How Agents of SHIELD Season 2 is Going Back to the Comics For Inspiration

Marvel's Agents of SHIELD season 2 starts this week. Here's what you should know going into the season 2 premiere.

Among the complaints leveled against Agents of SHIELD season one, was the fact that the series, while tangentially related to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, took very little inspiration from the comics themselves. Aside from “Lola” there wasn’t much in the way of callbacks to the four-color source material. Even the snappy SHIELD jumpsuits were only deployed sparingly. Even legendary SHIELD writer/artist, Jim Steranko, made a disparaging remark or two about the show’s reluctance to embrace its four-color roots.

It looks like all of that is about to change with Agents of SHIELD season two.

There has always been a certain amount of back and forth between comic books and how they’re portrayed on screen. DC’s Shazam comics in the ’70s changed slightly to reflect the popular TV series, John Byrne’s Superman during the ’80s bore an uncanny resemblance to Christopher Reeve, and in the early 2000s, the X-Men adopted a fondness for black leather while Spider-Man developed organic webshooters. In the case of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there have been some particularly explicit connections, notably the introduction of Phil Coulson to comic book continuity, and the ongoing tweaks to Nick Fury’s world that ultimately have resulted in his son, an African-American man, taking over his role, allowing the comics to feature a Nick Fury more in keeping with Samuel L. Jackson’s cinematic portrayal.

Just as the comics have been more than happy to take cues from their on-screen counterparts, now Agents of SHIELD appears ready to dive headlong into the world of recent Marvel Comics continuity to build its world. In fact, the entire vibe of Phil Coulson rebuilding SHIELD from the ground up with his small group of young Agents is reminiscent of the Secret Warriors series written by Brian Michael Bendis and Jonathan Hickman, which ran between 2009-2012. The first arc of that book was even called “Nick Fury: Agent of Nothing,” and that “Agents of Nothing” tag should ring bells with fans who watched the end of SHIELD‘s first season.

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In fact, Secret Warriors, which involved how SHIELD had been destroyed and discredited (not to mention infiltrated) in the wake of a Skrull-centric line-wide event known as Secret Invasion, now looks like a pretty clear influence on how Agents of SHIELD season one responded to the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. If you’re looking for more clues about where this season might be headed, this is probably the book to check out.

Perhaps nowhere is the influence of Secret Warriors more apparent than in the choice of this season’s big villain. Which brings us to:

The Villains

Good lord, does Agents of SHIELD need villains. Other than the obviously memorable traitors, does anyone really remember a proper villain from that first season? Of course you don’t. 

Aside from the Absorbing Man (we’re going to have some fun with him in a future article), who will probably just pop up as a general menace in a few episodes, the big baddie of this season is a fella known as The Kraken. No, not some mythological beast, but a legendary Hydra operative, known for his rather distinctive headgear. He first appeared in Secret Warriors #2 in 2009, and caused all kinds of problems. Reed Diamond (Dollhouse) has the role and will (hopefully) wear the Kraken’s faintly ridiculous helmet.

While the biggest Hydra baddie of them all, Baron Strucker, is already booked for an appearance in Avengers: Age of Ultron (which will probably rule him out of any serious screen time on Agents of SHIELD season two), the presense of Crusher “Absorbing Man” Creel and the Kraken are already encouraging developments for a show in desperate need of some colorful baddies. The Gorgon, Madame Hydra, and the Hive, all of whom featured prominently in Secret Warriors, would also make for fine villain fodder this season. Maybe we’ll get to see them.

Deathlok will return at some point, as well, although he hardly qualifies as a villain these days. Former Agent Ward will be around, as well, being generally skeevy and traitorous. Expect him in every episode, but we do hope nobody tries too hard to redeem him. Why waste a good heel turn?

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The Question of Skye

The issue of Agent Skye’s true nature is something which will have to be confronted head on this season. At least we think it will. It’s not like they’re in any real hurry to give us any serious resolution to the Coulson mystery. 

But considering that the show has brought on a rather high-profile star in the form of Kyle MacLachlan to play Skye’s father, that would seem to indicate that they’re going to throw fans a bone. There’s a popular fan theory that Skye is actually Jessica Drew: Spider-Woman. Since MacLachlan’s character has been described as “a Doctor” it sure does sound a little bit like a slightly-skewed version of the experimental origin of the Spider-Woman character. 

Now take a quick look at this panel from a recent issue of Secret Avengers:

What have we here? One of these things is not like the other. Well, every single one of these characters has some kind of prominent role in Marvel’s Cinematic and TV Universe. All, that is, except Jessica Drew, Spider-Woman. We’re not saying that Skye is indeed Jessica Drew, but as comic book companies become more intent on having their multi-media universes line up, even in cosmetic fashion, it’s hard to imagine that sticking all of these characters on the same team is a total accident. The magic word when dealing with Marvel and DC these days is “synergy.” Even if Skye isn’t Spider-Woman, it’s probably a safe bet that Marvel have big plans for that character in the near future.

By the way, that’s a panel from the current run of Secret Avengers by Ales Kot and Tradd Thomas Moore. It’s a hilarious, bizarre, action-packed comic, and you should totally be reading it. 

If nothing else, expect Skye to be less of a focus-group nightmare and a bit more of an actual, competent SHIELD agent this season. They started her evolution nicely towards the end of season one, and as long as they continue with that trajectory, things should go swimmingly. 

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The New Characters

There’s definitely a new look for the team this year. While press materials for season two stop short of referring to BJ Britt’s Agent Triplett as a “series regular,” so far, he seems to be a hefty presence. His Howling Commando heritage will allow for an easy link to the early days of SHIELD we’ll see explored on Agent Carter, and that alone makes for easier ties to the comics.

Of course, the big gun here is Bobbi “Mockingbird” Morse, who will be played by Adrianne Palicki. She’ll first show up in episode five, and we’ll probably see her again. We’ll see if they mention any kind of romantic history with Hawkeye, too.

Lance Hunter (played by Nick Blood) is a bit of a freewheeling mercenary, although the character first appeared in the pages of Captain Britain. If there’s even a remote chance that we’ll someday see Brian Braddock on the big or small screen, this is the first step towards that. Initially, there was some speculation that the Lance Hunter character would turn out to be Marc Spector, Moon Knight. It wasn’t to be. But oh boy, wouldn’t Marc Spector be such an easy character to drop into this show?

Remember when I said Mockingbird is the biggest gun? I lied. That’s because Lucy Lawless is here as Isabelle Hartley, a veteran SHIELD agent with a talent for edged weapons. No comic book connection for Ms. Lawless’ character, but…who cares? It’s Lucy Lawless. This is brilliant.

Patton Oswalt is also back in a beefed-up role as Agents Koenig (not a typo). If you haven’t already put this together, it’s all but certain that this is how LMD technology is being introduced into the live-action Marvel Universe. Unless, of course, it isn’t. In which case, I just don’t know what to believe anymore.

Agents of SHIELD season two premieres on September 23rd, at 9 pm.

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