Phillip J. "Phil" Coulson is a former Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. Prior to his appointment, he served as one of the organization's best operatives. He acted as former Director Nick Fury's right-hand man for many important missions. He was put in charge of surveillance and served as the primary operative in Fury's Avengers Initiative. Agent Coulson also ran ground interference and tactical operations in Puente Antiguo, New Mexico as part of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s investigation surrounding the incident with Thor and the Destroyer. Coulson was also the primary S.H.I.E.L.D. operative in the investigation into Stark Industries: Sector 16 and the incident on the Howard Stark Memorial Freeway.
During the Attack on the Helicarrier, Agent Coulson was killed by Loki. His death gave the Avengers the push they needed to band together and stop the Chitauri invasion. On the orders of Director Fury, Coulson was brought to the Guest House, a secret facility where he was brought back to life using treatments developed by Project T.A.H.I.T.I., a project which he had formerly presided over. To preserve his sanity after he was healed, all memory of these events were removed from his mind.
Coulson returned to S.H.I.E.L.D. to lead a new team to investigate the cases S.H.I.E.L.D. had not yet classified. While on this team, Coulson discovered the truth about the events after his death. During the HYDRA Uprising, despite the dissolution of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the betrayal of a member of his team, he led his team against the forces of HYDRA, attempting to stop his former colleague John Garrett, winning the final battle in which Garrett was ultimately defeated. After the battle, Nick Fury appointed him the new Director of S.H.I.E.L.D., ordering him to rebuild the organization from scratch.
To perform that task, Coulson led the remains of S.H.I.E.L.D. in many battles against HYDRA, crippling the terrorist organization. He even made some contacts with the US military via Brigadier General Glenn Talbot. However, he became a fugitive when another faction of S.H.I.E.L.D., led by Robert Gonzales, attacked and occupied his base. Now accompanied by only a few loyal friends, Coulson started a battle to reclaim S.H.I.E.L.D. He eventually made a deal with Gonzales, and they worked together against HYDRA, finally reunifying the two factions into one organization with Coulson as its rightful director. However, a new threat soon arose, the Inhumans led by Jiaying, the mother of Agent Skye. In the ensuing conflict, both S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Inhumans suffered casualties, and even Coulson paid an extreme price to achieve victory, having his left arm cut off. But even that loss did not stop him, and he started a new project that would ensure the safety of humanity.
The mission of recruiting Inhumans for the team became more difficult, as the Advanced Threat Containment Unit led by Rosalind Price, was dealing with the threat of the new Inhumans. However, Coulson had a relationship with Price while facing the threats of Grant Ward's HYDRA, Lash and the Inhumans. After Ward killed Price, Coulson followed him to the planet Maveth and killed him to avenge all the people that he had murdered. As he thought that Gideon Malick was the last remaining leader of HYDRA, Coulson discovered that the ancient Inhuman, Hive, had returned to Earth from Maveth, using Ward's body as a host. With Malick's death, Coulson, with feelings of guilt for causing this threat, invested efforts to prevent Hive from accomplishing his plan to change all Humans to Inhumans and to control all of them. Once Agent Lincoln Campbell had sacrificed himself to kill Hive and saved humanity, the directorship of S.H.I.E.L.D. passed to Jeffrey Mace, while Coulson and Alphonso Mackenzie conducted a pursuit after the former agent turned vigilante Daisy Johnson.
With the revelation of Lucy Bauer and her ambition to find the dangerous Darkhold book, Coulson created an alliance with Johnson and Ghost Rider to find the book before the ghost did. He was caught in an explosion with Ghost Rider and Fitz by Eli Morrow and almost sank into another dimension, but managed to get out with help from Holden Radcliffe and Aida. Coulson then led the last fight against Morrow. Following the revelation that Mace was not actually an Inhuman, Coulson returned to the position of Director de facto while Mace remained de jure Director. Continuing fighting the Watchdogs and their leader Anton Ivanov who targeted him, Coulson was kidnapped by Holden Radcliffe, replaced by an LMD and put inside the Framework, where he lived as a history teacher. With the help of Johnson and Jemma Simmons, Coulson escaped the Framework, only to face against the threat of Aida to the world.
After he killed her, by temporarily bonding with a demonic entity, Coulson and the others were sent to the year 2091, where Earthwas destroyed and the surviving humans were enslaved by the Kree. He and the other agents eventually made it back to present day, although Coulson revealed that he was dying from a mysterious illness due to the Spirit of Vengeance. In order to learn more about the Destruction of Earth, Coulson was imprisoned by General Hale, who not only revealed that HYDRA still existed under her lead, but also that there was an impending alien invasion.