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Comic Book Dictionary – Exit/Return Quality Quotient

How odd – comments were off for some reason. Strange. I re-enabled comments! Sorry about that. – BC

Two recent illogical returns of comic book characters made me think about this one, which states that the the quality quotient of a character’s return in the eyes of fans seems to be based upon the dividend of the lameness of the character’s exit/death and the divisor of the lameness of the character’s return.

So long as the lameness of the character’s exit is greater than the lameness of the character’s return, it seems like fans are pleased.

Read on for two recent (spoiler-filled) examples of this quotient at work!

First off, we have the return of Mockingbird in Secret Invasion #2. Now, the only thing we have been told so far about the Skrulls is that the ONE way you can tell if a Skrull agent is actually a Skrull is that they turn into a Skrull when they die. That’s what happened to the Skrull impersonating Elektra, and that’s what happened to the Skrull impersonating Spider-Man in Secret Invasion #2.

Okay, so Mockingbird died in Avengers West Coast #100. She did not turn into a Skrull. Therefore, according to the rules, she was not a Skrull, right?

And yet, she apparently was, as the real Mockingbird returned in Secret Invasion #2.

So it really does not follow the internal logic that writer Brian Michael Bendis set out for his own project. And that’s pretty silly.

HOWEVER, the death of Mockingbird was terrible. It was one of those “It’s a 100th issue – it has a foil cover, someone HAS to die!” type of deals, and her death was, when the team escapes from a confrontation in Hell, Mephisto just blasts her with fire as they escape – and she dies.

Totally hokey, and much worse than her silly return – so Mockingbird’s return? It passes!

In this week’s issue of Robin, Stephanie Brown, Spoiler, returns to life, as we learn that Leslie Thompkins faked her death. It doesn’t fit in with the rest of the original story, and why they felt that they had to lie to Batman, of all people, is not explained, so yeah, not the most logical of returns.

HOWEVER, Spoiler had an even WORSE death than Mockingbird – first she is made out to be a moron for starting War Games, then she is tortured nearly to death by Black Mask, and finally, she is killed by Leslie Thompkins as a lesson to Batman to show him what happens when he brings young people into his war. It was just an awful death.

A lot worse than her illogical return – so Spoiler’s return? It passes!!!

And what do you know, in both instances, fans seem to be quite pleased about the return of both characters, whether their returns made much sense or not.

33 Comments

To me, Spoiler’s return was good thanks to Batman explaining that he always suspected she was alive and that’s why there was no memorial.
On the subject of Mockingbird I think that she’s a clone, Remember that in NA #40 we see a clone of Reed that has his memories. EIther that or the Mockingbird that died did turn into a Skrull, but since Skrull ashes look like human ashes it made no difference.

Haven’t we also seen Mockingbird’s soul in Hell or some other similar places more than once? I’m glad to have her back, but Kurt Busiek left the door open to bring her back in one of his Avengers Annuals. Saying she was a Skrull seems kind of dumb.

But I guess that’s already been mentioned in the post, hasn’t it.

This all assumes that the Mockingbird in Secret Invasion is NOT a Skrull, of course.

The problem with Skrullvasion is that now EVERY story ever told since Stan Lee stopped writing every month is subject to revision. And if they are also including clones now, then Ben Reilly and an MJ clone are now living Spider-Man’s life, and Spidey and MJ are off somewhere on an extended vacation until the next regime takes over Marvel. Because of Skrullvasion, NO STORY is worth paying attention to, because the story can just be wiped out by saying, “Oh, that was a Skrull.” “That was a Skrull” is the same as “Oh, we don’t have to explain it—it’s magic.”

Bendis brought back Mockingbird so he can kill her again. Bendis hates women.

Alan: by that logic, the invention of Doombots made all subsequent Doctor Doom stories worthless…

I think Dixon brought Spoiler back because he didn’t like the tacky way she died and what was done to Leslie Tompkins. I think Didio agreed, though, because he was pissed that no one remembered to throw in a rape during her torture and murder scenes in War Games, which marred the cannon fodder experience for him. Now that she’s alive again, he can fix that down the line. I predict Spoiler gets raped and make even killed afterwards within the next 5 years under another writer’s pen if Didio remains at DC.

Colossus_2000

May 22, 2008 at 3:17 pm

I don’t care either way, Spoiler and Mockingbird are two of my favourite characters! I would happily accept her being a Skrull to have Bobby back, and hell, I’d accept that Stephanie was a clone if it meant she was back!

Random Stranger

May 22, 2008 at 3:33 pm

Most of the characters who came out of the Skrull ship in SI #1 couldn’t be Skrulls according to continuity even if we ignore the period in the 80’s when all the Skrulls lost their shape shifting powers (why not; everyone ignores that story).. Mockingbird and Wonder Man were the top of my list for “People who couldn’t be Skrulls but probably will be anyway so there’s one or two real characters on the ship as a twist.”

I don’t mind dropping large chunks of continuity but you can’t reference past continuity (having 1970’s characters show up) and have the story dependent upon throwing out major events in the character’s history (the death and later attempts to rescue her from Hell).

Besides does anyone really think that anything interesting would be done with a revived Mockingbird? At least with Spoiler she’ll probably stay in circulation. I predict Mockingbird falling into the background again until someone needs a C-lister to kill off.

When the Skrulls lost their shapeshifting powers, though, they didn’t revert to their natural forms; they were stuck in the form of whatever they were when the event happened. So a Skrull pretending to be Power Man would be stuck looking like Power Man all the way through until they got their powers back. (Mind you, he’d have to explain the fact that he briefly glowed when the effect hit him, but maybe he was alone at the time.) All the Skrull spies were stuck as whatever they impersonated, a fact used to great effect by Steve Englehart in ‘Silver Surfer’. (Personally, I always felt sorry for the Skrull they showed who was disguised as a lamp when the effect hit. Boy, that’s got to be a bad deal. Stuck as a lamp for years.)

I’ll toss out another example of “lame death, just happy to see the character back…” heck, I’ll toss out two. Colossus died in a story that was pretty much just there to close the books on the whole going-nowhere Legacy Virus plot; it was a mistake and everyone knew it, so nobody squawked too much when Joss Whedon brought him back. And yes, possibly controversial, but ‘Emerald Twilight’ was a classic example of 90s excess, a mistake even for people who liked Kyle Rayner and his tenure as Green Lantern, and so the morass of fanwank known as ‘Green Lantern: Rebirth’ got a free pass because it did what had to be done and brought Hal back.

Jeff R.

Agreed.

The problem with Skrullvasion is that now EVERY story ever told since Stan Lee stopped writing every month is subject to revision. And if they are also including clones now, then Ben Reilly and an MJ clone are now living Spider-Man’s life, and Spidey and MJ are off somewhere on an extended vacation until the next regime takes over Marvel. Because of Skrullvasion, NO STORY is worth paying attention to, because the story can just be wiped out by saying, “Oh, that was a Skrull.” “That was a Skrull” is the same as “Oh, we don’t have to explain it—it’s magic.”

Every story subject to revision? No story is worth paying attention to because it can magically be wiped out retroactively with poor explanations? And for these reasons no one will pay attention to any of the stories?

By your logic, DC comics would have closed it’s doors decades ago. The state of affairs you describe has been DC’s status quo for as long as I can remember.

I’m not even reading Secret Invasion (Sounds a bit naughty, dunnit?) but I figure that Mocky is back just to die again so that Hawky can suffer some more. (Sweet Christmas, do I hate those nicknames. Those nicknames made me quit reading WCA.)

I always hated Mockingbird. I can live with a married Peter Parker, but Clint Barton should always be chasing tail. That’s just who he is. (Same with Lucas Davenport.)

There is no way in hell that every post-death appearance of a Marvel character over the last 45 years could possibly match any one scenario, so it’s best to just ignore it. Eat the continuity they give you. It’s very nice. It’s only wafer thin.

What I’d really like to see is that Hawkeye has been held prisoner since the Kree-Skrull War, and he comes back pissed off and loaded for bear. And ten-feet-tall!

As for Spoiler; I didn’t read the stories of her death either, and didn’t care much about the Batcave tribute debate, but having Leslie Thompson let her die was one of the stupidest things I’ve ever heard of in a comic book. And I’ve read Lois Lane!

So, yes! I’m glad when they bring back characters that were ill-served in their passing. Fix what once went wrong. Get it over with and move along.

Andrew Collins

May 22, 2008 at 6:23 pm

Just like I tell anyone who complains about ‘imaginary stories’ in comics…they’re ALL imaginary stories! ;)

As for the resurrections, I’m all for them. The concept of meaningful deaths doesn’t exist anymore in superhero comics thanks to Didio, Quesada, Bendis, Johns and others overdoing it. Too many characters have been reduced to cannon fodder for the sake of a “shocking” moment. They forget that just about every character is SOMEBODY’S favorite character. So, if this leads to a reversal of that trend and the righting of some wrongs, then okay by me.

Especially Spoiler, whose death seemed needlessly cruel. Hopefully this will eliminate the Didio-Vs.-Fans-who-want-a-Spoiler-memorial arguments we get at every Con…

I just figured you were warding off an expected flood of “OMG Steph!!!!” comments (which is what “Spoiler warning” has come to mean to me).

Mockingbird always just seemed like a pale imitation of Black Canary, but any retcons that undo West Coast Avengers storylines are OK by me. (Let’s start with Master Pandemonium ever existing.)

FunkyGreenJerusalem

May 22, 2008 at 7:25 pm

Every story subject to revision? No story is worth paying attention to because it can magically be wiped out retroactively with poor explanations? And for these reasons no one will pay attention to any of the stories?

By your logic, DC comics would have closed it’s doors decades ago. The state of affairs you describe has been DC’s status quo for as long as I can remember.

So utterly predictable as always T.

And yes, possibly controversial, but ‘Emerald Twilight’ was a classic example of 90s excess, a mistake even for people who liked Kyle Rayner and his tenure as Green Lantern, and so the morass of fanwank known as ‘Green Lantern: Rebirth’ got a free pass because it did what had to be done and brought Hal back.

I think this is something different. Because while Hal’s fall from grace wasn’t handled greatly, his death in “Final Night” was, IMO at least, pretty good. He gave his life for a great purpose, in a selfless manner, and in a noteworthy and memorable way.

For that reason, I was irked when they resurrected Hal as the Spectre. He had a good death, so I thought his return as the Spectre was disappointing.

I like how, for months, Spoiler’s been seen on the Gotham Underground insert-snappy-prefix-for-“nine”-here-tych, and the book has nothing to do with her. However, they happen to sneak her into the pages of Robin.

…and by “like”, I mean “hate”.

I actually thought this column was going to address the inverse situation recently, with Barry Allen having a lame resurrection in the face of his highly-worshipped COIE departure, and how poorly the situation has been received.

Nobody’s mentioned Ice, who had a really lame death, and who’s resurrection in Birds of Prey very much came out of nowhere and was essentially “Some russian dude prayed and she came back.”

And nobody complains about that resurrection because Ice is a fun character and has a natural set of stories to work with (through the whole Guy/Ice/Fire love triangle thing and the more general JLI connection.)

Well, by Bendis’ own rules, we won’t know if this is the real Mockingbird until she gets killed. I do love how he ignores continuity and others people’s stories to suit his own vision. Despite showing us Mockingbird’s soul on different occasions, his line is that now, the Mockingbird who did originally die was a Skrull. Um, WTF? So during Busiek’s run and the Dead Girl mini-series, that was the Skrull’s soul we saw? Again, WTF? It was liike what he did with Wanda. Prior to Disassembled, she had on occasion openly acknowledged the debacle with her no longer existing kids…but as soon as Bendis got a hold of her, she developed amnesia and turns into a psychotic reality warping bitch? One more time…WTF?!?! I guess I need to calm down and wait and see what happens, especially regarding Mockingbird. SI isn’t over yet, so who knows what could happen? And maybe Wanda was being manipulated by someone else all along….oh well.

I don’t mind character resurrections these days. Let’s be honest, comic book deaths have lost any meaning or emotion in my eyes, you know the person will be brought back sooner or later. I’m mixed on whether or not I like these returns. Yeah, many deaths these days are meaningless shock value deaths, and if the resurrection is done right, it can be good…but other times I wish writers would stick with past stories, bite the bullet, and let be dead.

Anyone who has read the Deadgirl miniseries by Milligan ought to know how death works in comics. That’s why the Piano Player is alive and the original Ant Man isn’t.

Adrian Seltzer

May 23, 2008 at 3:14 am

Am I the only one who remembers Skrullverine? If I remember right, it took an autopsy to find out he was a Skrull. Then again, maybe this was during the whole Skrulls can’t shape-shift thing that I was unaware of.

The Mockingbird “death” has an easy explanation. Mephisto was involved. It would not be beyond his ability to prevent a dead Skrull from reverting and it would suit him to mess with the heroes by making them think one of their own was dead. It would also be within his power to know about the Invasion in its early days.

However, I do wonder where the Skrull empress who restored their shapeshifting abilities fits into this.

However, we now know that Elektra was the first replacement and that this started after the Skrull homeworld (1982) was destroyed. That pretty much means that the “70’s” heroes are Skrulls since any replacements prior to Elektra would have been detectable.

I don not agree that a less-lame return makes a terrible death better. It’s still bad writing, that someone will (hopefully) have to fix sometime later.

Mockingbird I never cared much for; it has been established that she was no true hero (having allowed the Night Rider to die because he hypnotized her) but more of a secret agent pretending to be a hero for Hawkeye’s sake. She could’ve stayed dead.

On the other hand, Spoiler was a popular character (and important to the Robin series) who was killed for no good reason and as mentioned above, ruined Leslie Thompson as a character in the process. It was a situation that CRIED OUT to be fixed, and I’m glad it was, even if the answer was kinda lame (Batman couldn’t find that out on his own? Some master detective.)

Besides, with the coming Black Lanterns/Dead Coming Back storyline, odds are plenty of dead DC characters will return soon anyway (though likely most will just be killed right back. Even the dead aren’t safe from DC’s killfest!)

I was going to point out the fact that, as my memory serves, Emma Frost was the White Queen in the 70’s and was not considered to be on the side of the angels – so that would make her appearance with a group of “heroes” suspect, i.e. they are the Skrulls (or at least she is). It has been argued in other places that the presence of a Skrull with telepathic ability would allow for Clint’s memories to be read and projected into Mockingbird’s mind. The dialogue of Si#2 keeps open the possibility that Mockingbird is still a Skrull as Clint acknowledged he was taking a chance with Mockingbird.

All that aside, I am old enough to remember the whole dial in to kill Robin ordeal to let the fans decide if a character lives or dies. Death (whether embodied as Thanos’ girlfriend or as a Goth girl a la Vertigo) has become a flexible concept in comics – efforts at continuity notwithstanding.
.

“For that reason, I was irked when they resurrected Hal as the Spectre. He had a good death, so I thought his return as the Spectre was disappointing.”

I actually liked that concept – Hal trying to find personal redemption, rather than the larger-scale redemption from Final Night – but it just never took for me, either. Taking him in that direction was just asking for a return.

I shot this to Brian in an e-mail, but the funniest one to me is how all the characters are commenting on how it might be the real Cap coming out of the ship. Um, didn’t we just have a dozen issues revolving around Cap’s corpse? I think someone would have noticed if it had turned into a Skrull. Unless Bendis is ignoring the rules he supposedly took so much care to put into place, which wouldn’t be surprising.

(On the other hand, Brubaker’s Cap often seems to be taking place in a different, much more sane, MU.)

Do we actually know at this point that it was Barry Allen at the end of DC Universe 0? I mean, that’s obviously what they want us to think, but couldn’t it be Bart, or someone completely out of left field? Or has there been another comic that confirmed it was him? If it is Barry, it seems pretty stupid to me. His death was good, his replacement is a well-liked character with a rich history of his own, and Barry was never an interesting character to begin with. Are there really people who would be excited about him being back?

“Well, by Bendis’ own rules, we won’t know if this is the real Mockingbird until she gets killed. I do love how he ignores continuity and others people’s stories to suit his own vision. Despite showing us Mockingbird’s soul on different occasions, his line is that now, the Mockingbird who did originally die was a Skrull. Um, WTF? So during Busiek’s run and the Dead Girl mini-series, that was the Skrull’s soul we saw? Again, WTF?”

As someone suggested earlier, I’m not convinced that the Mockingbird in Secret Invasion #2 is really Mockingbird. I believe that she is in fact a Skrull, and the Mockingbird of years past who married Hawkeye and later died, was real and is still dead. A big theme of this event is that you can’t trust anyone, and anybody around you can be a Skrull. So with that in mind, why simply take at face value that this new Mockingbird is who she says she is? Because she said so? And with these Skrulls able to imitate the abilities and powers of our heroes, it wouldn’t have taken much for a mental search of Hawkeye’s psyche to learn that bit of info that nobody else knew.

Just my two cents, since everybody seems keen on saying that Bendis is ignoring his own rules and all.

None of this has any relevance to Brian’s original post, however, which I agree with. I just don’t think that the new Mockingbird is the real Mockingbird (though she may be, who knows at this point?), and that it’s way to early to start bashing the writer for a plot point that has yet to be resolved.

-r-

“Do we actually know at this point that it was Barry Allen at the end of DC Universe 0? I mean, that’s obviously what they want us to think, but couldn’t it be Bart, or someone completely out of left field? Or has there been another comic that confirmed it was him? If it is Barry, it seems pretty stupid to me. His death was good, his replacement is a well-liked character with a rich history of his own, and Barry was never an interesting character to begin with. Are there really people who would be excited about him being back?”

Either Dan DiDio or Geoff Johns confirmed this in an interview after the release of DC Universe #0. And I have to agree with you on all the reasons you cited that bringing him back isn’t the greatest of ideas.

-r-

Sijo, Mockingbird allowed him to die because he hypnotized and raped her…

If the “escaped” heroes in SI #1 are the 80s versions, then why is Ms Marvel wearing her original outfit? She changed to the Cockrum classic back in 1977…

Hi the nail on the head, Brian. That equation is the reason I’m not surprised to see so many people gushing about how brilliant Spoiler’s return is and how much sense it makes. Well, no it isn’t and no it doesn’t. It’s just that much less stupid than the story where she died.

Don’t know if anyone mentioned this idea, but maybe the reason Skrull Mockingbird didn’t change back when she was killed was Mephisto decided that her seeming death would hurt more.

God Emperor Joker

July 5, 2009 at 3:11 pm

Maybe because its so obvious, I’m surprised noone mentioned Death Of Superman. All these years, everyone tried to kill Supes (Darkseid, Braniac, Kryptonite Man {leaving Luthor out, to give the grudging nod to the writers on the “I didn’t want him DEAD, I just wanted to beat him” riff} ), and it was friggin’ DOOMSDAY?! With no kryptonite OR magic (the only two things that can supposedly weaken him enough to die)?!

That makes the “Reign Of Supermen” atrocity almost bearable, because the death was so terribly, irrevocably awful, you just knew (and were relieved when) he would be back.

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