Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Occasional Reviews: New Avengers The Reunion #1

New Avengers: The Reunion -- outside of the usual intrigue, gadgets, derring-do, A.I.M. agents getting kicked in the head, and so forth -- is about a woman dealing with the aftermath of trauma. Certainly, trauma in the Marvel Universe may more often-than-not involve being tricked and blasted into space, kidnapped by the Beyonder, or snatched by Skrulls and impersonated by an enemy agent. The last scenario is the fate suffered by Bobbi Morse (or is that Morse-Barton?) -- also known as Mockingbird.

On the first page of New Avengers: The Reunion #1 -- actually, the "our story so far" text page cleverly disguised as a memo -- Doc Samson states that Mockingbird has post-traumatic stress disorder as the result of being abducted by Skrulls for such a long period of time. PTSD is a pretty real-world sort of thing to inject into a comic book, and I guess the question here is -- is that condition accurately portrayed, or at least portrayed with some semblance of reality? Making things more delicate, Mockingbird's trauma -- at least to me -- seems "coded" to mean any number of traumas that women might have to face. Again, that may or may not be the point of the actual story: but that's what I, "individual reader," am bringing to it.

I feel that Bobbi's PTSD was pretty accurately done. In one scene, while on an undercover mission, she suddenly gets a flashback to her Skrull abduction. Time stops. Her face goes blank. She is in another world, if only for a second. Later, during a battle, she blanks out again, getting a flash to previous trauma. I've observed this in others who have suffered from PTSD, and I have experienced this myself. It's not fun. It makes you feel vulnerable. There is a palpable sense of Mockingbird's own sense of vulnerability in this story. It is at times uncomfortable, not because it is poorly done, but by how well it is done -- by how real it feels.

Not to give too much away, but the key question of this first issue is: is Mockingbird's extreme display of preparedness and caution (and we are talking Batman-level caution and defense measures here -- like when he was in the JLA and keeping files and secret weapons) the result of PTSD-induced paranoia, or is it justified by an actual threat of that magnitude? If I had to guess, I would say "yes" to both. It's a gray area. Whatever paranoia Bobbi might have, it sure as hell isn't helped by the fact that she "woke up" after an extended sojourn in Skrullville to find out that psycho Norman Osborn is the head of S.H.I.E.L.D..

Lastly, there is the issue of Mockingbird's relationship with both Clint Barton (Ronin) and her other fellow teammates. It's very much what Spider-Woman was dealing with in New Avengers #50. Even though it is not their fault that they were impersonated by Skrulls, those closest to them can't help but be a little wary. And maybe that is a little bit of PTSD that *they* are going to have to deal with and get over as well.

The art in New Avengers: The Reunion, by David and Álvaro López (who you might remember from Catwoman), is excellent, by the way. To pull off the type of emotional complexity that writer Jim McCann is aiming for in the script, you really need artists like them to get the facial expressions down, to capture feelings. This is a book that would have been damaged by artists who didn't have this sort of delicacy.

New Avengers: The Reunion #1 hits shelves tomorrow.


  1. I've been looking forward to this book. Bobbi Morse has been one of my favorite heroines since the Mark Gruenwald Hawkeye series.

  2. It's good to see Marvel taking a stand and dealing with a issues. Finally, a comic book company gives one of their female characters an ounce of decency and respect...

    ...and a splash pic with her near-naked ass on the cover.

  3. "...and a splash pic with her near-naked ass on the cover."

    I know what you mean! It's very hard for me to take Watchmen seriously because of that big blue penis.

  4. *spit take*

    I do remember Byrne made Mockingbird's costume "sexier" when he took over WCA. I'm not crazy about the thong look for Bobbi, but I can live with it seeing as she seems to appear in civilian garb in all the previews I've seen.

    I really wish the JLA/Avengers series hadn't been retconned and we could have a GA/Black Canary crossover with this book.

  5. Maybe Mockingbird, Elektra and Spider-Woman should start their own Skrull-abductee support group.

  6. "I know what you mean! It's very hard for me to take Watchmen seriously because of that big blue penis."
    I wounder if many girls will see the movie just for that blue wonder.
    I know many guys will go see a movie just to see a cute girl sexed up but I have a hard time wrapping my head around the thought of a girl getting turned on over the same kind of thing.
    I think girls might just be wired into not carring as much about that kinda thing... or maybe I am a little sexist or something.

  7. But does it answer the big question, where are her pants?

    Did the Skrulls take them? Will she fight her way back to the Skrull homeworld to reclaim them?

    Or perhaps while she was a prisoner they made her wear pants every single day and now she refused to wear them and the sight of pants causes terrible flashbacks?

    That's what I want to know.

  8. Hmm... Mockingbird, she's at the very heart of the time period when comics were most real for me. When a softball game between the East Coast and West Coast Avengers made sense to me. When comics were still on newsprint. When I thought it was sort of romantic that Hawkeye and Mockingbird would actually start fighting to resolve marital disputes (because I knew neither of them would actually get hurt or even work up a sweat). When I thought that two baton-one big pole system of hers was pretty neat.

    It would be nice to see her again. Always loved those sleeves.

    Weird that she's wearing a thong.

  9. The review’s consideration of psychological problems was interesting, but the review failed to consider the biggest problem with the storyline: an invalid premise. Mockingbird (Morse) died in AWC #100, literally died in her husband’s arms, and was repeatedly written as dead over the 15-16 years since that issue. McCann doesn’t attempt to provide a valid reason for her resurrection; in fact, he has Barton provide a false account of events in AWC #100.

    McCann’s story is, taking his P.R. efforts into account, commercialized fan fiction. He evidently wanted to write Morse as a spy, continue Bendis’s (false) version of Barton as a Captain America idolizer, write an entertaining (Mr. and Mrs. Smith) story, and write for pay. However, in addition to ignoring Morse’s death, he also ignored her past as an Avenger. The dialogue gives the impression that she was abducted while she was a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, but then, she would have never been an Avenger. So, the timeline described in the dialogue makes no sense, Barton’s description of her death makes no sense, and the story overall makes no sense.

    Reviewers and readers alike tend to minimize or dismiss problems with a story’s premise. That might be justified; since events in the (rickety) Marvel universe are interconnected, refusing to accept events in a storyline or storylines as valid because of a flawed premise would eventually lead to the universe being corrupted and unusable. Still, this is an example of nobody taking things seriously. Jeanine Schaefer, the editor, should have insisted that McCann provide a solid explanation for Morse’s resurrection and a specific, solid date for the supposed abduction. If he couldn’t do that --and I doubt that anyone could -- she should have killed the proposal.