Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD: How did Agent Coulson come back and other questions

As the superpowered series premieres on Channel 4, we turn to the comic books for clues on the show's biggest mysteries


Contains minor spoilers for the first episode of Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD


BAM! POW! Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD brings superpowered action to the small screen. The show is a spin-off from movies like Iron Man and The Avengers, which in turn were based on over 60 years of comicbook storylines. So, what clues do the comics give about some of the show’s biggest mysteries?

Coulson Lives


Remember Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg)? Short hair, sharp suit, twinkle in his eye? Remember when he died horribly in The Avengers? And Iron Man and Thor and the rest of the heroes were so inspired by his sacrifice, they put aside their differences to save the day? Well, he got better.

The agent himself believes the death was faked, and he spent a happy year recuperating in Tahiti with a very attentive physiotherapist. From the dark grumblings of his boss Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders), this isn’t true. Apparently “he can never know” what really happened. Maybe they put him in a hula skirt and sent him to Butlins! 

Death isn’t such a big deal in comic books, where heroes like Batman, Superman and Spiderman have all died and been brought back. And this is really, truly dead, not just stunned or in a coma: no heartbeat, rigor mortis, other costumed heroes crying and giving speeches at their funeral. (Imagine the child that bought Green Lantern: In Memoriam for a long car ride to Gran’s.)

The exact methods for resurrection vary, but if we discount magic or being Superman, the most obvious is robots. In the comics, SHIELD regularly use sophisticated androids called ‘Life Model Decoys’ to replace people. It might sound a bit silly for a live-action TV show, but the technology has actually been mentioned in the movies. In The Avengers, Tony Stark pretends to be his own robot replica to avoid an awkward phone call. (Haven’t we all?)

Is Agent Coulson a robot clone with false memories, or is something even weirder going on? Series creator Joss Whedon has experience with resurrecting his creations: Buffy the Vampire Slayer died twice in her own series. The second time she was wrenched out of Heaven by her well-meaning friends, and spent the rest of the series depressed and hate-humping her vampire enemy Spike. It’s unlikely Agent Coulson will start snogging his murderer, Viking god Loki (Tom Hiddleston), but you never know.

The Baddies


What’s a super-secret superspy organization that manages superheroes without some supervillains to fight? Although the first episode’s main danger is a misunderstood blue-collar worker, the true villains are the shadowy organisation who gave him his powers.

In the comics, SHIELD battle endless bad guys with stupid acronyms and high technology. The two mains ones are AIM and HYDRA. Interestingly (well…) AIM were the main villains in Iron Man 3, while HYDRA faced off against Captain America in World War 2. In the pilot episode, the fact SHIELD have to ‘cut the head off’ the mysterious alien weapon might be a reference to HYDRA. When you cut the head off the mythological monster, two more grow back. If the Nazi thinktank have survived to the present day, let’s hope they brought their ridiculous green jumpsuits.

Your Favourite Character Will Die


Prepare yourself. Joss Whedon is notorious for taking fan-favourite characters and pushing them down a well. He’s done it in Buffy, Angel and Firefly. Hell, he’s already murdered Agent Coulson once. 

Our bet is that one of the lab technicians will be first for the chopping block. Leo (Scottish) and Jemma (English) are cute, bickering comic relief who do everything together. Just think how sad it will be when one of them is clutching the other’s broken body, most likely after a sudden and pointless death, probably in the rain. I’m crying already.

Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD starts tonight at 8pm on Channel 4