Agents of SHIELD: The Evolution of Deathlok In The Marvel Cinematic Universe

In this week's episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. titled "Afterlife" J. August Richards made a heroic return to save Coulson and Hunter from a "real S.H.I.E.L.D." attack on Nick Fury's cabin in the woods where Skye previously resided (in hiding) for a pair of episodes.

Coulson kept his cool, despite outnumbered, promising to Hunter that reinforcements were on the way. The one-man army turned out to be Mike Peterson a.k.a. Deathlok who made a surprise return and single-handedly took out two Quinjets worth of S.H.I.E.L.D. field operatives to save Coulson and Hunter.

As we learn during the episode, Deathlok has remain employed by Coulson during his absence, working to track Hydra for the past six months. And over that period of time, he's received additional "upgrades" which basically means, he's got a much-improved costume. Speaking with IGN, Richards talks a little bit what Deathlok's been up to leading up to his Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. return:

"Yeah, Coulson has had Deathlok in his back pocket since we saw him last. So he pulls me out of hiding to help him out with this really huge mission that is vital to S.H.I.E.L.D. As you can see, I got a lot of upgrades while I’ve been gone. My costume is very different. There are things that are still the same. The character has been evolving since we’ve seen him last. This is like Deathlok 2.0."

How has Deathlok involved beyond his new look?

"I have so many cool abilities. I have three USB ports, a firewire connection, you can get wi-fi off of me, this thing on my arm makes cappuccinos, and I have all of these cool little powers here and there. [Laughs] Lets see, I do have some new powers though. I think you’ll see them unfold over time though. I mean at the core he still is who he is. He has a bunch of mechanical parts that do a bunch of interesting things. This arm piece shoots rockets and he’s still super strong from the Centipede that he got in the first episode. Even in the comics I feel like he’s a character with a thousand powers that constantly unfold. It’s a character with a lot of possibilities. And again even with reading the comic, I feel like I can’t put a finger on all of his powers and the things that come over time."

Since the live-action Marvel Cinematic Universe version of Deathlok has evolved rapidly over two seasons of guest appearances in Agents of SHIELD, let's take a look at how the character's visual design has changed over the years.

Old School Deathlok

Classic Deathlok - Marvel Comics

The red shirt, clearly cyborg looking Deathlok - half-metal face and all - largely remained unchanged for years of the character's Marvel Comics career since he was introduced in 1974, created by Rich Buckler and Doug Moench.

In Agents of SHIELD, Mike Peterson began as a test subject for Hydra's Centipede program, where a Centipede Device was attached to the character's arm as a way to enhance his strength and healing abilities. It was a super soldier test program built from the Extremis technology featured in Iron Man 3. Eventually, Peterson sustained severe injuries and was rebuilt with cybernetic prosthetics and enhancements leading us to...

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Deathlok 1.0

J. AUGUST RICHARDS as Deathlok in Agents of SHIELD Season 1

This first onscreen version of the full Deathlok costume didn't go over too well with fans despite it attempting to honor the color scheme and core elements from the comics. The black shirt and cargo pants didn't quite work with a chest piece and gauntlet that appeared designed by Hasbro's NERF Games.

A few episodes later though, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. gave a a nod to comics readers when depicting Deathlok via X-Ray vision where he looked like his original comics counterpart...

X-Ray Deathlok

Deathlok X-Ray Agents of SHIELD

And the current Deathlok 2.0 after more "upgrades" as revealed in Agents of SHIELD season 2, episode 16.

Deathlok 2.0

Modern Comics Deathlok

New Deathlok Marvel Comics (The Enemy of My Enemy)

The above cover depicts the modern Deathlok from the current run of his solo comic title (he even became a member of The Avengers). It retains the red primary costume color - similar to Ant-Man's movie costume - but is more detailed, practical and subtle in the cyborg elements. Will J. August Richards' live-action costume ever evolve into something similar to the comics?

You know, it's such work in progress and I can see a scenario where that happens. I was really excited in one episode where Mike was under a x-ray and we got to see that underneath it all he does look a bit like the comic character. We’ll see, it’s constantly evolving, as you can already see.

It's no coincidence Marvel tweeted out earlier this week the first volume of the modern Deathlok comic series:

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