A general rule in comic books is that no one really stays dead for long except Uncle Ben, Bruce Wayne’s parents, and the planet Krypton. Now that these stories are making the jump from the page to the screen, it seems that the rule has carried over into comic book movies and shows as well. Loki, Malcolm Merlyn, and Bucky Barnes were all thought to have perished only to resurface once again down the line. But the best example of this has to be Agent Phil Coulson, who died in ‘The Avengers’ and reappeared in ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D..’ Though many have welcomed back Clark Gregg’s character to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there has been some criticism stating that the resurrection voided the inciting incident that assembled Earth’s Mightiest Heroes in the first place. Such critiques even come from prominent MCU architect Joss Whedon, who created the ABC series that chronicles Coulson’s current adventures.
In an interview with Mental Floss during the media blitz for ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron,’, Whedon shared some of his frustrations that emerged as a result of bringing Phil Coulson back to life. He even goes as far as to say that despite existing in a connected universe that extends to films, shorts, comics, two network television shows, and a series of shows on Netflix, the character still remains absent as far as the films go (at least for now):
“The Coulson thing was, I think, a little anomalous just because that really came from the television division, which is sort of considered to be its own subsection of the Marvel universe. As far as the fiction of the movies, Coulson is dead.
But I have to say, watching the first one with my kids—I had not watched the first one since it came out—and then watching it with my kids and watching Coulson die but [thinking], ‘Yeah, but I know that he kind of isn’t,’ it did take some of the punch out of it for me. Of course, I spent a lot of time making sure he didn’t. And at the time it seemed inoffensive, as long as it wasn’t referenced in the second movie, which it isn’t.
There’s a thing where you can do that so many times and there’s nothing at stake. But it’s difficult because you’re living in franchise world—not just Marvel, but in most big films—where you can’t kill anyone, or anybody significant. And now I find myself with a huge crew of people and, although I’m not as bloodthirsty as some people like to pretend, I think it’s disingenuous to say we’re going to fight this great battle, but there’s not going to be any loss. So my feeling in these situations with Marvel is that if somebody has to be placed on the altar and sacrificed, I’ll let you guys decide if they stay there.”
I certainly understand where Whedon is coming from. In fact, when news first emerged about ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,’ I had the same concerns. However, after two seasons of the first TV show tied into the MCU, we’ve gotten some really awesome stories involving Coulson. Plus, the circumstances surrounding his “death” manages to add some layers to Nick Fury without seeing him at all. Also, it almost makes these films even more like their source material in that something could happen to a character in one book while something completely different happens to that same character in another book. That’s definitely something unique that only Marvel could pull off at this stage in the game.
The bottom line though is that this universe is full of mystery and I don’t think that this one aspect untangles the whole thing. But what do you think? How did you feel when Agent Coulson was resurrected for ‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’? Do you share some frustrations with Joss Whedon? Let us know in the comment section.
‘Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’ starring Brett Dalton, Ming-Na Wen, Iain De Caestecker, Elizabeth Henstridge, Adrianne Palicki, Chloe Bennet, and Clark Gregg airs on Tuesdays at 9:00pm on ABC.