And if that Mockingbird don’t sing?

Posted by Anika

This is an article about Bobbi Morse.

Recently in New Avengers, Bobbi Morse aka Mockingbird nearly died. This happens a lot in comics — nearly dying, actually dying, returning from the dead. It’s not news and Mockingbird has done all of the above so it’s not even news for her. If you are not reading New Avengers you probably aren’t even aware of the storyline. Even if you are reading New Avengers, this is probably not the storyline that matters most to you of everything going on in the Marvel Universe right now. Until recently I was preoccupied with mourning Bucky Barnes myself. But since Bucky is actually dead, at least for the time being, and Bobbi is not — I find myself more concerned with her.

Mockingbird is a great character that a lot of people know little to nothing about. She is not A-List. She’s not even B-List. Until about two years ago she was Clint Barton’s dead ex-wife and D-List AT BEST. Now, she’s nearly dying in New Avengers and that still makes her C-List. But she’s a great character and everyone out there who doesn’t know who she is should go meet her — start with her reintroduction in Jim McCann’s New Avengers: The Reunion and Hawkeye and Mockingbird, and then if you want some background, or just some fun, follow up with the trippy insanity that is the West Coast Avengers. There is a television series in the works, I’m excited about that. And I am thrilled that Mockingbird is a central figure in a known title. I loved her character exposition in the most recent issue (New Avengers 14, a Fear Itself tie-in), penned beautifully by Brian Bendis. Loved it. The art by Mike Deodato Jr. is equally well done. All of which is to temper my reaction to what is actually happening to her in this New Avengers plotline:

I don’t like it.

Bobbi nearly died, but she didn’t. She was saved with a shot of Super Secret Super Powerful Super Serum that has given her the strength and agility of Captain America, as well as the longevity and liveliness of Nick Fury. Now she’s Super Bobbi. And she’s super happy:

But I am sad. Bobbi was already a great character. I daresay she was a super character. She was a top notch covert operative with skills, skills and more skills. She was James Bond, she was Michael Weston, she was Batman: a superhero because she was smart, highly trained, well-equipped, and had a will of steel. And most importantly — most importantly — because she CHOSE to be one. Because she wanted to be one.

Now, she has super powers. She’s still a kick-ass heroine but she blends in with all the other kick-ass heroines. And worse than that, she has the same powers as Steve Rogers. It sounds cool but wait a few months and you’ll realize it’s redundant. And you know what? If you are a character pitted against Steve Rogers for storyline supremacy, Steve Rogers will ALWAYS WIN. Just ask Bucky Barnes. Plus she didn’t choose this. She was in a coma and her ex-husband chose it. With one swift shot of Super Serum everything I loved most about Bobbi Morse was undone.

This story is, generally, being handled well. I’ll repeat that I love the full page character panels with Bobbi talking to the camera in the most recent issue. The interview gimmick Bendis is currently using in various Avengers titles is a clever way to impart both plot and character points and I’m enjoying it. I like Bobbi’s exuberance at her new found abilities. I like her vow to end Sin. It was a cool character moment — Bobbi watches Avengers Tower fall, realizes what’s at stake, and swears to use her new strength to stop the villain behind it all. But as cool as it is for Bobbi, I don’t believe it. Carol Danvers vowed to end Norman Osborn half a dozen times during the Dark Reign and I loved it every single time. But Thor, Iron Man, and Steve Rogers teamed up to end Norman Osborn. Sentry had a bigger role in it than Carol did. I am 99% certain this will be repeated with Mockingbird, Sin, and Fear Itself. It doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter for Bobbi, but it sort of means it doesn’t matter for anyone else.

Mockingbird isn’t ruined by being a super powered superheroine. I still care about her. She’s still on The List (of the characters I read comic books for). I want to know what she does next. I’m not upset because she’s not the same Bobbi anymore. I don’t see it that way. I call superheroes by their given names, not their code names. It is the people behind the masks that matter to me, the Peter Parkers of the world who decide to be the Spider-Mans of the world. Bobbi Morse, super powers or no, is still Bobbi Morse.

I’m upset because it’s not necessary. You don’t have to be Superman or Captain America to save the world. Maybe they have an easier time of it. Maybe they have a greater responsibility to try. But I don’t really think so. I think we should all try. Carol Danvers is not my favorite character because she can take out an entire battalion of Skrulls by herself. Carol Danvers is my favorite character because she’ll try whether she can or not. My favorite parts of Brian Reed’s Ms. Marvel were when Carol was not using her superpowers (because it was illegal) but was still being a superheroine (because that’s who she is). And that’s who Bobbi Morse used to be, that’s what made her special. If everyone is the same kind of superhero, it’s boring and boring doesn’t sell. This is doubly dangerous for female characters who are already a tough sell.

I love superheroes. I don’t want Carol to be grounded. I don’t want a world without Spider-Man. That’s neither my desire nor my point. This is: more powerful is not always better, or more interesting, and it is especially troubling to do it to a female character because there is already a power imbalance between men and women… so what’s the message? You have to be Super to keep up? I don’t believe that. But I can’t point to Mockingbird as proof anymore, and I wish I could.


Posted by Anika
email: anika@fantasticfangirls.org
twitter: magnetgirl

  • http://retconningmybrain.blogspot.com/ Sam

    Great GREAT write up that touches on a lot of the same old issue in comics (redundancy!). There’s no need to give characters the same powers, just write great characters!

  • http://fantasticfangirls.org Caroline

    Great article! I really enjoyed this appreciation of Bobbi Morse.

    I’m conflicted about the power up — I dislike that she didn’t CHOOSE to have it. That’s one of the great things about Steve’s powers. He chose them! It’s kind of an interesting/troubling pattern that the same thing happened with Iron Man & Rescue, huh? Iron Man is defined largely by the fact that he creates and controls his own power set; Pepper got to be Rescue when he ‘upgraded’ her while she was in a coma. (True that she lost the power and then asked to have it back; maybe that’s why it was done.) But, yeah, Bobbi is kind of like Steve without the whole choice thing.

    On the other hand? Before the power upgrade she was kind of like Clint. And while I like that when they are playing off each other, I think having her turn into a supersoldier is an interesting progression. So I’ll wait and see.

    I do like your point that they can’t ALL swear to be the one who takes out the big bad (or they can, but they won’t all be the one to do it, and it probably won’t be Mockingbird.)

  • http://twitter.com/theuranian The Uranian

    That was a great read. At first, I did think the idea of giving Mockingbird some serum-based superpowers to be interesting, but you make some very valid points that made me rethink that choice. But we do agree that Bobbi has always been a very interesting character, and she has been very well-written by Bendis.

    Just one minor quip, though; He isn’t “Michael” Deodato, as “Mike Deodato Jr” is a pseudonym. His first name is actually Deodato. /noonecaresIknowImsorry

  • Anika

    @TheUranian I absolutely care about names! I have edited the post and thank you.

  • Vantine

    This doesn’t surprise me really. Marvel is gearing up to do a tv series on Mockingbird. They need to shake the character up to get interest leading up to the series. That will also mean most likely that we’ll be seeing possible Mockingbird mini’s and one shots so win win!.

    As much as I loved the recent Hawkeye and Mockingbird series, it did horrible sales. I dig Hawkeye, Mockingbird and Black Widow. They’re three of my favorite characters in the Marvel U. But Widowmaker was one of the worst miniseries I’ve ever read in 30 some years of reading comics. But they needed to shake up the character for the upcoming tv project.

    And I like your comparison of Mockingbird to Michael Weston. I love Burn Notice. So I’m hoping that the Mockingbird tv show will be just as good. Fingers crossed!

  • http://aaanon.tumblr.com Sean G.

    I like the point made regarding redundancy and was wondering if anyone noticed how it took place with the character’s personalities…

    I feel as though Bendis’ clever style of dialogue is starting to crumble with all of the books he’s been writing over the years. It’s starting to look like everyone is the same kind of witty/sarcastic. I first noticed this when I saw Wolverine and Spider-Man making the same type of quips, but then all the ladies in the Avengers started to sound the same too. Under Bendis, Spider-Woman, Ms. Marvel, and Mockingbird all sound the exact same through their sense of humor and the logic behind their decisions. I honestly don’t think Bobbi belongs with the New Avengers, she seems to fit better with the Secret Avengers, though making her super powered might have been an attempt to make her fit in.

  • Anika

    There are a lot of good points in these comments. @Caroline’s comment about Rescue is important. I do agree somewhat with @Sean that having Bendis write everyone everywhere has resulted in some issues with pov/voice. And @Vantine, I gave up on Widowmaker and I LOVE Natasha most.

  • Darci

    I think it helps to recall that Superia engineered this whole setup. She came up with the serum, fatally injured Mockingbird, and told the Avengers about what the serum could do. Remember her “Oh Captain! My Captain” exclamation when she learned they’d followed through? The transformed Bobbi is part of Superia’s plan to bring about the Femizons. As an immortal, she’s going to be more and more alienated from her comrades, and as a superhuman she’s going to be twice alienated from ordinary people.
    Hope this helps!