Pros: Both the “The Man Called D.E.A.T.H.” and the “The Duck Called H.O.W.A.R.D” issues are wonderful and tell solid individual stories. The connections to the past will be enjoyable for longtime comic readers.
Cons: Some of the other issues are not that great and range in quality from mediocre to bad. The individualized nature of each issue can lead to many feeling rushed.
Overall: This collection of individual stories has a multitude of successes, however it also has an even number of failures to match. In telling quick and interesting stories that connect to the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., this volume is definitely a win. It distinctly falters in its ability to connect readers to characters and provide a consistent level of quality in terms of story. Overall, this is a book where readers are likely to walk away enjoying a small part of the book while disliking a fair amount more.
S.H.I.E.L.D. Vol. 2: The Man Called D.E.A.T.H. continues the departure from the norm that its predecessor established. Each issue in this volume stands almost completely independent from other stories; it doesn’t even have an overarching plotline like Vol. 1 did. In some ways this is good, as it allows unique and different forms of storytelling. However in others it is not, as you never get to develop any sort of connection to characters outside of Coulson. It also relies heavily on readers coming into the book with prior comic experience. Once again, in some ways this is good, as it allows for the return of characters and concepts that fans will appreciate. However in ways it is bad, as it leaves readers unfamiliar with these things out in the dark. Overall, if you are a big Marvel comic reader who also watches the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV show, then you should love this entire book. If you are a more casual fan though, you may end up only liking an issue or two.
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The first issue in this collection is a pretty generic story about Daisy meeting her father, Mr. Hyde. His initial reaction to Daisy feels like a rehash of episodes of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and his subsequent betrayal is predictable even for those unfamiliar with the show. If Daisy had a little more character development in this series, then this could have been a bigger moment; but ultimately it falls short.
The second issue is a pretty significant step up, as the story of Agent May and Mockingbird freeing human test subjects is far more interesting. It has action, moral outrage, and an untraditional ending that focuses on curing victims rather than punishing villains (though the villains still get their just desserts). It suffers from somewhat rapid pacing and a reliance on Mockingbird’s history, though these are small problems in an otherwise enjoyable issue.
The third issue is perhaps the best of the bunch. It is a lore intensive spy story deriving elements from Jack Kirby and Stan Lee’s original conceptualization of Nick Fury as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent and Jonathan Hickman’s run on S.H.I.E.L.D. The intersection between these concepts proves to be an entertaining one as this is both a standard spy thriller and a revisitation into the secret origins behind S.H.I.E.L.D.’s formation. Though readers unfamiliar with Hickman’s S.H.I.E.L.D. run will miss out on some parts of this issue, it is overall a large success.
The fourth issue of this book continues the quality of the previous two. It features a Howard the Duck lead stumble through the multiverse. Mostly comedic in nature, the issue blends sarcasm, slapstick, and meta commentary on the comic book industry together well. In particular, I loved the scene where Howard spends three panels listing off the names of all the Marvel characters who have died and then come back to life. Since knowledge of Howard the Duck’s past is almost irrelevant to reader’s enjoyment of this issue, it may be the best completely independent story of this collection.
The penultimate issue of this collection is a somewhat lackluster affair. It is boring mission headlined by a rather obscure character from Marvel’s past. I suppose this could be looked at as a meta analysis of comic book industry with the message that not everything from the Gold and Silver ages was perfect. However, the story is so dull that the impact of this message is dulled.
The last issue is another disappointment. It tries to deliver a grandiose ending to the series by telling a story that literally features the death of every superhero but ultimately just comes across as rushed and confusing. The compounding of such big stakes into one small issue and the confusion brought about by time travel are big factors in this, causing the end of this series to fall just short of being average.
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Similarly to the last volume, every issue in this book is drawn by a different artist, making it hard to give an overall grading to the book as a whole. The positive standouts are the detail in Paco Medina’s work on Issue #8, the blend of Lee Ferguson and Kack Kirby’s art in Issue #9, and the way that Doc Shaner’s art perfectly matches the tone of Issue #10. The biggest negative is Greg Smallwood’s work on Issue #7, as it doesn’t look that nice overall and certainly brings down the quality of the collection as a whole.
S.H.I.E.L.D. Vol. 2: The Man Called D.E.A.T.H. is the second volume of this S.H.I.E.L.D. series. Though parts of it flow directly out of the events of S.H.I.E.L.D. Vol. 1: Perfect Bullets (Review), the majority of the stories stand completely on their own.
This is also the last volume in this S.H.I.E.L.D. series. The series does not directly continue in any particular comic.
This volume also references stories from other comic books, all of which are detailed below:
- Bobbi’s hatred of human trafficking is most likely due to her time spent kidnapped by Phantom Rider. This story is told in West Coast Avengers Vol. 2 #18-23 and collected in Avengers: West Coast Avengers – Lost in Space and Time or Avengers: West Coast Avengers Omnibus Volume 2.
- Bobbi mentions being partly responsible for the creating of Man-Thing. This story is detailed in Marvel Masterworks: Ka-Zar Vol. 1.
- The secret history of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Leonardo da Vinci’s role in it are originally told in S.H.I.E.L.D.: Architects of Forever.
- Agent Fitz references a “recent cross-dimensional event involving Spider-Man.” This event is Spider-Verse.