Coulson is on the run, but what classic Marvel superhero could join him, and for that matter who are those Inhumans hanging around? All this and more in this week's Agents of SHIELD breakdown!
This week's Art of Evolution piece is by cover artist extraordinaire Dave Johnson. Johnson has done some amazing work for Marvel in recent years, but his covers for 100 Bullets deserve some attention. That critically acclaimed series might fly under the radar of non-comic fans, but if ever there was a series that should be a TV show…
The image also seems to be an homage to the kinds of graphical story webs current Avengers writer Jonathan Hickman likes using.
This episode was a dense one, filled with a lot of connecting story ideas linking many arcs, but it still seems like a calm between storms. The "real SHIELD" made their presence felt last week, and are headed for a confrontation with Coulson in the near future.
Still, plenty of opportunity for Inhumans worldbuilding, in preparation for that movie that is several years away.
Spoiler-Light Recap: Coulson and hunter are on the run, but who is on their side? Allies come out of the woodwork to covertly and overtly help the guy named Phil. Meanwhile, what's Skye up to and who's she with?
On with the Comic Connections
Let's start with Skye. When we last saw her, she'd taken down seven agents and critically wounded high-ranking "real SHIELD" Agent Calderon. Skye wakes up (almost) naked with some strange acupuncture in the mysterious Inhuman city of Lai Shi – known to the non-Mandarin speaking residents as the Afterlife – and teleporting is the only way in or out. Now there's an intense-sounding place. Now, Skye is told the name has no translation, but online translators tell me it may mean something along the lines of coming to a style, so something to do with "changing" maybe? It's also a person's name in China, as exemplified by the movie Lai Shi, China's Last Eunuch. Superficially the name sounds like the Lai-Son, an aquatic race Captain America encountered back in 1942, but that's neither here nor there. The fact that it has what appears to be Japanese-esque torii on a hill (though it may be a simple paifang, I'm no expert) gives it kind of a generic Southeast Asian feeling, much like another mysterious Asian location that can only be reached through special means: K'un L'un, a mystical city of dragons. Of course, K'un L'un will be more well-known in a year or two when it features on the Netflix series Iron Fist.
Skye's host, or Transitioner, is an affable young Inhuman med student from Cincinnati named Lincoln with some kind of electricity-generating powers that allow him to, among other things, cook popcorn and make people levitate. Lincoln doesn't seem based on any particular Marvel character, which is a shame, since there's plenty he could've been based on, like Lectronn (shown above), a guy with almost no background in the comics, or the Avenger called Living Lightning, who is unlikely to be featured in a full Avengers film, or heck, even Toro, the 1940s superhero recently revealed to be an Inhuman with elemental powers (meaning he could turn into or control electricity, among other things).
Whoever Lincoln is, he knows all about the Kree and ancient temples, and claims new Inhumans are transformed only once every few years. Of course, he also mislead Skye about Raina, who is hiding out in the Afterlife as well. Raina, still trying to adjust to her new self, is still ready to die by her enemy's hands, but is again denied. Although Skye doesn't like it, there's nothing she can do about it without approval from the Elders, whoever they are. In the comics, the main batch of Inhumans have a group of elders called the Genetics Council that makes day-to-day decisions for the Inhumans (although the sitting monarch still holds the most power).
Skye is also kept in the dark about her father, Cal (presumably Calvin Zabo, aka Mr. Hyde), who has been kept in a windowless room beating the walls with his bloody hands. Although Cal isn't allowed to see "Daisy" (Skye to you and me), he does talk to his former (?) wife Jiaying who is – dramatic reverb – not dead! Jiaying, who looks as young as she did in 1945 but with a lot of scars (presumably from Whitehall's experiments) introduces herself to Skye as a Guide, teaching young Inhumans the facts of life. She neglects to tell Skye about their connection however. In the comics, Royal Family member Gorgon has been instructing Nuhumans in their Terrigenesis-derived abilities, including those (like Raina) who are harmed or disturbed by their new forms.
Before moving on, something needs to be addressed. For a long time we've been running on the assumption that the teleporting, blind Inhuman who collects young Inhumans is Reader, the teleporting, blind Inhuman who collects young Inhumans, but it should be pointed out that there is an Inhuman named "Gordon" who recently appeared in the comics (shortly before Reader appeared, in fact), but he is better known by the name Lineage. Like Reader, Lineage is also morally ambiguous, but as a former mob boss, he tends to lean more towards the side of devils than angels. His name is the only thing he has in common with the Marvel Cinematic Universe Gordon, as Marvel (comics) Universe Lineage can't teleport (that we know of), but instead has the power to learn any secrets from deceased members of his family, going back thousands of years.
TombROACH points out that "Gordon" the eyeless Inhuman appeared in Uncanny Inumans last week - an issue I haven't read yet!
So I guess that settles who "Gordon" is in the Marvel Cinematic Universe!
Meanwhile, back with SHIELD – sorry, "real SHIELD" – Gonzales the "Love Boat captain" is doing his best to recruit Coulson's team to his side. He was keeping May (who he claims is "no prisoner) locked up in Ward's old room, Vault D; he transports her to the aircraft carrier Iliad to offer her an apparent position among the "real SHIELD" elite. He explains that this offer of kindness comes after he was "outvoted" by other members, although he doesn't like it. Say, considering all of the secrets and lies the "real SHIELD" has been dealing with, and the fact that their nominal leader has to begrudgingly follow orders from the Board, this "real SHIELD" seems an awful lot like the old SHIELD under Fury that Gonzales claims to dislike so much. Gonzales also has a hardcopy of May's Bahrain file. Good to know SHIELD, like the VA, is still storing its vital information using outdated methods. May seems opposed to Gonzales' offer so far, explaining that Coulson is not someone to be treated lightly.
Coulson and Hunter, meanwhile, are out looking for a car from Honest Eddie, the spiritual ancestor of Malfunctioning Eddie no doubt. Eddie, who claims to have the superpower of finding people the perfect car, tries to sell Coulson a Firebird, but Phil passes on the offer. Nothing to do with nothing, but Firebird is a 4th or 5th string Avenger, who is often passed up for membership. Just sayin'.
Instead, the boys steal one of Eddie's Jeeps, the crooks! Say you, did you know that the vehicle "Jeep" was (probably) named after a comic book character? Eugene the Jeep was an invincible and versatile creature from Popeye comics and cartoons, and when the army had need of a tough and versatile truck, the "Jeep" was born! The more you know!
Despite seeming like strangers last episode, Coulson now claims he ran into Gonzales a few times at the Triskelion (the SHIELD base destroyed in Captain America: The Winter Soldier), and as usual, would prefer to see the best in people. The two hide out at the Bruce Banner-built Retreat enjoying Hunter's emergency whiskey until Coulson tips Gonzales off to their presence, anticipating an invasion force. Hoping to delay "real SHIELD" a bit, Coulson opens his "21st Century Howling Commandos kit" (built by Trip and Fitz) and pulls a deck of hologram-projecting playing cards to fake a poker game (poker is a tradition among Marvel heroes). Coulson's plan? Stall them long enough for reinforcements to show up so they can steal a Quinjet. Those should be familiar to Avengers audiences, as that was the main assault vehicle used by the team in the movie. In the comics, Quinjets are the main mode of travel for Avengers members. EDIT: Tolan points out the card holograms are also an allusion to Richard Donner's Superman movies. Great Rao! I should've recalled that!
The plan goes off miserably until their reinforcements – or rather, reinforcement – arrives. Deathlok, aka Agent Mike Peterson, hasn't been seen since last season but has received several upgrades (possibly from Fitz, unless they came when Fitz was in capacitated) and easily takes out the "real SHIELD' team Tango Romeo Delta (non-lethally, it seems). Apparently Peterson has been overseas tracking List, who hasn't been seen since "Aftershocks." Deathlok then "ingests" the ability to fly a Quinjet (much like learning kung fu). In the comics, Deathlok usually has a love-hate relationship with his onboard computer. 'Puter (as he calls it) usually wants to be a death-dealing military machine (as it was designed), but the man running the show would rather live a more peaceful life.
Now Coulson, Hunter and Deathlok are off to find Ward, the devil they know to help them deal with Gordon, List and Gonzales, the devils they don't.
While things look rough ahead for Coulson, he does have an ace up his sleeve (though he may not know it). The seemingly estranged team of Fitz-Simmons are tasked by Gonzales with opening Fury's mysterious Toolbox, or at least determining what it is, but Fitz outright refuses and Simmons fails miserably. It's all a ruse, however, as with a little science geek slight-of-hand, Simmons ingrains herself in "real "SHIELD" while slipping the Toolbox off to the departing Fit (who has to turn in his lanyard). She also gives him a prosciutto and mozzarella sandwich with a hint of pesto aioli, which he finally gets to enjoy (after being thwarted last time).
Next Week: Flashbacks galore!
Hey look! A disclaimer!
Kevin Garcia is a professional educator and freelance writer whose work has appeared in Marvel Comics, the Associated Press and on various blogs. As a fan, he doesn't get paid to write Secrets of SHIELD posts about Marvel shows – or any other geeky posts for that matter – but hey, wouldn't that be nice?