SHIELD seemed so cool at first. Well, that’s not strictly true. When Agent Phil Coulson sheepishly arrived in Iron Man, babbling about the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement, and Logistics Division, he just seemed like one more nerd for Tony Stark to dunk on. But when Nick Fury showed up in Stark’s penthouse to talk about the Avengers Initiative for the first post-credit sequence of the MCU, it seemed like SHIELD operated in a world deeper and more secret than we had imagined.
To be sure, some moments in the MCU backed up that appearance. In The Avengers, we saw SHIELD’s massive underground bunker, in which it experimented on the Tesseract. In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Project Insight gave SHIELD the ability to rain death from above on any target it chooses. Of course, The Winter Soldier also revealed that Hydra had infiltrated the organization, which ultimately led to its dismantling by Captain America and Black Widow. Agents of SHIELD followed Coulson’s splinter group as it tried to deal with threats unknown to the public, but spacefaring and time-travel adventures diminished their effectiveness.
In short, SHIELD has rarely been the vast spy network it was promised to be. At best, it has been a support system for the Avengers and other very public superheroes. At worst, it has been an organization that allows Hydra to continue its work. But the first trailer for Secret Invasion hints at not just a SHIELD revival, but a return to the MCU espionage it always could be.
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