Excelsior! Marvel fans were treated to a double dose of fan service in the latest episode of “Agents of SHIELD” when Stan “The Man” Lee made a cameo. Plus, another Marvel character makes his screen debut—sort of.
The agents discover that the nefarious Quinn is transporting an object of unknown origin to a secret location via train in Italy and move in to intercept. But the operation goes awry, leaving Fitz and Skye alone to finish it.
This episode, entitled “T.R.A.C.K.S.,” was the series at its best. It featured suspenseful espionage, great character development, and, well, marvelous tie-ins to the source material. Its most interesting feature was a framing device used throughout where the same incident is shown from different characters’ perspectives, i.e. the bad guys discovering the team was on the train. It started with Ward and Coulson jumping off the train and, supposedly, narrowly avoiding a high-tech grenade that makes the train disappear. Each successive segment explained a bit more while also complicating the story, coming to a satisfying conclusion where all the loose ends were tied up. (It turned out to be a stun grenade, by the way).
The climax was a shocker. Skye snuck into Quinn’s compound and found the object of unknown origin—Mike Peterson. Skye was captured and then witnessed Quinn and a scientist augment Peterson with cybernetic implants, most notably his severed leg. Quinn asked Peterson to kill Skye, but he said she was not who the Clairvoyant wanted him to kill. Once Peterson left, Quinn shot Skye. Twice. She is now in cryogenic sleep thanks to Coulson’s team arriving just in time. The episode ended with Peterson watching his son at a playground and the Clairvoyant telling him he could not see his son yet. The camera zoomed in to his bionic leg, showing the inscription, “Project: Deathlok.”
What is interesting is Deathlok is the name of several characters who have appeared in Marvel Comics, most notably Luther Manning who first appeared in Astonishing Tales #25 (Aug. 1974) and Michael Collins who first appeared in Deathlok #1 (July 1990). The latter was created by the late Dwayne McDuffie, a noted African-American comic book writer. However, Mike Peterson is not any of the other characters who have used the name. Deathlok is a character as a well as a theme. Each Deathlok was a human who was resurrected a la “The Six Million Dollar Man” using cybernetic technology. In that sense, Mike Peterson is a new Deathlok. But in an interesting parallel, Peterson’s origin bears a resemblance to the Image Comics antihero Spawn. Both feature young black men who are transformed into strange super-beings who long to see their families again. The difference being that Spawn is a supernatural character and Peterson is a technological one.
Regardless, this new addition holds much potential for the show and deepens the mystery surrounding the Clairvoyant.
Now, what about that much-hyped Stan Lee cameo? While Mr. Lee made it sound like he played a “major role,” it was comic relief. Simmons and Coulson’s cover was that they were an estranged daughter and father, so Simmons yelled at Coulson in character. Stan Lee was another passenger on the train who came over and chided Coulson for being a terrible father. (It should be noted that Lee had two young women at his arms). So, it was just the typical sort of cameo he makes in most of Marvel’s movies, but it was still entertaining.
Couslon made two references to the larger universe. He name-dropped Asgard and, interestingly, threatened to have Ward transferred to Alaska to “guard Blodsky’s cell.” This is a reference to Abomination, the villain in 2008’s Incredible Hulk, a film that has been largely ignored in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It was nice to hear a callback to it, albeit a small one.
“Agents of SHIELD” continues to be a show that gets better with each episode. For fans who have remained loyal, they are reaping great rewards. Keep it up!