Marvel Studios is now ramping up to their big superhero movie crossover event The Avengers - an ambitious saga that has been in the making ever since Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk were released in 2008.
The last two years have brought us much deeper into The Avengers universe with the releases of Iron Man 2, Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger - however, despite some clear links between the respective films, there have been some gaps in the telling of how Marvel's mightiest heroes ultimately come together.
We've known for some time that Marvel is planning live-action short films, which would presumably be used to test the appeal of their more obscure superhero properties (Black Panther, Dr. Strange, Heroes for Hire, etc.). However, at Comic-Con 2011 we learned that some of the first "one-shot" shorts would be used to serve another purpose: fill in gaps of The Avengers saga.
Marvel's first one-shot short is called "The Consultant" and stars Clark Gregg as S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Coulson - the errand boy of Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) - who has shown up time and again in an effort to recruit superheroes for "The Avengers Initiative." Marvel has released a preview of "The Consultant", which will be featured on the Thor Blu-ray this fall.
Take a look at Coulson's clandestine conversation in this preview clip of "The Consultant", and see if you can place the short in the proper chronology of The Avengers saga:
To us it's pretty clear that this conversation between Coulson and (presumably) another S.H.I.E.L.D. agent takes place in the time period of Iron Man 2/Incredible Hulk. The "consultant" would refer to Tony Stark's status as a consultant on The Avengers Initiative (which was established at the end of IM2), and the mission to annoy General "Thunderbolt" Ross would refer to the conversation that takes place between Ross and Stark at the end of Incredible Hulk.
Basically, what we're seeing in this short is Coulson deciding to send Stark to talk to Ross about The Avengers Initiative and manipulate him into keeping "Blonsky" - a.k.a. The Abomination from Incredible Hulk - under lock and key. But to what end?
To create Hulk-buster armor?
To help secure The Hulk as an Avenger?
To use the super-soldier serum in Ross' possession?
Guess we'll find out when The Avengers hits (or in another one-shot), but our guess is the conversation will likely lead to Ross helping bring Banner/Hulk to the team.
There is already word on the next one-shot short, entitled "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor's Hammer." It will reportedly detail an incident that occurred between Iron Man 2 and Thor, as Agent Coulson was en-route from Tony Stark's mansion to the New Mexico desert to lock down the crash site of Thor's hammer, Mjolnir. Should be fun.
While these first one-shots aren't as exciting as, say, a short introducing Doctor Strange, it's still good to see the Avengers saga being expanded, and all the little gaps being filled. We know that Joss Whedon's Avengers movie will likely hit the ground running and blow the borders of the Marvel movie universe wide open, so using these shorts to drop little clues and foreshadows that will better explain the big showdown is a good strategy in our book.
What about you guys: do you think these Agent Coulson one-shots are good fun, or just boring?
The Avengers will (finally) be here on May 4, 2012.
You can catch "The Consultant" one-shot short on the Thor Blu-ray, which hits store shelves on September 13, 2011.