Marvel’s recent focus on diversity has seen a wide range of titles come and go over the past few years, and this has led to a few surprising breakout hits. No-one could have predicted that an alternate-universe version of Gwen Stacy would resonate strongly enough with fans to warrant an ongoing series, yet Spider-Gwen has become one of the company’s most popular heroes. Now it seems Marvel has struck gold again with Chelsea Cain’s Mockingbird.
Spinning out of the Mockingbird: S.H.I.E.L.D 50th Anniversary one-shot (also written by Cain, with art by Joëlle Jones), the series follows the adventures of Bobbi Morse – superhero, super spy and super scientist. Issue #1 sets a framework for the entire first arc as it follows Bobbi’s weekly S.H.I.E.L.D medical check-ups to make sure that she’s suffering no adverse effects from the mixture of Super Soldier Serum and Infinity Formula that runs through her body (it’s a long story). The narrative structure is used to hilarious effect as the book keeps cutting to Bobbi in the waiting room each week, dressed in a variety of outlandish outfits that leave the reader to wonder what she has been up to. From there things only get more bizarre as Mockingbird is sucked into a conspiracy involving zombies, latent psychic abilities and ping-pong balls.
It’s a fascinating approach to a first issue as it creates a compelling narrative puzzle, and it’s an absolute delight to see it being solved as the following issues reveal Mockingbird’s adventures in-between hospital visits. Infiltrating underwater lairs, fighting sentient viruses, helping a teenage girls deal with their emotions and more, all before coming full-circle in issue #5 to where the first left off.
Cain’s writing is superb, and her snarky, insightful narrative has transformed a character who used to be either dead or a poor-woman’s Black Widow into one of the most compelling and human characters in comics today. She is wonderfully aided in this by regular artist Kate Niemczyk, whose work is vibrant and packed with humour.
Mockingbird gets my pick for having everything you could want in a character; intelligence, sarcasm, and kickass yoga moves along with some of the most inventive and hilarious stories I’ve ever read. It also features a team-up with a depressed Howard the Duck and a chicken-pox infested Spider-Man.
If that hasn’t sold you then I don’t know what will.