Tuesday, March 03, 2009
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.