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Phillip Coulson (b. 8 July 1964) is a field agent working for S.H.I.E.L.D.
He served as Director Fury's second-in-command for some of the Division's most important missions. One of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s most decorated operatives, Coulson was put in charge of surveillance and served as the primary operative in the Avengers Initiative.
During a press conference following Tony Stark's escape from the custody of the Ten Rings in Afghanistan, Coulson approached Pepper Potts to schedule a meeting with Stark. He later approached Stark himself at a benefit for the Firefighters' Family Fund to arrange a meeting, and Stark dismissively agreed; Coulson arrived at Stark Industries headquarters for the debriefing, but encountered Potts as she hurried from the building, having downloaded incriminating files that showed that Obadiah Stane had sold Stark Industries weapons to terrorist organizations as well as having arranged the abduction of Tony Stark by the Ten Rings. Coulson then accompanied Potts back to Stark Industries headquarters, but Stane escaped arrest by suiting up in his Iron Monger armor and battling against Stark. Following the explosion of the Arc Reactor, Coulson provided Stark with a prepared alibi that Stark promptly disregarded. (IM)
Six months later, following a drunken brawl between Stark and Lt. Col. James Rhodes at Stark's mansion, Coulson was assigned by Fury to personally monitor Stark while the industrialist searched for a cure to his palladium poisoning. He later assisted Stark in the construction of a prismatic accelerator with which Stark synthesized a new element to power his Arc Reactor, and informed Stark that he had been reassigned to New Mexico by Fury. (IM2)
Thor's arrival on Midgard
After S.H.I.E.L.D.'s scientific branch detected unusual electromagnetic activity in the vicinity of Puente Antiguo, Coulson was dispatched to the site of an impact crater. In transit, he stopped at a gas station and overpowered two robbers (AFTHOTWTTH). At the crater site, he found a number of town locals trying unsuccessfully to pull a hammer from the earth. Coulson notified S.H.I.E.L.D., who cleared and secured the area for further investigation.
With the hammer secured, Coulson turned his attention to the surrounding area and discovered equipment which led him back to astrophysicist Jane Foster and her colleagues. He immediately confiscated the remainder of her equipment and research, and when Foster returned to her home to discover her possessions being hauled away, Coulson offered her a check as compensation.
He was later at the S.H.I.E.L.D. compound surrounding the hammer when alarms sounded to signal an intrusion, and he became concerned by a corresponding build-up of anomalous weather. He witnessed an unarmed intruder battering his way into the compound to reach the hammer, and instructed Agent Clint Barton not to use lethal force against the man, instead watching as the man reached the hammer, struggled in an attempt to lift it, and crumpled in anguish. Coulson ordered the man captured, confronted him, pressed him for information on his background and apparent military training, and earned only limited answers in reply.
The next day, Coulson was approached by Erik Selvig, who spoke on behalf of the stranger and claimed the man's name was "Donald Blake". Coulson discovered inconsistencies in Selvig's claim, but released his detainee before ordering S.H.I.E.L.D. agents to follow him.
Coulson responded to another discovery in the New Mexico desert when he received a report of four strangely-dressed newcomers in Puente Antiguo. Before he could respond, he was confronted by a ten-foot-tall humanoid machine that appeared through a wind vortex in the desert. He challenged it on the basis that it appeared to be unregistered weapons technology, at which point it opened fire and scattered the assembled agents.
Coulson escaped serious injury from the encounter, but could do little more than watch as the Destroyer laid waste to Puente Antiguo. At that point, the hammer that S.H.I.E.L.D. had been guarding dislodged itself from its resting place as it was summoned by the stranger that Coulson had formerly detained; Coulson then witnessed the man defeat the machine, and approached him in the aftermath, pointing out that "Blake" had not been completely honest.
Thor told Coulson that their goals were the same, and that Coulson could therefore count on him as an ally if he returned Foster's equipment and notes. Coulson accepted and pointed out that Foster would need the equipment to continue her research. He then watched as Thor and his four friends left. (THOR)
Some time later, Coulson met with Agent Sitwell in a diner to discuss the Avenger Initiative. While Nick Fury's superiors had approved the Initiative, the Council wanted Emil Blonsky (now dubbed "The Abomination") recruited onto the team due to his military record and status as a war hero.
Since Blonsky was still being held by General Thaddeus Ross, the Council planned to blame all the destruction that Abomination had caused during his rampage in Harlem on Bruce Banner in order to clear Blonsky's name and have him released. With Fury unable to outright refuse, Coulson proposed sending a patsy to meet with Ross in the hopes of sabotaging the meeting so that Ross would refuse to hand Blonsky over. Sitwell suggested sending the "Consultant," who turned out to be Tony Stark; Coulson opposed the idea, but eventually relented, resulting in a successful sabotage when Ross refused to release Blonsky into S.H.I.E.L.D. custody, keeping him off the Avengers. (CON)
At some point following his time in New Mexico, Coulson began a long-distance relationship with a cellist who lived in Portland, Oregon. This relationship was known of and approved by 'Pepper' Potts, who considered Phil a friend, discernibly more so than Tony Stark.
Coulson was later assigned to the Project P.E.G.A.S.U.S. facility where the Tesseract, a relic of unimaginable power, was being studied Selvig's team. When the object began releasing erratic power surges, Coulson led an evacuation of the facility shortly before the Tesseract activated and teleported Loki into the facility. Coulson, Fury, and Agent Maria Hill were unable to prevent Loki from stealing the Tesseract prior to the destruction of the facility.
Coulson witnessed the revival of the World War II-era hero Steve Rogers before being tasked with recruiting Stark into the Avengers Initiative, delivering a dossier on the situation. He later escorted Rogers to the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier, awkwardly requesting an autograph; once aboard, he oversaw the task of moving Jane Foster to a safe location.
Following the capture of Loki in Stuttgart, Germany by Rogers and Stark, Coulson remained on board the carrier until rogue S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Clint Barton launched a daring commando raid. During the ensuing skirmish, Coulson procured an experimental weapon and hurried to Loki's holding cell where he discovered Thor trapped in the cell and Loki freed. He held Loki at gunpoint, but the Asgardian created an illusory projection that enabled him to attack Coulson from behind, piercing him through the back with his sceptre.
Coulson managed to fire a single shot before Loki fled the Helicarrier. Fury found the mortally wounded agent, who apologized for letting Loki escape and informed the Director that he was "clocking out" (despite Fury's insistence that dying was "not an option"). Coulson assured Fury that he would not die in vain, claiming that "this was never going to work if they didn't have something to..." He died unceremoniously without completing his final sentence. Fury later informed Hill, Rogers, and Stark of Coulson's death, using it to inspire the Avengers to unite against their common enemy in the ensuing Battle of New York. (AVEN) There is a speculative discussion of Coulson's death here.
Despite the common belief that he had died, Coulson returned to active duty in September of 2013, assembling a team consisting of agents Melinda May and Grant Ward, biochemist Jemma Simmons and engineer Leo Fitz, and hacktivist Skye (AOS). Coulson and Maria Hill later explained to Agent Ward that Fury "faked Coulson's death to motivate the Avengers"; Coulson claimed that he "stopped breathing for about forty seconds," though Hill indicated that Coulson was clinically dead for just eight seconds before being revived. He then spent time recovering in "a grass shack in Tahiti," which he keeps describing as "a magical place"; the story of Coulson's survival, however, is almost certainly a fabrication. Later in the series, Coulson discovers he was actually dead for several days, and that Director Fury had "Moved Heaven and Earth" to bring Coulson back alive. Coulson was given fake memories of a luxurious island so that he would not remember the pain and suffering he had gone through to live again; due to the fact that it would have changed him into a man who had given up on living again. In "Nothing Personal", May shows Coulson a recording which indicates he was the agent in charge of operation T.A.H.I.T.I., designed to save a (hypothetical) mortally-wounded Avenger, and he himself wanted to close it down. In his resignation speech he informs Fury that the only possible hope for sanity in a subject lies in scrubbing their memory of the procedure and replacing it with a pleasant alternative.
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