Marvel's Most Infamous Avengers Retcon

Today, I argue that Mockingbird's past with Phantom Rider should be more or less restored into continuity.

In Winds of Change, I spotlight retcons that I think should be implemented, like how I think Apocalypse should have been behind Wolverine getting his adamantium.

One of Steve Englehart's most notable storylines during his run on West Coast Avengers was the epic adventure known as "Lost in Space-Time," where the team went on an extensive trip through time (while back in the present, Hank Pym decides that he has disgraced himself enough that he will just end it all). The time travel also had a controversial storyline involving Mockingbird that led to her marriage with Hawkeye breaking up for a while.

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WHAT ORIGINALLY HAPPENED BETWEEN MOCKINGBIRD AND THE PHANTOM RIDER?

It all started in West Coast Avengers #18 (by Steve Englehart, Al Milgrom and Joe Sinnott), when the West Coast Avengers were traveling through time. They were in the Old West (a period that Hawkeye spent time with in the past and made friends with a lot of Marvel's Old West heroes) when they got ready to leave and suddenly one of the Western heroes, the Phantom Rider (who had seemed a bit too obsessed with Mockingbird in their short time together) abruptly stopped Mockingbird from traveling with the rest of her Avengers teammates!!

The next issue, the Phantom Rider then drugs Mockingbird to clear out her memories and make her fall in love with him...

His disturbing plan seems to actually be working!

Eventually, it begins to work really well and Mockingbird and Phantom Ride basically become a couple...

His disturbing plot continues to work well into the next issue...

However, there is obviously something in her past that is connecting her to her past life, like her fascination with one of Hawkeye's modular arrowheads that she soon begins to use as a necklace...

In the next issue, though, the other Western heroes (who were all naturally wondering why in the world the wife of their friend Hawkeye suddenly ditched her husband to go be with Phantom Rider) conspired to break the effects of the drugs on Mockingbird, and when they did, well, she did not take it well...

This storyline came to a climax in West Coast Avengers #23 (by Englehart, Milgrom and Sinnott), when Mockingbird tracked Phantom Rider down and confronted him...

He handles the whole thing terribly and even threatens to KILL HER!

But during their confrontation, she knocks him off of the cliff and he manages to hang on to the ledge, but even here, as he needs her help to avoid falling to his death, he is a jerk to her, COMMANDING her to save him...

She just lets him die...

Eventually, Hawkeye found out (by the Phantom Rider himself, who was now a ghost in modern times) that Mockingbird let Phantom Rider die and Hawkeye was a total jerk about it. Not "my wife was tortured by this psycho!" but "my wife let a guy die!" So they decided to divorce.

WHAT IS THE CURRENT DEAL WITH MOCKINGBIRD AND THE PHANTOM RIDER?

In Mockingbird #8, the final issue of the rather-good but short-lived Mockingbird series by Chelsea Cain, Kate Niemczyk, Sean Parsons, Rachelle Rosenberg and Joe Caramagna, Mockingbird is on a cruise while her ex-husband, Hawkeye, is on trial for the murder of Bruce Banner during Civil War II. Ever since Mockingbird turned out to be alive during Secret Invasion, she had been bothered by the ghost of the Phantom Rider.

Well, in this final issue, Phantom Rider showed up again to annoy Mockingbird and there is a major retcon to the previous storyline.

First up, Phantom Rider is described by Mockingbird as her "ex"...

And we learn why later in the issue, as she explains that the whole "drugged her" stuff was a lie that Hawkeye just told himself to explain why Mockingbird cheated on him with the Phantom Rider...

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WHY WAS THIS MOCKINGBIRD RETCON A BAD IDEA?

Okay, first off, it now means that Mockingbird let Phantom Rider die for...no reason, right? She just decided not to save the guy she was cheating on her husband with for...why? It doesn't make any sense.

I completely understand wanting to get away from the whole "letting the guy who essentially raped me die which led to my husband wanting to divorce me" part of Mockingbird's past. It's a weird part of her past, to be sure. But you do that by just not getting into it, not by actively bringing the topic back up again only changing it so that it no longer makes any sense.

Also, it probably wasn't the best idea to have it established that it would be "ridiculous" to believe that Mockingbird could ever do something against her will, as that sure seems to imply that if someone else WERE drugged into doing something against their will, then clearly they just weren't strong enough to avoid it, right? It doesn't quite veer into the realm of victim-blaming, but it sure gets pretty close to that area. Far closer than you probably ever want to be, really.

I did a "Remember to Forget" on this when the issue came out, but I really think it's notable enough of a misstep that they should have some future story establish that it is no longer the case. Again, I don't need Mockingbird to dwell upon her past with the Phantom Rider, but to bring this back up only to make Mockingbird look WORSE is a bad enough idea in my estimation that it would be worth to get someone to just write off this story from Marvel continuity.

Okay, that's it for this installment! If you have a suggestion for a retcon that YOU'D like to see, drop me a line at [email protected] and maybe I'll agree with you and feature them here!

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Brian Cronin (15254 Articles Published)

CBR Senior Writer Brian Cronin has been writing professionally about comic books for over fifteen years now at CBR (primarily with his “Comics Should Be Good” series of columns, including Comic Book Legends Revealed). He has written two books about comics for Penguin-Random House – Was Superman a Spy? And Other Comic Book Legends Revealed and Why Does Batman Carry Shark Repellent? And Other Amazing Comic Book Trivia! and one book, 100 Things X-Men Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die, from Triumph Books. His writing has been featured at ESPN.com, the Los Angeles Times, About.com, the Huffington Post and Gizmodo. He features legends about entertainment and sports at his website, Legends Revealed and other pop culture features at Pop Culture References. Follow him on Twitter at @Brian_Cronin and feel free to e-mail him suggestions for stories about comic books that you'd like to see featured at [email protected]!

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