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Deathlok, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Like every Marvel fan, I was excited by the debut of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (and I even blogged about it, here), and like a lot of fans, I dropped the show when it wasn’t delivering to my expectations.

Tonight, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is making a fresh bid for my affections by introducing Deathlok to the cast!

I wanna be a cyborg death machine!

Not that Deathlok, sadly.

The original Deathlok debuted in Astonishing Tales #25, in a wildly exuberant tale from Rich Buckler and Doug Moench, in which dead soldier Luther Manning found himself resurrected as a badass cyborg killing machine — and wasn’t happy about it, arguing with the computer in his head, and futilely questing to recover his lost humanity.

Deathlok

The series itself was a mess, but the character concept was tremendous, and the violent, breakneck-paced story of Deathlok’s murderous odyssey through a cannibal-haunted New York of the near future was distinct from anything else Marvel published in the mid-1970s. It all quickly came off the rails, but the series is well worth remembering (and I previously blogged about it, here).

The Deathlok debuting in tonight’s episode appears a distant echo of that gritty anti-hero from the 1970s. Actor J. August Richards plays “Mike Peterson,” a character the series set up in the show’s debut, and has developed over several episodes since.

J. August Richards is Deathlok

I left the show before seeing many of this character’s appearances, but ABC’s handy catch-up page tells me that Peterson’s character ending up joining S.H.I.E.L.D. and getting himself blown up — which is a prerequisite for being resurrected as an undead cyborg murder machine!

And so, after forty years, Deathlok makes the leap from comics to television. He won’t be my Deathlok, of course, but that’s no big deal. This character, in particular, has had several changes of identity through the years (and click here for a gallery of Deathlok’s many looks). Good on Marvel for weaving more superhero properties into Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.!

Will Deathlok be enough to get me back onto the series? Probably not. I found the core characters insufferable and checked out in the middle of episode two, and to tell the truth, nothing short of flying the entire cast (sans Clark Gregg) into the side of a mountain would get me to watch this series again … but life is long, and Netflix is forever, and it would be a happy turn of events if this show turned out to be decent in the long run.

Let me know if I missed the next big thing by skipping this evening’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.!

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About Paul O'Connor

Revelations and retro-reviews from a world where it is always 1978, published once a month or so at www.longboxgraveyard.com!

Posted on February 4, 2014, in Other Media and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. Paul. To me it is simple. If the producers/writers’ room couldn’t make the series compelling before now, no introduction of “stuff” from the comic version of the Marvel Universe OR anything from the movie version of the Marvel Universe can possibly make it better. The problems are DEEP and only a big change in the kinds of stories AND how the stories are told can make AGENTS OF SHIELD better. It isn’t a good show with shabby window dressing, it is a fundamentally flawed show. So they have to fix the fundamentals.

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    • I rate it a positive sign that they realize there is a problem with the show, and are taking steps to fix it … but I agree with you, DWO, that those problems run deep will need more than a coat of paint to fix them. I admit I feel zero urgency to watch this show — if it improves, I’ll see it some time in the distant future. And if not, there is no loss, and that time was better spent elsewhere.

      It does take awhile for shows to get locked in, sometimes, but has a show ever “rebooted” by jettisoning most of its cast and premise, and turned into something more successful? I wonder …

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  2. I stopped watching around episode four or five, I think, though they continued to accumulate on my DVR. I finally sat down and caught up two weeks ago and I have to say, it has already gotten much better. The most recent episode (the Deathlok one referenced in this post) was easily the best yet. The pacing was great, it had an interesting storytelling method, good action, and fun Marvel-style shenanigans.

    You can probably skip the episodes you missed and just watch this last one if you were interested to see how it’s developed. I tried watching the first season of “Parks and Recreation” three times and never could get into it, then finally just skipped that whole season and started on the second one and loved it. “Seinfeld” had a pretty bad opening year (well, half-year) and that turned out pretty well. I probably never would have watched ST:TNG at all had I started out with it in the beginning before Bearded Ryker saved the day in Year Two. Shows take a while to hit their stride, as you said Paul, and I think this one already has started getting into a good rhythm without jettisoning the cast and premise.

    Of course, I don’t agree that the show is “fundamentally flawed”, so given that you do it probably isn’t worth the time for you to give it a go again at this point until it plays out however far down the line.

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    • Is there anything sadder than deleting a year’s worth of TV that has died from indifference on your DVR? Sic Transit Gloria Boardwalk Empire (among many other shows).

      Vulture gave this episode of S.H.I.E.L.D. a guardedly optimistic endorsement, so there’s another data point that things are moving in the right direction … but I think I’ll wait it out for when multiple episodes are available to stream, and I can binge them or (more likely) fast-forward them as my attention span allows. I really don’t have an axe to grind on this show … saying I don’t like it might make me seem so, when juxtaposed with fans who like S.H.I.E.L.D., but I’d far prefer the show be solid as not — it gives me no joy to know it isn’t reaching its potential, whether I watch it or not.

      It’s the emotional connection to the property that keeps me an interested observer, as opposed to something like, say, CW’s “Arrow,” which isn’t on my radar at all (good, bad, or indifferent as the show may be).

      Thanks for the mini-review!

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  3. I’ve warmed up to the characters and really found certain episodes rather compelling. They’ve teased Graviton, Blizzard, shown us Deathlok, Mariah Hill, Agent Victoria Hand. Now that the ‘mystery’ of Coulson’s resurrection and Skye’s past is in the clear, they are acting more as a unit and it’s improved things.
    I will not say it’s “awesome” tv, but it’s enough to keep me tuning in (or catching up online). It’s worth catching up on. I’ve really enjoyed eps 7, 8, 13. There are duds, but it’s worth checking them out.

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  4. First off: Paul, it made my millennium when I finally got into my yahoo account and saw the mentions of my little contribution to your avatar and your graciousness for adopting it.

    I was STUNNED when I came here to put in my two cents about AGENTS OF SHIELD and the “introduction” of DEATHLOK.

    I can’t begin to tell you how much it means to see “Happy Moleman” staring back at me
    from the Title Bar of LONGBOX GRAVEYARD.

    He was drawn as a simple token of appreciation for your efforts at keeping an unbelievably
    unique and special era of comics alive, and mainly to make you laugh. So, thank you.
    And thank you again.

    Now, about those AGENTS:

    Yes, I watch the show. Yes, it certainly has LOTS of room for improvement. LOTS.
    But I have to say, when they brought the camera in tight on the prosthetic leg to show
    the DEATHLOK designation, I got the same thrill (milder, but there) that the reveal of
    THANOS triggered at the end of the AVENGERS. Yeah, it’s not Luther Manning, but
    still a step toward bringing more obscure Marvel characters into the spotlight…
    and THAT is something to be absolutely thrilled about!

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    • Your Mole Man has taken on a life of its own, Glenn — he is bigger than both of us, now. Thanks again for contributing him. Looking back on it, he’s the perfect avatar, though I wouldn’t have selected him for myself (which makes him the best kind).

      I will manfully resist the rising tide of S.H.I.E.L.D. enthusiasm here, pleading … lack of time? Yes, lack of time! I’ve been bending myself to creative endeavors lately (specifically an original webcomic) that should start appearing here in a matter of weeks or months or millennia. Yes, that must be what is absorbing my time!

      (Always great to hear from you, Glenn)

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