Avengers: The Death of Mockingbird collects the mid-90s stories that brought the long-running Avengers West Coast series to a close.
By the time this final run came about, Avengers West Coast had solidified around a core cast of Hawkeye (sometimes using the Goliath identity), Mockingbird, Scarlet Witch, US Agent, Spider-Woman (Julia Carpenter) and new addition War Machine (with a couple other heroes flitting about the edges). The run included the return of Doctor Demonicus and his villainous Pacific Overlords, as part of a complex demonic invasion. The team then experienced some infighting as part of the Infinity Crusade crossover. The supernatural character Hangman returned with a new Lethal Legion, notorious murderers resurrected with bizarre new powers as part of a plot to steal the team’s souls. A showdown in a Hell dimension brought about the title tragedy. In the aftermath of the Blood Ties crossover, the main Avengers team precipitated a crisis that led to the dissolution of the West Coast Avengers. Mainstays Iron Man and Wonder Man turned up at the end, to help push the team towards its new identity as Force Works.
Also included in The Death of Mockingbird are the Spider-Woman limited series that explored Julia’s origin in greater detail and featured a showdown with arachnid-themed villains Death Web and a two-part Scarlet Witch appearance from Marvel Comics Presents most notable for introducing a sexy new costume.
Marvel has been releasing various Avengers West Coast collections in recent years, giving a deserved spotlight to an overlooked gem of a series. Giving Mockingbird the title reference makes sense. She’s featured prominently in these stories. Now she’s become one of the breakout characters of the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. television series and is set to headline a spin-off. And she’s getting her own solo book. With a forthcoming reprint of Force Works, Marvel clearly has some plans for these old concepts. They’re worth revisiting.
Veteran writer Roy Thomas (mostly working with wife Dann Thomas as co-writer and penciler Dave Ross as co-plotter) did some really interesting work during his Avengers West Coast run. He introduced lots of new, modern villains that took good advantage of the team’s Pacific orientation. But he also reworked existing characters in creative ways. He worked up effective character drama among the main cast, showcasing a contemporary approach that melded superhero action and soap opera quite smoothly. The more proactive West Coast Avengers were a spin on the “extreme” ethos that overtook comic books in the mid-90s. But in the hands of Roy Thomas, it was far more involving and substantive than what one might have seen in a typical Image series of the day. Thomas was ultimately replaced by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, who wrote the final issue of the series. But it was Thomas’s vision and facility for writing characters with real emotional depth that made the series so compelling.
Penciler Dave Ross, inker Tim Dzon and colorist Bob Sharen were the primary art team on Avengers West Coast at the time. They had a rather vibrant approach that gave the book a distinctive look. While they feinted toward some of the Image style tics of the time, they tended to avoid hyper-musculature on the male characters and their women didn’t look as though they’d fall over from comically large breasts. Instead, the characters had an athleticism that made sense. Their atmospheric approach to storytelling and no-nonsense approach to page composition and layouts added energy to the plots and their approach was equally effective in the sun-kissed Pacific or in a murky Hell dimension. It’s an unheralded team that has faded into obscurity a couple of decades down the road, so it’s good to see their work showcased here.
Avengers: The Death of Mockingbird is a strong collection giving the spotlight to a neglected corner of Avengers history. It’s an enjoyable run of stories that’s absolutely worth reading.
Originally published at thunderalleybcpcom.ipage.com on February 9, 2016.