The back matter of “Mockingbird” #1 patiently explains that the issue might not make a lot of sense: there are week-long gaps between the different scenes, and those gaps are detailed in issues #2-4. While it’s nice to have this explanation, it isn’t necessary, as Chelsea Cain, Kate Niemczyk and Rachelle Rosenberg’s comic is an utter blast even without it.
Cain’s story follows Mockingbird as she comes in for a series of checkups at the S.H.I.E.L.D. Medical Clinic. Ever since she was injected with two different experimental serums, they’ve been monitoring her progress to make sure she’s still mentally and physically sound. From being able to move ping-pong balls with her mind to strange hallucinations of pale white zombies, something strange is definitely going on, even as she comes in every week for her latest evaluation. Then, just when you think you know what’s going on, we circle back around to the opening scene and things get dangerous quickly.
Cain’s story structure could have resulted in an issue that felt like gobbledygook, but it doesn’t, in no small part because of the incredibly strong narration that acts as the issue’s backbone. In many ways, it reminds me of Nick Spencer’s work on “The Superior Foes of Spider-Man” and how well that series gave its narrator a voice that demanded attention through its turns of phrase and sense of humor. It’s hard to not laugh as Mockingbird is shown ESP cards, has her paranoia level continually adjusted upwards and continually show up with new outfits and/or a companion dog. Cain takes a character I was honestly never that interested in and makes her demand my attention. Sure, there are odd gaps between each checkup, but it’s clear something else is happening to her in that time period. While I’m looking forward to seeing just what that is, “Mockingbird” #1 works because of the confidence in its writing. It lays things out for the reader in a fun but matter-of-fact way, and it reads almost reads like a stand-alone issue about how strange Mockingbird’s superhero life is. It’s a daring story structure with which to kick off a miniseries, but Cain handles it perfectly.
Niemczyk’s art is a winner. If I had to compare her to another artist, it would be Frank Cho by virtue of her strong but graceful ink lines and the beautiful, smooth features she gives her characters. Niemczyk’s art is more naturally proportioned, though, and includes a wider variety of body types. Niemczyk understands the humor in Cain’s script and brings it to life here; she’s able to bring Bobbi’s montage of stress and interruptions to life in a way that shows Mockingbird as capable while also making the situations funny. Who knew that Iron Man being held by the neck and getting yelled at about quinoa was something we’ve been missing all these years? There are so many great little touches going on here too, from the hideous wallpaper in each room of the medical center to the carefully constructed shirts and outfits. Even moments like Mockingbird drumming her fingers while having ESP cards shoved in her face again is great, in part because Niemczyk makes it all look natural. Add in some bold and vivid (but never oversaturated) colors from Rosenberg, and this comic just looks gorgeous.
I hope the remaining issues are just as much fun, but — no matter what happens from this point on — “Mockingbird” #1 is a dynamite debut from Cain, Niemczyk and Rosenberg. Two big, big thumbs up.