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It's all connected 6:'The Avengers' ('Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.' retrospective)

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The Avengers

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At the conclusion of 2011, Marvel Studios released at least one film featuring Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Hulk (Edward Norton), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), and Captain America (Chris Evans). S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) mentioned the so-called “Avengers Initiative,” described as a collective of superheroes, from which the movie derives its name. 2012’s “The Avengers” brought together the headliners of the previous Marvel Studios’ films, a formidable force working together for a common good.

It was at this point in the Marvel Universe that the full scope of the world became truly known. References and cameos became commonplace, and even expected, but “The Avengers” set a standard never before achieved by a film series. Sure, the X-Men series (also derived from Marvel comic characters) used a team of heroes, but “The Avengers” marked the largest amalgamation of stand-alone stars forming like Voltron.

“The Avengers” actually begins with Asgardian mischief maker Loki (Tom Hiddleston), who has teamed up with yet another disreputable bunch. This time it isn’t the Frost Giants, but the alien race Chitauri. Loki steals the Tesseract from S.H.I.E.L.D., which sends Nick Fury and company on the run. Fury assembles his best agents, including Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) and Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg), and reaches out to select superheroes. Yep, you guessed it, prime among Fury’s recruits are Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, and Hulk (played by Mark Ruffalo). Also joining the squad are Natasha “Black Widow” Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) and Clint “Hawkeye” Barton (Jeremy Renner).

S.H.I.E.L.D. takes to the skies along with the Avengers, who don’t initially gel. For an elite team enlisted to protect the world, there’s a surprising amount of bickering. At times it feels like the gym locker room. However, the death of Agent Coulson reminds the Avengers why they’ve been partnered together: to prevent hostile forces from wreaking havoc upon the earth.

As “The Avengers” relates to the Marvel universe at large, and “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” it lent a renewed perspective on the scale of operations within S.H.I.E.L.D. Each hero received their own singular treatment, displaying individually impressive feats. In conjunction, they’re unstoppable. It’s fascinating seeing their interactions, especially considering their vastly differing personalities. Tony Stark, the wisecracking playboy isn’t a natural partner for the goofily earnest Steve Rogers. Ultimately, they overcome their differences, conquering Loki and halting the Chituri invasion.

More importantly, Agent Coulson’s death marked a yet unknown turning point. Though it’s significance within “The Avengers” was clear, as a rallying call to the team, the “S.H.I.E.L.D.” importance wouldn’t reveal itself until the pilot. Cleverly, “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” duped viewers into believing the series to be a prequel. The entire first season actually relies heavily on Coulson’s death and resurrection.

One of the strongest titles in the Marvel franchise, “The Avengers” united not only the band of heroes known by the same name, but the entire Marvel universe. “Iron Man 3” would heavily deal with the events of “The Avengers,” and of course “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” relies on the plot as well. Overall, continuing the precedent, “The Avengers” built upon previously established plotlines and created a bevy of new threads for Marvel to explore and develop in future productions.

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