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Avengers #11 introduces a major twist for Agent Coulson

Last time we saw the S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, he was dead

from Avengers #11 Jason Aaron, Ed McGuinness, Cory Smith/Marvel Comics

This summer, the Avengers kicked off a brand new run with a brand new team lineup. But in its latest arc, written by Jason Aaron and drawn by Ed McGuinness, the roster causes some problems for the team, consisting of Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Black Panther, Captain Marvel, She-Hulk and Ghost Rider, with an elected Black Panther as their chairman and de facto leader.

Given that Captain America isn’t very cosy with the United States after a version of him lead a fascist takeover of it not too long ago ... the government feels a little uneasy about having a foreign head of state in charge of the Avengers. So, General Thunderbolt Ross, an old antagonist of the Hulk, has been appointed to head up a new, government sponsored super team: the Squadron Supreme.

[Ed. note: This post contains spoilers for Avengers #11.]

But there’s another big bad rising in the ranks who’s right there with the government in considering the Avengers an enemy and he’s none other than Agent Phil Coulson.

Yes, the good-natured, friendly Phil Coulson is now swearing vengeance on superheroes. The issue opens up with Agent Coulson delivering a monologue to an unidentified S.H.I.E.L.D. agent about how he used to idolize superheroes — but no longer.

Although he originated in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Agent Coulson became part of Marvel Comics proper in 2012, when he debuted in Battle Scars #1, an issue covering the aftermath of Marvel’s Fear Itself event. More recently, his death was a major story beat in Marvel’s Secret Empire.

When the villainous Steve Rogers realized that Coulson had discovered that he was secretly a Hydra-allied fascist, Rogers told Deadpool that Coulson had gone rogue from S.H.I.E.L.D. On Cap’s orders, the mutant mercenary executed Coulson — and destroyed his beloved flying car, Lola. Now, it seems, Coulson is back, and he hasn’t forgiven any of his heroes for betraying him.

In fact, during the middle of a long speech where he berates the Avengers, Coulson dramatically burns his treasured Captain America trading cards.

Avengers #11 - Agent Coulson holding up a burning Captain America card Jason Aaron, Ed McGuinness, Cory Smith/Marvel Comics

He then promptly shoots the agent in the leg.

Coulson’s convinced that this agent is a traitor — a claim which could be true as far as we know — and tells him that the Avengers will soon learn of the Squadron Supreme, but on the Squadron’s terms. The agent tries to barter with Coulson. He’s a decent, good-natured guy who remembered everyone’s birthdays! He doesn’t have to resort to this!

But Coulson’s always been a S.H.I.E.L.D agent — he’s always had the capacity to kill. He knows that the agent’s aware of this and was just stalling him.

Coulson turns his gun on the agent. The lights go black. There’s a scuffle, but Coulson emerges victorious, ready to embark on this new path as a villain.

Will Coulson’s turn end in redemption? Will it matter? As we know from Captain America’s time on the wrong side of history, fans don’t take kindly to watching their heroes turn to the dark side. Time will tell if Coulson’s new identity will click or blow up the Avengers universe yet again.

Avengers #11 - Agent Coulson saying ‘God Bless America’ Jason Aaron, Ed McGuinness, Cory Smith/Marvel Comics