After the scandalous affair of the Secret War and its disastrous effect on New York City, S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury goes into hiding. S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Maria Hill, viewed by the leaders of several nations as being both an efficient agent and, more importantly in their eyes, not directly loyal to Fury or any of his core group, is appointed interim Executive Director, being expected to be loyal to United States interests before those of the United Nations, which S.H.I.E.L.D. is supposed to serve before any other country.
Hill quickly establishes new policies on super-powered heroes, as requested by the President of the United States and his peers in other national governments: to end S.H.I.E.L.D. support for the heroes. These policies are in full effect when Hill tries to prevent The Avengers from re-forming following the breakout at the Raft super-villain prison. However, Captain America's champion status allows him to form any team he wants for any mission he sees fit, while Spider-Woman's status as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent gives her access to any files that the Avengers may require. With these two situations meaning that the Avengers could operate independent of Hill's authority while retaining access to the relevant information they need to complete their mission of tracking down the Raft escapees, Hill is convinced to leave the situation alone.
In the wake of events in the Savage Land, the Avengers suspect Hill of being complicit in various crimes, but lack the evidence to prove her wrongdoing, while Hill herself suspected the latest incarnation of the Avengers of harboring an illicit agenda in connection with, among other things, the "House of M" affair, to the point that she abducted Spider-Man and The Vision to question them about the situation even when dealing with the Collective. She eventually earns Iron Man's respect when she ignores the President's orders to nuke an island the Avengers were on at the time.
In the 20062007 miniseries Civil War, Captain America refuses to assist Commander Hill in preparations to arrest any superheroes who refuses to comply with the Superhuman Registration Act, seeing such activity as politically motivated, but Hill, arguing that Captain America must obey the will of the American people, attempts to arrest him, but he fights his way out and escapes. After the Act passes into law, Hill is one of its leading enforcers. She blackmails Wonder Man into actively supporting S.H.I.E.L.D.'s crusade to hunt down the superheroes opposed to the Registration Act. She sends Kree supersoldier Noh-Varr, already brainwashed, to capture the Runaways. She directs the Thunderbolts to capture Spider-Man after he goes rogue. After foiling an attack on Stark Tower, Hill admits to Tony Stark that she does not want her job as director of S.H.I.E.L.D. and thinks she should not have been offered it in the first place. She suggests that the only other person besides Nick Fury who should lead the organization is Stark himself. At the conclusion of the Civil War, Tony Stark is appointed the new director of S.H.I.E.L.D., with a displeased Hill his acting deputy director.
After being made Deputy Director, Maria Hill becomes a core member of Stark's S.H.I.E.L.D. cabinet and assists Stark in dealing with a sudden rise in various terrorist groups who have gained access to hyper-advanced biological weapons. Unlike the rest of the cabinet, Hill remains skeptical of a single conspiracy behind all these attacks. Subsequently, however, Hill becomes much more trusting in Stark's leadership, a trusted agent in her role as Deputy Director, and far less bound by conventional process, particularly after a confrontation with Dum Dum Dugan, in which he forces her to confront the fact that she was apparently willing to take actions that would allow innocent people to die while still sticking to "the book" because the alternative was to disobey orders. She eventually risks her career by locking down the United Nations under S.H.I.E.L.D. martial law so Stark can escape a tribunal going against him and track down the Mandarin.
During the 2008 Secret Invasion storyline, after the Helicarrier is disabled by Skrull invaders, Hill, who is left in charge in Stark's absence, confronts a number of extraterrestrial Skrulls, shapeshifters who can assume the appearance of anyone or anything, who are revealed to have replaced a number of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents. The Skrulls execute Hill, but this "Hill" is revealed to be a Life Model Decoy of Hill. Hill then activates the Helicarrier's self-destruct system, killing all the Skrull infiltrators on board, escaping via jet pack.
In the aftermath of the Skrull Invasion's failure, during the Dark Reign storyline, S.H.I.E.L.D is disbanded by the President, and Hill and Tony Stark lose their jobs, replaced by the newly appointed director Norman Osborn who then reforms the fallen S.H.I.E.L.D. into H.A.M.M.E.R. Hill tries to go about having a normal life, but Osborn dispatches H.A.M.M.E.R. to arrest her. She joins her former boss, Tony Stark, as a fugitive after he stole the Superhuman Registration Database, and he sends her on a mission to retrieve a hard drive and deliver the data to Captain America via Black Widow, all the while evading H.A.M.M.E.R. agents. They are eventually captured when H.A.M.M.E.R. intercepts an e-mail from Stark, but they are rescued by Pepper Potts, disguised as Madame Masque.
Following the apparent death of Nick Fury, she was appointed commander, then acting director, and finally director of S.H.I.E.L.D. following Daisy Johnson's actions that involved the Secret Avengers invading A.I.M. Island.
- Iron Man: Rise of Technovore (2013)
- Marvel Disk Wars: The Avengers (2014)
- Avengers Confidential: Black Widow & Punisher (2014)
- Marvel Cinematic Universe (2012 present), portrayed by Cobie Smulders:
- Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 (2009)
- Marvel: Avengers Alliance (2012)
- Marvel Heroes (2013)
- LEGO Marvel Super Heroes (2013)
- Avengers Academy (2016)
- Marvel's Avengers (2020)
- Iron Man: Armored Adventures (2009 2012)
- The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes! (2010 2012), voiced by Kari Wührer.
- Avengers, Assemble! (2014)
Maria Hill provides examples of:
- Actually a Doombot:
- Shortly after she became head of S.H.I.E.L.D., Nick Fury broke into her room and told her if she ever suspected something was up that she should replace herself with an LMD immediately. She took it to heart - a few months later, Nick Fury sent his Caterpillars to abduct her. They got an LMD instead, which Fury was counting on.
- During Secret Invasion the Skrulls seemingly execute her, only to realise that what they killed was a Life Model Decoy. Which Hill then blows up.
- Aloof Dark-Haired Girl: She has dark hair, and also is very aloof and poised with those she interacts.
- Badass Normal: She is one of the very few normal humans that can stand face-to-face with supervillains, that include Killer Robots and Physical Gods, without fear.
- BFG: She uses a massive bazooka as she rescues Thor in Siege.
- By-the-Book Cop: She's a strict follower of the law as it is written and playing by the rules, which creates friction between her and Fury due to his more Military Maverick style, and several times she's filed reports criticizing his actions. This was the reason why she was appointed interim Executive Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. in the first place - she's loyal to S.H.I.E.L.D. law, not to Fury or any of his trusted people.
- Captain Crash: Helicarriers have a tendency to fall out of the sky whenever she's in command. Though to be fair the things tend to not have the greatest safety record for anyone else, either.
- Depending on the Artist: In her first appearances, she had Boyish Short Hair and big lips. Later storylines would zigzag on this design and a more youthfull-looking one with smaller lips and slightly longer hair. Her Ms. Fanservice features can also vary depending on the artist. Her hair especially can shift between issues that are supposed to take place around the same time; the image for this page was an instance when the artist wanted her to have longer hair, but she's usually depicted with very short hair. At times, her hair length varies to differentiate her from Daisy Johnson.
- Depending on the Writer: How much of an Jerkass she is. When written by Bendis, she is at least aware she's a piece of work, and has occasional moments where she is not a complete asshole (assisting the Avengers with Xorn, refusing to nuke Genosha just to get rid of Xorn). Other writers, Nick Spencer in particular, have her Kick the Dog so much you'd think it was an addiction for her.
- Dramatic Irony: Whenever Maria Hill is forced to work against the government, like when Norman Osborn is head of S.H.I.E.L.D. or when the cosmic cube-warped, Hydra-loyal Captain America took over America. Maria Hill clearly hates working against the law, as she favors a draconian interpretation of it, but even she has standards.
- Establishing Character Moment: Ringing up the newly formed New Avengers to tell Captain America that as far as she's concerned he, Captain America, has no right to reform the Avengers without her say-so, and she ain't giving it.
- Everyone Has Standards: Despite her strict adherence to authority, she refuses to work for Norman Osborn or Secret Empire Captain America when they are her superiors when she realizes what depraved monsters they are.
- Foil: To Nick Fury. Where Nick is a Cowboy Cop who is very close with the superhero community (to the point of having regular steak nights with some of them), Maria is a By-the-Book Cop who is distant at best, rude at worse to superheroes.
- The Friend Nobody Likes: In spades. Nobody liked working with her when she first debuted, and it took a very long time for people to warm to her. Even those within S.H.I.E.L.D. dislike her, and cheered at the sight of her being fired in the wake of Secret Invasion.
- Heel Realization: Has had a number of these over the years when her work pushes her over various Moral Event Horizons. When she set up the brain-washing reality-warping Pleasant Hill prison, she fully expected to be put into it herself for building it. And a 2017 story in Jessica Jones reveals she put an enormous bounty on her own head that would go active the instant she left S.H.I.E.L.D. She did this after her first mission for Nick Fury.
- Hero Antagonist: She's frequently used as opposition whenever a writer needs a hero to perform some legally grey act.
- I Hate Past Me: Downplayed. When she remembered that she had issued an enormous bounty on her own head years ago in the event that she left S.H.I.E.L.D., Maria cancelled the bounty and scolded her younger self for her naïve, self-righteous attitude.
- Inspector Javert: Especially during the Civil War storyline. She is not a villain, but she sincerely believes the law is always right, even when others disagree. If a hero toes out of line even a little bit, she'll be the first to try and give them a bad day.
- Iron Lady: She's part of the leadership of S.H.I.E.L.D., and as such stoic and no-nonsense almost all the time.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: On her better days, she is on the Avengers' side, but she doesn't exactly make things easy for them. Case in point: Knocking out Spidey so the psi-department could pick his brains for sensitive information Iron Man and Cap weren't giving... so she could use it to help the Avengers with the problem of the week.
- Knight Templar: While not quite evil, she still fits this to a degree, with her insistence that superheroes must register in Civil War becoming one of her signature character traits (after which she became a steady and unavoidable character of the Marvel Universe), and her occasional stonewalling of their efforts.
- Lawful Stupid: At times she spends more time antagonizing superheroes, forcing them to comply with the law, than actual villains.
- Ms. Fanservice: Zig-zagged, sometimes she's portrayed with a very athletic build, a very notable chest and a nice rear but other time she's drawn with a slender build and a smaller chest.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: In Civil War, Cap wasn't keen on the registration but simply told her he wasn't going to hunt any heroes who didn't join, remaining neutral. Her response was to have him detained seeing it as treason. Cap tried to end the stand off peacefully, but when she didn't relent, he ended up escaping, figured this little action justified his beliefs and went on to lead the anti-registration side. So technically she's more or less the reason things ended up escalating in the first place. And the real dumb thing about this? The bill hadn't passed yet when she did this.
- Number Two: To Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D., she is officially the second in command. She later became this to Daisy Johnson, much to her displeasure. Eventually, she'd return to being head of S.H.I.E.L.D.
- Odd Friendship: She and Tony Stark gradually developed one.
- Power Hair: Depending on the Artist, but she tends to have short hair.
- Promoted to Scapegoat: The Skrulls had a hand in her replacing Nick Fury, knowing full well when everything went to crap she'd get the blame (then they'd kill her).
- Spy Catsuit: Her basic uniform as an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D..
- The Stoic: She usually behaves seriously, professionally, and level-headed.
- Straight Man: Always composed and serious, even in the face of Fury's irritation or Tony Stark's wisecracking. This verges on The Comically Serious at times.
- Utopia Justifies the Means: To a degree. For Maria, almost any method that will ensure overall global security, peace and order is worth it, seeing the compromises involved as necessary. For this reason, she has an I Did What Ihad To Do attitude whenever she is confronted by heroes over her decisions and she never, ''ever'', apologizes for them regardless of how immoral they are or how much harm they bring. However, Maria will draw the line whenever someone abuses the law for self-serving, harmful purposes or whenever too many innocent lives are blatantly threatened.
- In Civil War, she fully endorsed and enforced the Superhuman Registration Act in an effort to bring the superhero community, traditionally a political wild card, more firmly under the control of the American government with the aim of bringing more social stability to the country.
- In Avengers Standoff, she personally commenced and managed the Pleasant Hill initiative in an effort to pacify supervillains who have repeatedly escaped conventional incarceration. To do this, Maria tricked both Steve Rogers and Captain America (Sam Wilson), "convinced" certain politicians and scientists to look the other way, and enlisted the aid of Kobik to maintain the false reality of Pleasant Hill by giving the supervillains new, peaceful identities. When the initiative fell apart, her first act was to sweep all evidence of the entire incident under the rug and convince the heroes who helped to control the situation to keep quiet. All that results in her dismissal from S.H.I.E.L.D., however brief it may be.
- In Civil War II, she is a important supporter of Captain Marvel's plan to use Ulysses' power to stop crimes before they even happen. Maria's support gave Captain Marvel the political muscle to convince the American government, including the President, that Precrime Arrest is a sound idea.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: That's one way of looking at her characterization. In spite of her antagonistic relationship with superheroes, one could still argue that she's doing it for the right reasons.