Book Review: Marvel's Art of Guardians and Guide to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Marvel certainly knows how to put out some quality products in support of their big screen ventures. Aside from the toys and collectibles that accompany any major release, Marvel has consistently done a top notch job of putting together beautiful hardcover books that chronicle the entire production process for their movies, and now, television series. Their two latest releases are THE ART OF GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY and AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. SEASON ONE DECLASSIFIED. Both books come in gorgeous slipcases and feature tons of never before seen images from the development of each title.
THE ART OF GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY follows the same template as the previous released ART OF books for CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER and THOR: THE DARK WORLD. It opens with a nice introduction from James Gunn as he discusses the inspiration for GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY and how the different characters developed and deviated from their comic book counterparts. The rest of the book is a visual feast full of pre-production art, sketches, and design ideas for every alien and every craft featured in the film.
It is fascinating to see just how detailed GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY had to be since this was not a film about a handful of heroes but an entire new universe that needed to be populated. The growth of the designs for Star-Lord and the other Guardians are especially interesting as we see the just how different this film could have been. Some images of Rocket Raccoon look more like an Ewok while there are completely different designs for Nebula and Gamora. The alternate Groot designs also range from frightening to completely different from what made it to screen.
But, Gunn and company went to the smallest detail as the book even shows how they designed the entire Nova Corps rank system as originated in the comics. We don't always see these details upon first viewing, but THE ART OF GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY absolutely enhances the experience the same way that a director's commentary would. This is simply a gorgeous book that any comic book and movie fan would love to display on their coffee table.
While the AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. SEASON ONE DECLASSIFIED is equally beautiful in design and execution, it is not a mere art book. With AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. delivering over 20 hours of Marvel goodness, this book serves more as an episode guide for the freshman season. The opening chapters give a background on the origin of the series with comic book history for the organization. There is also a nice section on the return of Phil Coulson and how Clark Gregg's portrayal has permeated the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Each chapter covers an episode of the season, giving a synopsis of the plot, key easter eggs you may have missed, and even the running behavorial themes from each character that you may have missed on first viewing. The biggest perk of this book is learning all of the Marvel Comics references that were peppered through each episode. We may have seen the character references and appearances from Deathlok and Graviton, but there were numerous other ones you may have missed.
In addition, almost every episode comes with a schematic, map, or diagram of a key scene from that episode. These are very cool treats for fans of the show as they can both see how the show developed these intricate scenes as well as a nice way to delve deeper into the series. The layout of the book acts as if it is a S.H.I.E.L.D. computer, so everything appears encoded and gives the impression that the reader is accessing this top secret database of information.
AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. got a lot of criticism for having an unbalanced debut season. While it didn't quite find its legs until the final half dozen episodes, this book supports that the showrunners and producers had a definite idea of where they wanted the show to go. There are few hints at where the upcoming second season may go, but if they plan to put one of these books out every season, it would be well worth the investment for fans.
Marvel has yet to hit a road bump with any of their releases in theaters or on television and these books support that wholeheartedly. Having full control over the layout and publication of these books, Marvel has provided fans a slew of knowledge straight from the source and done so in these handsome editions. I know I have not stopped thumbing through them since they came into my possession and you will definitely want to add these to any birthday or holiday shopping lists.
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