For the majority of its first season, the MCU’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. television series featured episodic adventures in which Agent Coulson and his team investigated various superhero-related phenomena. But with the startling revelations of Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier, the show underwent a major restructuring, with the focus shifting away from the missions undertaken by the team and towards the wider world – well, really, the wider universe – of the MCU. This doesn’t apply to the of the comic based on the series, where Coulson and his crew are still taking commands from Maria Hill, Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. – but that might change when the truth about Pleasant Hill gets out. Spoilers for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. #3 begin after the jump.
Early in the issue, Agent Coulson tries to reconcile the betrayal of Lola, his ex-girlfriend, a psychic who gleaned information about how to take down superheroes from within Coulson’s mind. Lola works for the Central Intelligence Agency, and Coulson is struggling to understand why she would sell him out.
Lola: “…I’m sorry, we just don’t work for the same side.”
Coulson: “We both work for the U.S. Government…”
This snappy exchange encapsulates the tenants of the Avengers Standoff event in a nutshell: although two players are ostensibly on the same side, they nevertheless end up in conflict with one another. Not only does that conflict play out between Coulson and Lola, who are at odds with each other despite both working for the United States, the fractions extend to create divisions even within S.H.I.E.L.D. itself.
This becomes evident when Coulson reveals that the team has been charged with bringing in the man that has been operated under the codename The Whiperer – none other than Rick Jones himself, who we last saw fleeing a S.H.I.E.L.D. team in Assault on Pleasant Hill Alpha #1. After a touch of snark about how recognizable Jones should be to the reader (“I don’t have the kind of time it would take to give you his entire bio,” drawls Coulson), a team is dispatched to locate the renegade sidekick.
It doesn’t take long for the team to locate the debris left in the wake of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s search for Jones. From here, however, the book takes a detour to demonstrate how the particular skill set of the individuals on the team allow them to succeed where the previous S.H.I.E.L.D. team had failed: Simmons uses her cutting edge technology to locate a hidden compartment, Deathlok employs his cyborg abilities to analyze a USB drive and track Jones through the sewers, and Quake gets a chance to use her seismic abilities when bullets prove an ineffective. Coulson’s team is better equipped and more skilled than other S.H.I.E.L.D. teams, and while it allows our heroes to succeed where previous teams had failed, it is also likely to put them in conflict with the rest of the organization.
Once the team has located Jones, there’s a couple of easter eggs that will make superhero fans (like Coulson himself) giggle with delight. First up is U.S. Agent’s shield, which Jones uses to defend himself against Deathlok. For the uninitiated, U.S. Agent looks a lot like Captain America and carries a similar shield, but unlike Cap, who represents the abstract ideals of America, U.S. Agent embodies the United States Government. Depending on your perspective, you’d either describe him as an operative charged with executing the government’s business, or the fascist Cap.
Whether or not there’s any symbolic significance to Jones using the overzealous U.S. Agent’s shield to defend against Coulson’s team will have to be expanded upon later (if at all), since he quickly follows up with Ringmaster’s Hat. The tool of an obscure supervillain, used to hypnotize unwilling victims, almost gives Jones the upper hand – but Simmons manages to knock him out just in time (using a rubber bullet, of course).
Once Jones is detained, however, it isn’t long before the All-New, All-Different Avengers drop in, ending the story on a classic comic drop-in cliffhanger. Overall, this tie-in doesn’t add too much to the plot, but it does help connect the missing steps between Jones disappearing earlier and his being picked up by an Avengers team. In addition, in a conflict that promises to pit S.H.I.E.L.D. agent against one another, it’s nice to see a human face put to some of the team members.
Next up: we’ll see how a different team of Avengers is handling the Pleasant Hill debacle with Uncanny Avengers #7.