Agent Coulson is back in Marvel spy caper


Mondays, 9.50pm

Fox (StarHub Ch 505/SingTel mioTV Ch 330)

Rating: 4/5

Coulson lives!

Yes, the memetic war cry from fans of agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) from Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division (S.H.I.E.L.D.) has come true in Marvel Television's first live-action series.

Despite being stabbed by supervillain Loki in The Avengers (2012), he miraculously returns as the leader of a "mobile command unit" acting as "the line between the world and the much-weirder world".

Series co-creator Joss Whedon brings the same theme of fire-forged friends from The Avengers (which he directed) to the ground level of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Much like his superhero counterparts, Coulson assembles his own task force to uncover strange phenomena and protect humans (and otherwise) from harm.

Among the S.H.I.E.L.D. members are black-ops operative Grant Ward (Brett Dalton), ace pilot Melinda May (Wen Ming Na) and tech boffins Leo Fitz (Iain De Caestecker) and Jemma Simmons (Elizabeth Henstridge). Rounding up the crew is Skye (Chloe Bennet), a member of the Rising Tide, an Anonymous-like hacktivist group.

The pilot, directed and co-written by Whedon, involves the team investigating the acts of the Hooded Hero, a vigilante with super strength. There are a few clever references to the Marvel films, and a pivotal plot element is related to another in the recent Iron Man 3.

However, the terrific action sequences - a building-fire rescue, some fisticuffs in a Parisian apartment and a stand-off in Union Station - come at the expense of character development and exposition, which feel a bit rushed.

Among the team, Skye is the most interesting character - a free spirit who is both spunky and ditzy. In a memorable interrogation scene, she admits sheepishly that she is an Iron Man groupie who once cosplayed at Stark Towers.

Also, Coulson's back-from-the-dead reveal is one of the best character entrances I've seen and I love that it was played for laughs.

Look out, too, for cameos of agents Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) and Nick Fury (Samuel Jackson).

The series holds a lot of potential, especially with regard to Coulson's mysterious resurrection. And, if his promise to Skye of being "front-row-centre to the strangest show on earth" is anything to go by, Marvel fans and newcomers will have a lot to look forward to.

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