Waiting for the Trade
By Bill Miller
New Avengers: The Reunion
by Jim McCann and David Lopez
Collects New Avengers The Reunion # 1- 4 and Dark Reign: New Nation.
Why I Bought This – Considering this is the long awaited reunion of Hawkeye and Mockingbird (again my second favorite comic couple) the real question is why did I take so long to buy it? The answer to that is actually the New Avengers name, which is no doubt put here to help it sell but has the opposite effect of invoking bad connotations for me as I hate everything Bendis has done with Hawkeye (and most of the team) in that title. It wasn’t until I read the Hawkeye and Mockingbird trade that occurs after this and is also by McCann that I safely felt this dude gets these characters and decided I wanted to buy this one too. Having recently (re)read the first meeting of these two in the Avengers: Hawkeye trade following the movie this felt like a natural follow-up pick-up.
The Plot: Hawkeye’s wife Mockingbird needlessly died in the early 90s when West Coast Avengers was cancelled. In Secret Invasion it was revealed she was still alive, having been kidnapped by aliens before her death and it was a Skrull impersonating her that had died in her stead way back when. Now Hawkeye and Mockingbird are reunited for the first time in years.
This is a very character driven story, so the only way to recap it is with fairly heavy spoilers. You’ve been warned.
Chapter 0 – Hawk and Bird are sparring and she draws blood. Later she tests the blood in a private lab to prove Hawkeye isn’t a Skrull. We also see she is having flashbacks from her time on the Skull world. Hawkeye wants to renew their relationship but Mock walks away from him and decides to become a spy again.
Chapter 1 – Hawk follows Bird to a hospital where she’s doing spy stuff and she tells him to go away. We see a flashback of how Hawkeye found her: He went to Bucky-Cap, who helped Hawk track her down after some snarky banter. Bucky also warns Hawkeye that being on ice and having your life stolen can change a person. Back at the hospital Mock lets Hawk tag along, and they uncover the hospital is a front for AIM (who in this story are playing the role of generic terrorists instead of their usual super science conquer the world bit). I should mention Hawkeye starts the battle dressed in his ridiculous Ronin identity but fortunately runs out of ninja weapons and Mock has a bow and arrow for him to fall back on so he can be his classic self for the rest of the story. Anyway the heroes escape an ambush in one of SHIELD’s flying cars, and Mock reveals she has some stolen Skrull information files that she is using to create an independent spy agency to work outside of SHIELD; in this case to prevent AIM from detonating a chemical bomb in Spain. Hawkeye then net arrows her and calls in Bucky-Cap for back-up.
Chapter 2 – Bird breaks free and we get the obligatory fight scene, although the dialogue makes up for it in spades as Bird questions the whole ludicrous Ronin thing as a reason she doesn’t know if she can trust Hawkeye anymore and McCann and Lopez through a combination of art and dialogue reveal how the identity was meant as a tribute to Mockingbird. And in just two pages he’s partially redeemed five years of terrible writing by Bendis for fans of classic Hawkeye. This then directly leads to Hawkeye empathizing with her on how coming back from the dead can mess you up as we get more tidying up of Bendis plot holes. This leads to a compromise where Bird will let Hawk come along on her spy mission if he cuts ties with Bucky-Cap and the New Avengers for the duration of the mission. We cut to them flying over the Atlantic and as Bird briefs Hawkeye on the mission and the we get dual flashbacks: Bird recalls being targeted by the Skrulls when she was on a plane heading to see Hawkeye about their estranged marriage and Hawkeye recalling having to tell Tigra (another founding member of the West Coast Avengers and Bobbi’s best friend on the team) that Mockingbird had died after WCA 100. In Spain the two discuss infiltrating a James Bond style gala being held for world leaders and scientists by the villain (Monica Rappaccini, last seen being killed in MODOK’s 13). Following the debriefing they retire to separate hotel rooms which causes Bird to flashback to their honeymoon, followed by their break-up and her kidnapping moments before a mission with Ultron—which for long time fans of WCA is a big clue to this issue’s cliffhanger). The duo are then getting dressed into formal wear for their cover identities when Hawkeye finally asks Mockingbird why she is acting as if they are still estranged when they had reunited prior to her death (and indeed were on the verge or retiring from superheroics to try for a family when she died) and she reveals to Hawkeye she was kidnapped prior to the Ultron mission that reconciled them, so in fact they had never reconciled and had she not been kidnapped by Skrulls she was going to file for divorce.
Chapter 3 – The duo are infiltrating the party, and it really reads like a great James Bond movie. Hawkeye figures out the plan is not to blow up the scientists but to kidnap them and then blow up the building to hide the evidence they are missing. Hearing about the abduction plan causes Bobbi to flashback to some of the mind-fucking she received on the Skrull homeworld with Skrulls continuously pretending to be Clint and Tigra to get info out of her. Followed by another flashback to the Hawkeye Skrull becoming obsessed with her until she had to kill him while he still looked like her husband. Clint wakes her up and wants to talk about their marital problems from way back when, but then she finds the bomb and it explodes, apparently killing Hawkeye.
Chapter 4 – Monica reveals herself to Mockingbird and tries to recruit her for AIM. Mockingbird says no in a physical way and we get a short but cool fight scene as Monica has access to lots of AIM’s cooler science fiction tech. Mockingbird wins with a bit of low tech trickery by anticipating Monica’s teleport trajectory and bouncing one of her metal staves off the wall behind her to KO her. We cut to Hawkeye waking up under the rubble. When he climbs out Bird is happy to see him alive. They evacuate the civilians at the party and then take out a platoon of AIM agents. This just leaves defusing the bomb and they pull that off too. After the mission they fly to the now abandoned West Coast Avengers headquarters so Mockingbird can have some closure. She then goes through all the reasons they shouldn’t get back together until Hawkeye kisses her and puts an end to that. We get one final cut scene that says “nine days later” that shows them jumping out of a plane together for another spy mission and making dinner plans on the way down.
Critical Thoughts: I enjoyed the hell out of this. I can see that it would be very continuity dense for new readers, but as someone who bought every single issue of West Coast Avengers in real time I loved how much and how faithfully it used that continuity in the flashback sequences. I also really appreciated the effort to take all of Bendis’ missteps with Hawkeye and try to rework them into something more inline with his classic interpretation.
I found the spy stuff to be fun, although the action sequences are clearly secondary to the character moments in this story. I’m not completely sold on AIM being the villains for this type of story. In their earliest appearances AIM was doing things like building the Cosmic Cube, empowering MODOK and creating the Super Adaptoid; so blowing up a building in Spain seems beneath them. There are plenty of traditional terrorist groups like Hydra or the Secret Empire that could have been used instead and would have fit better. However if you are going to use AIM, I didn’t mind seeing Monica as the villain. While it somewhat undercuts the excellent ending to MODOK’s 13 she’s an interesting enough villain to bring back.
Finally I’d say this book soars in the final chapter on a romantic level like few comic books do. That ending of them diving out of plan while making dinner plans felt like it could have come straight from a movie hoping for a sequel. (And in fact this book has a sequel, the aforementioned even more excellent Hawkeye & Mockingbird trade). It’s a shame that Bendis promptly ignored all this great character work by McCann so Hawkeye could date frickin' Spider-Woman instead.
Grade A. This book is exactly what longtime fans of Hawkeye and Mockingbird would want in a story titled “The Reunion.”