesting she a Doctor Who fan.
  • Amy Acker plays Coulson's ex-girlfriend 'The Cellist' who was referenced in 'The Avengers', "The Bridge" and "The Magical Place"
  • Ward's older brother made Ward pick on his younger brother – explanation of the flashbacks from “The Well

Mysteries
  • Which one of the Howling Commandos was Agent Triplett's grandfather?
  • What else did Agent Ward's parents and older brother do to him?
  • Who did May's mother work for? Is she ex-SHIELD?
  • What does May want to talk to Maria Hill about?

Next Episode - "Nothing Personal"
Just when there's no one left to trust, Agent Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) returns to team up with Coulson as S.H.I.E.L.D. is being destroyed around them.
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