Review by Frank Plowright
It’s a shame, but this is the final outing for Marc Guggenheim’s intelligent and well plotted adventures of S.H.I.E.L.D. Over two collections he’s produced stories largely accessible to fans of the S.H.I.E.L.D. TV show, featuring that cast and keeping them consistent with expectation while using the fuller Marvel universe to good effect.
Under New Management begins with fallout from what some S.H.I.E.L.D. agents feel is Phil Coulson’s unreasonable caution endangering their lives in The Coulson Protocols, but Guggenheim’s plot for the opening chapter cleverly shows the benefits of Coulson’s diligence. It doesn’t count for much, however, in stories that tie in with Marvel’s Civil War II crossover. At issue is the accuracy of someone that can predict the future with 100% accuracy, then the ethical consideration of whether innocent people should be imprisoned to prevent them committing crimes. It’s all very Judge Dredd, and has split the superhero community. The title aspect refers to the appointment of a surprising choice to oversee Coulson’s S.H.I.E.L.D. unit. It’s an excellent plot device, and divisive, but sadly not fully explored before the series was cancelled.
Germán Peralta is replaced as artist halfway through, which is a shame. Peralta’s previous problem was not bothering with backgrounds at all, but the circumstances of these scripts mean he has to provide them, and he’s good. As much as possible Ario Anindito has the sparse, figures only approach used by Peralta in The Coulson Protocols, but isn’t as good, his characters often frozen into unnatural positions.
Based on Guggenheim also being the writer, the collection is fleshed out with the unconnected story of Hawkeye’s trial for killing Bruce Banner. The central figure is Matt Murdock, both as Daredevil and a prosecution lawyer. Guggenheim combines portions of court drama with procedural investigation and political interests. It’s an entertaining manipulation of an emotional moral question that has no correct answer, and the scratchy art of Ramon Bachs does a fine job of blurring the visual edges as well. It may have no connection to S.H.I.E.L.D., but surely no-one can complain about the inclusion.
As with Guggenheim’s first S.H.I.E.L.D. collection, these are engrossing, character based, action stories, in some cases not shown to be as good as they are by the art.