Third episode, second full rundown of random Marvel triva.
First things first, a spoiler-light recap: Some top-secret SHIELD McGuffin is captured by bad guys during a covert transport in Colorado. Coulson's Crew sends the rookie in to retrieve the package, but (shock of shocks) things don't go as planned. A potential new series bad guy is introduced, another potential supervillain is created, and the good guys cut their losses after saving the world.
Now for the pointless factoids, heavier spoilers to follow, obviously.
We'll get to Franklin Hall, this episode's McGuffin, at the end.
As the episode opens, viewers are introduced to Agent Mack and his trucker agents of SHIELD. While the truckers are helpfully codenamed Big Boy, Little Boy and Little Girl. Agent Mack is not an existing SHIELD agent from the comics, but SHIELD does have agents in every useful profession (even barber shops). There is someone called Agent Al MacKenzie, which is almost, but not entirely unlike "Agent Mack"; he helped (original) Nick Fury out during a crisis of corruption within SHIELD's ranks (see Nick Fury vs. SHIELD, 1988).
More tangentially, but perhaps more interestingly, Marvel does have some superpowered truckers - yes, plural. The most visually interesting is Razorback, AKA Buford T. Hollis, an animal-themed hero who drives a big rig while fighting crime in his electrified armor (although the term "armor" should be applied as loosely as possible). The more traveled hero is US Ace, the alias of Ulysses Solomon Archer (yeah, when you're born with a name like that, you have to be a superhero). Thanks to an alien abduction, ole' USA can now mentally communicate with CB radios, trucks, and all other kinds of useful things. Although he has dabbled in being a hero, his day job (if you can call it that) is trucking cargo through the spaceways and stopping at an intergalactic truck stop owned by friends of his.
Barnroof Point is near Durango, Colorado. If you ever find yourself in Durango, try the waffle tacos at Bobby D's Deli. I know, it sounds weird, but that place had some of the best chorizo I've tasted north of the border. (Sorry, I was driving through Colorado this past summer, and when I find good food, it makes an impression on me.)
Genius and evil businessman Ian Quinn - of Quinn Worldwide - seems to be a new one for the series, and I'll wager good money he becomes a regular foe for the good guys. Marvel, of course, has no shortage of evil billionaires, a few of which have already appeared in the movies, including Obadiah Stane (who appeared in the first Iron Man movie, and whose son is a regular enemy of Stark in the comics) and Justin Hammer (who was hammed up quite nicely by Sam Rockwell, but is dead in the comics, so his survivors torment Iron Man now).
The Republic of Malta apparently doesn't allow international peacekeeping agency SHIELD in, even though Peru does (and Peru was harboring Nazis last episode). Interesting plot device.
The episode also introduces the element of Gravitonium, atomic number 123, atomic mass 308. Marvel has its fair share of fictional materials, including at least two variations of Vibranium and the famous Wolverine-bone-sheather, Adamantium, but Gravitonium is a new one. Still fun, as it causes "wiggly bits" that change the rules of gravity. Interestingly, there is a precedent here. In terms of theoretical fictional physics, there exists such a thing as anti-gravitons in the Marvel Universe that allows giant monsters to stand despite their weight, flying heroes to lift impossible weights and other feats that would break the back of real-world physics. You could probably thank the late, great Mark Gruenwald for that, as it was under his tenure that the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe popularized that hand-waving concept.
Qasim Zaghlul is another new character. Skye credits him with the Arabian Blade in Dubai, which in the real world was designed by Claudio Catalano, or so the Internet tells me.
And now for this episode's featured asset: Dr. Franklin Hall, Canadian physicist, of course, becomes Graviton in the comics. Graviton is a particularly interesting character, because while he is a "villain," he is a very conflicted one.
He started out his fictional existence as a fairly forgettable Avengers villain who gained his powers in a scientific accident and promptly decided to conquer the world. In the '90s, however, Graviton transformed into something much more interesting. In Kurt Busiek's Thunderbolts series, we learn that the massively powerful Graviton has entered an existential phase and sought help from a supervillain psychologist (yes, Marvel has a superhero psychologist, mentioned last week, and a supervillain one, known best as Moonstone). With Moonstone's help, he found his true potential and nearly destroyed/remade the Earth (holding all superheroes helplessly in the air at the time), only to change his mind last minute when he realized he had been betrayed. The classic Thunderbolts series is worth checking out.
This episode also introduced the concept of the Fridge, a top secret SHIELD facility where even the agency's top men won't be able to work on Hall's gravitational problems thanks to Coulson throwing away the key. I'm sure that won't come back to haunt them.
Now a bit of housekeeping:
The Slingshot, mentioned last week and this week, does indeed seem to be a top secret solar orbiter intended for holding dangerous items.
Last week Fitz-Simmons mentioned Professor Vaughn and I mentioned SHIELD-agent-turned-superhero Wendell Vaughn. I neglected, however, to mention Wendell's father, Gilbert Vaughn, who is indeed a scientist and could very well have been Fitz-Simmons' mentor.
This episode, as with the two previous episodes, included "special thanks" in the credits for comic book creators who inspired elements of this episode.
Jim Steranko, of course, is probably the most influential SHIELD creator, as his designs created the pop art image of the agency's tech and his storylines helped develop webs of intrigue and suspense that hadn't really been seen too much in comics before that point.
Writer/editor Jim Shooter was one of the most influential Marvel creators for many years, and alongside famous Avengers and Hulk artist, Sal Buscema, created Graviton.
Bryan Hitch and Mark Millar are the artist and writer (respectively) responsible for making the Ultimates such a big deal. The Ultimates are an alternate reality version of the Avengers who tend to live harder, more visceral lives than those of Earth-616 heroes. That was also the series where the Samuel L. Jackson-esque Nick Fury made his official debut (although the character had appeared in another form previously).
Louis D'Esposito is a Marvel films creator, most notably, he directed two of the Marvel One-Shots that helped pave the way for the SHIELD series, "Item 47" and "Agent Carter." 47, in particular, introduced the term "Battle of New York," and gave us the film version of comic book SHIELD agent Jasper Sitwell (who, I understand, has a guest spot in the upcoming Captain America movie). That mini-sode also introduced SHIELD inductees Claire Weiss and Benjamin Pollock, who I guarantee would be welcome additions to this series.
That's it for now, feel free to point out anything I missed or got wrong. See you next time, agents!