The world of comics fans is divided on the matter of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the overarching alternate history that encompasses the Avengers, Iron Man, Captain America and Thor movie franchises (so far). Some people consider the movies an insult to canon and everything it stands for, while others take a more relaxed position and say that canon is already fragmented into so many alternate histories already that one more can’t possibly hurt anything. Then there are the people who are fans of the movies and don’t read the comics or care about the original material at all. Any way you look at it, the Marvel movies are elaborately interconnected enough to constitute a canon (sub- or otherwise) all their own.
And now that canon has expanded to include a television show, and opinions are divided on that, too. You’ll find mine here under the cut.
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D: I like it. It’s corny, shiny, tacky, and maybe a little silly, hardly the same sometimes touching, sometimes grandiose, always noisy and thrilling, bigger than life experience you get with one of the movies. But I like it.
On the smaller screen, with a vastly smaller budget, the TV series follows the canonical SHIELD spy/security agency and features no costumed superheroes (so far), but the episodes have a glossy surface and an authentic, cheesy/noble four color quality that makes the series seem much more like a mid-list Silver Age Marvel comic than anything I’ve ever seen in another medium. The writing only adds to the effect: tongue firmly in cheek and bashing away at the third wall with the same reckless charm of many of the same comics. Plots are much less important than character interactions and worldbuilding, which is also period-correct. The series is not without flaws, particularly in the casting, which suffers badly from the current grand Hollywood flaw of making everyone pretty-pretty to the point where all the characters look like siblings who have had lots of plastic surgery. A couple of characters have interesting faces (see below); the show would be infinitely better if they all did.
But let’s not miss the point here. What A SHIELD series in the Cinematic Universe needs most is Agent Phil Coulson, the deadpan, balding, middle aged badass with the wry wit who is the discerning fan’s favorite character in so many of the movies. Spoiler: Coulson is not dead (well, probably not dead) and Clark Gregg is playing him with his usual aplomb for a whole hour every Tuesday night and you should be watching him do it. Just watching Phil describe one of Assistant Director Hill’s notes as looking like “a little poop with knives sticking out of it” with a straight face is worth both the cost of the show and the time you spend watching it. There are other things to like, particularly Ming-Na Wen’s performance as the very cool new character, Agent Melinda May, and the technological dynamic duo of the Bus and Lola. But mostly, Cinematic Universe fans like Phil, and we are glad he has his own show.