Medical Mysteries and Maybe Monsters in ‘Mockingbird’ #1 [Review]
If I say that Mockingbird #1 is a comic about repeated doctor’s office visits, I worry that won’t sound very exciting. And don’t get me wrong, Mockingbird #1 is a very exciting, fun comic. But if I’m going to be honest, it’s also a comic about repeated doctor’s office visits.
See, not too long ago, Nick Fury saved Bobbi “Mockingbird” Morse’s life with the help of the Super Soldier Serum and the Infinity Formula. Now SHIELD is concerned about possible side effects. Side effects that include psychic phenomena and visions of elderly zombie people. So they’ve got her coming into the SHIELD clinic for weekly checkups, and as they go on, things get weirder.
It’s a strange premise for a first issue, but writer Chelsea Cain and artist Kate Niemczyk get the most out of it. It’s clear from the very beginning that Bobbi is experiencing at least some of the symptoms SHIELD suspects she might, but she’s hiding it from them. Whether this is justified spy paranoia, or just the way people tend to behave in doctor’s offices in real life, is never exactly clear, but that’s not necessarily an important distinction, because things come to a head by the end of the issue. Technically by the beginning, and the rest is told in flashback.
Niemczyk’s art brings a ton to the book. Her work has a Cliff Chiang/Mike Allred quality, where the lines and shapes are bold in such a classic style that it adds up to something more than just a classic superhero comic. The designs are simple but distinct, and the setting always feels dynamic even though it’s the inside of a pretty normal-looking medical clinic. There are multiple women in the comic, and none of them look the same. That should be a given, but somehow in comics it’s still a compliment.
It’s interesting that Marvel has two new books out this month, Mockingbird and Black Widow, about female SHIELD agents, both of whom seem to go rogue. We don’t yet know the root of Black Widow’s split from SHIELD, but she’s definitely on their bad side, and the entire issue is one long action scene as the rest of SHIELD pursues her. Mockingbird, on the other hand, is extremely light on action. The issue shows a problem developing, and as of the last page, things between Mockingbird and SHIELD look pretty iffy, but we don’t know where they’re headed. In other words, these are two comics that seem similar until you actually read them.
What’s happening with Bobbi and the aged apparitions is treated seriously, but the book finds plenty of humor as it goes along. One of my favorite gags is the waiting room of the SHIELD clinic, which is always occupied by other superheroes. And there’s one who’s always there, with the same symptom. I don’t want to ruin it, because it’s a good gag.
The other running joke is that, because she’s coming directly from espionage missions, Bobbi shows up in a different outfit every week (and once with a corgi). In one scene she arrives in a costume that’s unmistakably reminiscent of Black Canary. Considering the parallels between the two characters, I can’t imagine that’s an accident.
When I was a kid, I thought of Mockingbird as “Marvel’s Black Canary,” and I know I wasn’t the only one. After all, they both had bird names, acrobatic skills, black costumes, blonde hair, and were in long term relationships with their respective universes’ greatest archers. But a series about Mockingbird and her paranormal spy problems launching while Black Canary has a book in which she’s a rock star really establishes them as two distinct characters, whose stories are unlikely to overlap. And neither of them are with those ne’er-do-well archers anymore, which is a plus.
Mockingbird is one of those characters I never particularly expected to see in a solo ongoing, but now that she’s here, I really hope she has a good run. Cain and Niemczyk show a lot of promise in this first issue, and I’m already excited for the next one. And not just because I want to know the deal with those weird old zombies (but that too).