In “Agent Carter: S.H.I.E.L.D. 50th Anniversary” #1, writer Kathryn Immonen and artist Rich Ellis check in with Peggy Carter in 1966. In a story that opens above Greenland, Peggy and Dum Dum Dugan are testing out new weaponry off the decks of a helicarrier, in pages colored by Rachelle Rosenberg and lettered by Joe Sabino, readers learn that Dugan has a special request of Carter, one that should test her mettle while evaluating a new S.H.I.E.L.D. recruit.
That recruit is Sif, and once introduced, Immonen wastes no time in pairing the Asgardian warrior with Carter and letting organic storytelling determine the path of “Agent Carter: S.H.I.E.L.D. 50th Anniversary” #1. No stranger to Sif (having written her adventures in “Journey Into Mystery”) or Carter (see the miniseries “Operation S.I.N.”), Immonen finds common ground and mutual respect between the two characters and powers the story forward, serving up action around a sliver of a mystery.
Ellis keeps pace with Immonen, giving each of the ladies (and Dugan) distinctive appearances, expressions and mannerisms. The backgrounds are mundane, typical helicarrier gear, but when explosions press Carter and Sif into action, Ellis graciously allows Rosenberg to take the lead in describing the chaos and temperature of the events. Sabino checks in with apt sound effects and the helicarrier truly seems imperiled.
While the transition to the action really ratchets up the story’s pace and the stakes set up for Carter, the art is where “Agent Carter: S.H.I.E.L.D. 50th Anniversary” #1 struggles, at least from a storytelling perspective. Ellis pushes one panel too far, relying on action lines to tell the tale rather than the characters themselves, but most egregiously, through all the calamity (including time underwater), Peggy keeps her beret, necklace and earrings on. She sports a sleeveless blouse as though attending a backyard party, and, while she looks great throughout, it undermines the severity of the tale. Unless it hasn’t been revealed yet that Agent Carter is, indeed, super-powered and that her power is to maintain an adorably fetching appearance.
“Agent Carter: S.H.I.E.L.D. 50th Anniversary” #1 is a decent read and fine epilogue for Immonen and Ellis’ work on “Operation S.I.N.”, but it doesn’t pack any lasting punches. It’s great to see Sif in place, which further connects the comic book “S.H.I.E.L.D. 50th Anniversary” specials and the “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” television series, but the story in “Agent Carter” #1 just seems like an inventory tale, keeping the license fresh and vital. I’m sure Immonen, Ellis, Rosenberg and Sabino would be able to craft more riveting adventures with more available real estate, and I hope they get that shot.