Throughout its fourth season, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. blew open the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe by introducing a number of concepts from the comics. Ghost Rider, LMDs, and a world controlled by Hydra each could have spun out entire seasons, but SHIELD deftly wove them all together into a cohesive story mixing science and magic into the show’s strongest overall arc yet. But as big as many of the introductions were this season, the brief tag at the end of last week’s finale may prove to be the most consequential move the show has ever made.
Until the show returns next January, fans will be fervently discussing Coulson’s new job and his apparent location in deep space. But more than just provide a shocking conclusion and an interesting new status quo for next season, SHIELD may have just introduced a huge concept from the comics. Immediately following the finale, fans of the comics quickly began theorizing that SHIELD had just debuted S.W.O.R.D., an organization similar to the titular agency that deals in extraterrestrial threats. But while it seems obvious at first blush, there are a number of questions surrounding the possibility. In the end, the tag scene begs the question: Will SWORD Appear In The Marvel Cinematic Universe?
Like S.H.I.E.L.D., S.W.O.R.D. is an acronym, in this case standing for Sentient World Observation and Response Department. As the name implies, SWORD is tasked with defending the world from threats outside of the planet, most often involving alien invasions and cosmic intrusions. While SHIELD certainly handles their fair share of these sorts of incidents, SWORD has in recent years become the first line of defense thanks to its position in Earth’s orbit.
Created by Joss Whedon, SWORD debuted during his run of Astonishing X-Men during issue #6 back in 2004. Headed up by Abigail Brand, the new organization works alongside SHIELD and the U.S. government, but had their own way of handling things. Brand is both a strong and bullheaded leader, much like SHIELD’s Maria Hill. While that already puts her at odds with the Avengers and X-Men at times, things have only grown worse since Nick Fury stepped down from leading SHIELD. Still, SWORD and their space station headquarters the Peak have helped stop a number of extraterrestrial threats, thanks in no small part to Brand’s work and skills.
Given the position of the group in the comics and Whedon’s connection to SHIELD, SWORD may seem like a given now that Coulson is clearly in space. After all, what other work would the agent be tasked with above the Earth other than protecting the planet? But while SWORD is the first thing to jump to mind when you think ‘SHIELD in space,’ things aren’t so cut and dry.
Thanks to the group debuting in the X-Men universe, the rights to SWORD and Brand are in question. Prominent members of the team also include Beast and Shadowcat’s dragon Lockheed. Outside of the X-Men, human SWORD agent Henry Gyrich has even appeared in Fox’s movies. In the first X-Men, he served alongside Senator Kelly, mirroring Gyrich’s superhuman hatred from the comics. Of course, the issue of Marvel and Fox’s rights is a tricky one, and we’ve seen some deviations and exceptions over the years. So the question remains as to who owns the rights to adapt SWORD.