One dose of super pattern recognition wasn’t enough. “We need more insight into the Marvel (Scientific) Method and more clever exposing of psychic tricks!” the masses shouted. Mockingbird #1, the (non-spidery) book readers willed into being, is real. Is it good?
Mockingbird #1 (Marvel Comics)
Despite having a title as long as a mini-series, Mockingbird S.H.I.E.L.D. 50th Anniversary was only meant to be a one-shot. Yet Chelsea Cain and Joëlle Jones’ feature on the Infinity Formula-fueled biochemist resonated with the readership more than those of other high-profile TV stars like Agent Carter and Quake, fast-tracking a regular book onto the schedule, Spider-Gwen-style.
The debut issue drops today, with Kate Niemczyk replacing Jones on art duties (although Jones does provide the cover), necessitating — or at least suggesting — a slight shift in the story’s tone. Cain rightly steers the ship toward more jocular seas, with running sight gags that actually tie into the tale and elicit legitimate laughs. Rachelle Rosenberg’s color contrasts further add to the feeling, creating an overall package not unreminiscent of another popular book, that of Bobbi Morse’s former beau, Matt Fraction and David Aja’s Hawkeye.
Yes, it’s good. Here’s why.
But Mockingbird is not Hawkeye. Truthfully, even with the flood of “indie alternative” books from the post-Secret Wars Marvel offices, Mockingbird doesn’t resemble anything else on the stands. In a last-page testimonial that’s likely a little too inside baseball for traditional readers, Cain calls this the opening tease of a five-issue “puzzle box” that will continue to unfold and elucidate the weird events witnessed so far.
Which pretty much describes science, a subject Cain clearly cares about. If the S.H.I.E.L.D. one-shot intimated that fact, Cain herself makes it clear with her first promise to everyone who picks up the next issue: “I promise science, I promise math.” There are some usual tropes in Mockingbird #1, like immediate ass-kicking followed by the hollow “I am not a superhero” claim, but there’s also an entreaty for readers to think critically about what they’re reading. I mean, why does it matter that the ping pong ball is made of celluloid?
Like any good scientist, Bobbi tests her hypothesis over and over and ultimately concludes, despite doctors’ suspicions to the contrary that (semi-spoiler alert) she’s not psychic. I know, we learned that in the one-shot. But reproduciblity matters! And there’s still something almost equally spooky going on, but hey, I guess that’s the form skepticism takes in the Marvel Universe. Eliminate the WRONG weird thing to identify the RIGHT weird thing! Good enough!
Mockingbird #1 is a tour de force of humor, intrigue, creative chemistry, science and skepticism unlike anything you’ll see this year. It’s a book that inquires as it appeals and so subtly provokes thought between laughs that the reader may not even realize they’ve been conned into critically considering the material. Bobbi Morse might be full of it when she asserts, “I am not a superhero,” but Mockingbird #1 is so much more than just a superhero book. It’s a beautiful conundrum. The impossible melding of art and rigor. It’s the complete package.