Comic-Con 2013: Marvel Unveils Agent Carter

Hayley Atwell impresses in the company's latest One Shot

Cementing what looks set to become a very enjoyable Comic-Con tradition, Marvel debuted Agent Carter, their new short film (or One Shot), tonight at the Reading Gaslamp theatre in San Diego.

Following in the footsteps of last year’s Avengers follow-up, Item 47, Agent Carter is a fun, sprightly 15-minute vehicle for Hayley Atwell’s redoubtable Peggy Carter, last seen weeping as Steve Rogers disappeared off her radar at the end of Captain America: The First Avenger.

The bittersweet ending of that movie, and the shifting of Steve Rogers into the present day, seemed to spell the end for any significant Marvel presence for Atwell, who impressed so highly in Joe Johnston’s movie. But, as it turns out, not only did Peggy become a firm fan favourite, but Marvel top brass, including studio chief and One Shot director Louis D’Eposito, also wanted to give her a storyline that put her in the spotlight. Cameras rolled in March for less than a week, and just four months later D’Esposito unveiled his film tonight in front of a feverish audience packed with giddy fans.

And it’s a tonne of fun. Set one year after the events of The First Avenger, Peggy - still raw after the loss of Steve Rogers - has been transferred to a new government agency, where her boss (Bradley Whitford) seeks to oppress and undermine her at every turn, keeping her glued firmly to her desk. But when a tip-off comes in, Peggy sees a chance to take on a dangerous mission.

We won’t spoil it for you, suffice to say that Peggy kicks some bottom, shows that a woman can make serious headway in a man’s man’s man’s man’s world, and there are neat Easter eggs and cameos from key Captain America players. There’s even a post-credits sting, a nice self-mocking touch from a company that’s become synonymous with the practice.

And the whole thing looks ace as well (at $750,000, it has a budget that dwarves any short film we can think of, and has production values to match), zips along at a fair old pace, and has plenty of action and laughs, with Whitford on fine prissy form as the boss with a bee up his butt.

The short, though, belongs to Atwell, as you might expect, and she delivers in fine feisty fashion, whether she’s defying her boss, or belting anonymous henchmen around the head with a briefcase. In fact, based on this form, it’s a huge shame that Atwell won’t be playing a key role in the Captain America franchise, but we’d be quite happy to watch a series of Agent Carter shorts, particularly as it ends in quite tantalising fashion.

That’s unlikely to happen, sadly. D’Esposito, speaking to Empire after the screening, confirmed that Marvel are currently unlikely to accelerate their One Shot production schedule beyond one a year, if that, and that the subject matter for next year’s short has yet to be decided. It’s a safe bet, though, that, just as Agent Carter is designed to link in with Captain America: The Winter Soldier, it’ll tie in with Guardians Of The Galaxy or The Avengers 2. Let’s hope that this becomes a tradition as eagerly awaited as the shorts that preface every Pixar film.

To hear from Hayley Atwell on Agent Carter, download Empire’s special Comic-Con podcast, due Monday.