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Opinion

Astrojive: A SHIELD Against What, Exactly?

Richard Lee Byers speculates on what might keep new agents busy


So, what missions will the “Agents of ‘SHIELD” undertake? Where will their adventures take them, and which bad guys will they fight?

It’s a safe bet that, just as the Avengers won’t be guest starring to steal focus from the agents, the most powerful and recognizable villains of the Marvel Universe won’t appear, either. They’re almost certainly reserved for use in the feature films. And besides, it’s an implicit premise of the MU that only superheroes can contend with them.

Still, “Agents of SHIELD” needs to draw from the rich mythology of Marvel Comics for story material, or what’s the point? Fortunately, even with guys like Iron Man and Loki off the table, there’s lots of great stuff left. Here’s some of what we might see:

Hydra
Hydra already appeared in the Marvel cinematic universe in “Captain America: the First Avenger,” where they were more or less in control of the Third Reich. But in the comics, they survive World War II (“Hail Hydra! We shall never be destroyed! Cut off a limb, and two more shall take its place!”) as a terrorist group bent on world conquest and SHIELD’s most frequent opponent. Coulson’s group will hardly seem like the same organization if they don’t periodically butt heads with HYDRA like their four-color counterparts.

The Red Skull, the movie Cap’s nemesis, is likely too major a villain to appear in the television show. But Hydra has many other evil masterminds and formidable agents who could stand in for him, including Valentina Allegra de Fontaine, Viper and various members of the von Strucker family.

The Roxxon Energy Corp.
Roxxon is Marvel Earth’s largest conglomerate, unfortunately, an amoral one bent on its own plutocratic style of world domination. To that end, it’s always ready to monkey with technologies and artifacts better left alone, most notably, perhaps, the Serpent Crown. Roxxon’s illicit activities have repeatedly brought it to the attention of superheroes and law enforcement agencies, but it’s still going strong, perhaps because it’s too big to fail and its execs are too big to jail.

If so, that could make Roxxon an interesting recurring headache for Coulson and his operatives. The company has presumably made campaign contributions to any number of elected officials, and through them could attempt to influence the way SHIELD does its job.

New York City crime bosses
In the MU, the heads of the Big Apple’s major crime syndicates are as colorful as they are dangerous. Some are presumably off limits because “Agents of SHIELD” Norman Osborn has already surfaced in the new Spider-Man movies (although he’s apparently not the Green Goblin yet), and it’s likely the Kingpin is benched pending a new Daredevil project.

But that still leaves guys like the Rose, the Owl and Mr. Negative.

C list supervillains
Just as it’s unlikely that the movies will ever get around to featuring the second-string crime czars, so too is it unlikely that they’ll ever work their way down to lesser-known super-powered bank-robber types like the Shocker, the Beetle and Mr. Hyde.

In some cases, that’s just as well. Some of these villains are obscure because they’re lame. (I’m looking at you, Stilt-Man.) But some aren’t, and many operate at a power level that ought to work well for “Agents of SHIELD.”

They’re mighty enough to pose a daunting threat to normal human beings, yet not so mighty that a skilled team of agents couldn’t credibly take them down.

Mutants
In the MU, the most famous mutants have always ended up associated with either Professor Charles Xavier and his X-Men, or Magneto and his Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. But surely not all of them do. Perhaps Coulson and his team will need to investigate some of the others.

Exotic nations
The map of Marvel Earth is dotted with interesting countries that sadly don’t exist in our reality. Latveria is a Balkan nation ruled by a tyrant with both super-science and sorcery at his command. Wakanda is an insular African land and the world’s primary source of the wonder metal vibranium. The Asian island of Madripoor is a hub of both legitimate international commerce and international crime.

Though all these locales are associated with particular characters, they’re all interesting in and of themselves. “Agents of SHIELD” could tell a suspenseful Latveria story that doesn’t involve coming face-to-face with Dr. Doom, a gripping Wakanda tale in which the protagonists don’t meet the Black Panther, or a rousing Madripoor yarn in which they never cross paths with Wolverine.

Places (and races) even more exotic
In the MU, the mermen of Atlantis and Lemuria inhabit the oceans. Huge monsters, lava men and Moloids lurk in the caverns of Subterranea. Served by his New Men, the High Evolutionary experiments with the secrets of life in his laboratory atop Mount Wundagore.

Transformed by Terrigen mist, no two alike, the Inhumans abide in the secret city of Attilan while dinosaurs and saber-toothed cats prowl the Savage Land.

Admittedly, visiting any of these locales might strain the show’s special effects budget. But perhaps an episode could bring Atlanteans up onto dry land or Inhumans down out of the Himalayas as long as they weren’t high-profile probably-already-in-development characters like Prince Namor the Submariner or Black Bolt.

Places so exotic they aren’t on Earth at all
The MU is crawling with aliens: the blue-skinned Kree, the shape-shifting Skrulls, the reptilian Badoon, the parasitic Brood and the imperialistic Shi’ar, just to name a few. The mundane world of mortal men also connects to such extra-dimensional realms as Asgard, Olympus, Hell, Limbo and the Dark Dimension.

Again, if only for budgetary reasons, it seems unlikely Coulson and his ops will explore the planet Kree-Lar or drop in on Odin. But there’s no reason a Kree ship can’t crash in Nebraska, or that Aesir other than Thor, Sif and the Warriors Three can’t wander down Bifrost to find out what the folk of Midgard are up to.

Bottom line: Even if they never go take on Galactus or Dr. Octopus, the SHIELD agents should have plenty to keep them hopping, and I’m pretty sure I’ll be tuning in every Tuesday to find out how they cope.

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