Mockingbird

Mockingbird: My Feminist Agenda (2016)

Mockingbirdv2Mockingbird: My Feminist Agenda, the trade, contains five issues. Mockingbird: My Feminist Agenda, the storyline, is three issues. The last two issues are filler because the series got cancelled because comic book readers are awful. Before those last two issues is an afterword on the series from writer Chelsea Cain. Why would anyone want to read filler after finding out this wonderful comic is now gone. Especially since it’s nothing like Cain and artist Kate Niemczyk’s Mockingbird.

So what is Bobbi doing in My Feminist Agenda? Playing some Dungeons & Dragons, doing some light cosplay, taking a cruise, fretting over ex-husband Hawkeye’s murder trial. Oh, and she’s embroiled in a noirish mystery where she’s the detective and the beefcake spy partner Lance Hunter is Ursula Andrews. It’s awesome.

As usual, Cain paces it all out beautifully. The first issue isn’t just Bobbi getting on the boat, but it’s also the entirety of her purpose for getting on the boat. A mysterious Brony has information to help Clint Barton. There’s lots of intrigue, lots of humor, but also quite a bit of melancholy. Times are weighing heavy on Bobbi, regardless of her ludicrous setting or that Lance Hunter is onboard not as a super-spy, but because he’s at a Corgi convention. Not the toy cars, the adorable dogs.

Bobbi starts her getaway trip with Hawkeye on her mind. Or Lance just looks like a brunette Clint.
That first issue gets a lot done, especially for readers coming in without any idea what’s going on with Hawkeye in the greater Marvel Universe. The absurd situation–Hawkeye kills the Hulk–gets positively melancholic by the end of the second issue. The rest of the second issue is a fairly serious, albeit with humorous asides, procedural. Bobbi is investigating a crime with onboard the ship of the cosplay damned. Oh, and there’s a Bermuda Triangle connection. Mostly for fun, though occasionally to let Cain get away with some stuff. Mockingbird is exceptionally precise. Niemczyk is carefully presenting all this information, which includes her own guest appearance as a convention goer and possible suspect.

Cain doesn’t draw any attention to it, it’s just fun detail. Turns out My Feminist Agenda is going to get a little heavier in the final issue of the story arc than Cain forecasted. It also stays fun, because the whole point of Mockingbird is Bobbi Morse’s awesome. Cain and Niemczyk are constantly making absurdities work out. No spoilers, but the tone changes from page to page in the last issue, with Bobbi juggling a lot while still fulfilling her duties as cruise ship detective. Mockingbird presents this fantastic protagonist, who’s sympathetic and relatable, but who’s also smarter than the reader and the story itself. Cain writes My Feminist Agenda, at least as far as how it works as a mystery, with Bobbi as a somewhat unreliable narrator. Some things the reader should be paying more attention about. Other things Cain’s keeping facedown to play later.

Mockingbird and the New Avengers. And corgi-enthusiast Lance Hunter.
And it all wraps up beautifully. Equal parts sweet, spicy, and surreal. Then comes Cain’s afterword–her farewell to Mockingbird and she and Niemczyk’s Bobbi Morse. So thank goodness for the trades, because Cain and Niemczyk’s Mockingbird is one of those cancelled too soon superhero books to be mentioned in hushed reverence.

CREDITS

Writer, Chelsea Cain; penciller, Kate Niemczyk; inker, Sean P. Parsons; colorist, Rachelle Rosenberg; letterer, Joe Caramagna; editors, Christinia Harrington and Katie Kubert; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Mockingbird: I Can Explain (2015-2016)

Mockingbird: I Can ExplainMockingbird: I Can Explain collects the first five issues of Chelsea Cain’s run as writer, along with a special, which was Cain’s first work on the character. That special comes at the end of the collection, introducing Cain’s approach to the character. It’s kind of like a dessert in the collection, however, since it doesn’t have anything to do with the plot line of I Can Explain. It’s good dessert and it does make sense to have it as addendum, as the rest of the collection is very intricately plotted. So much so, I can’t imagine how it’d read in separate sittings.

In other words, I’ll get to the special, which was published first, last.

The first issue is structured around Bobbi (aka Mockingbird) going to the doctor at S.H.I.E.L.D. Cain gets in a lot of good jokes regarding healthcare and has some fantastic cameos. There’s a lot of visual information in the backgrounds, usually for smiles, always for texture. Artist Kate Niemczyk does an excellent job with the various kinds of visual material. There’s even some “clues” for later reveals. And some direct sight gags. Bobbi goes to the doctor four times; Cain starts with a present-day prologue, jumps back into one flashback, jumps forward into another flashback, then another, then another. I think. There’s a lot of careful structuring in Mockingbird and the setup of the flashbacks in the first issue is the most obvious.

Superhero doldrums. Art: Kate Niemczyk.
Superhero doldrums. Art: Kate Niemczyk.

It’s a good first issue. It’s fun. It’s not great. It’s good. Cain writes Bobbi really well and establishes some excellent pacing with all the layers.

So, of course, the rest of the comic is nothing like that first issue. The second issue takes place right before the second flashback in the first issue. You know because of Bobbi’s outfit. The first issue has her going through five different outfits, usually Mockingbird standards of some kind–or, at least, female superhero standards–then it turns out Cain and Niemczyk are going to fill in the information about those outfits over the next three issues. Wait, I counted one flashback too many. It’s four outfits, because issue four directly feeds into issue one. Sorry. One flashback too many.

Obviously, Bobbi can explain. Art: Kate Niemczyk.
Obviously, Bobbi can explain. Art: Kate Niemczyk.
But the outfit thing–even the very subtle introduction of a subplot important in issues four and five–is just part of Mockingbird’s texture. It’s not even the content of the book, which is entirely different starting with the second issue. The second issue’s an all action comic, with Bobbi rescuing scantily clad partner Lance Hunter from the Hellfire Club. What’s strangest about the comic, which makes a lot of jokes at the Club’s expense, is how sex positive the whole thing gets. Lance’s a himbo, but a well-meaning one who Bobbi can’t resist. It’s downright fun and naughty without ever getting too naughty. Cain keeps everything–from the double entendres to the easy jokes–in line. It’s a completely different comic than the first issue implies.

And the third issue is even more different. It’s the standout of the collection, just because Cain gets kind of super dark while still trying to be sensitive to the issue. Not the issue issue, but the subject of the issue issue–a sixth grade girl who has developed superpowers. It’s a fantastic commentary on misogyny and sexist media, but Cain never lets that commentary get beyond Bobbi’s head and mouth or the situation itself. All hail the verisimilitude, because Cain is still doing an action comic after all. Frankly, the third issue reminds me of eighties mainstream DC Alan Moore. Nothing wrong with reminding of that.

True Romance with Clint and Bobbie. Art: Kate Niemczyk.
True Romance with Clint and Bobbie. Art: Kate Niemczyk.
The fourth issue brings in Hawkeye and Cain’s take on the character and he and Bobbi’s relationship. It’s kind of like dessert too. It’s similar in structure and scantily clad men to the second issue, but Niemczyk goes for it a lot more this time around with Clint’s little purple undies. She and Cain aren’t afraid of cheap, but very situational funny jokes. Of course, it all ties into the first issue–and the fifth–so there’s potential heaviness going on, but the flirting distracts.

Ibrahim Moustafa does the art on the fifth issue, which is somewhat disconcerting. Mockingbird is Niemczyk’s. At multiple times throughout the issue, even though Moustafa does a fine job, I wished I was getting to see Niemczyk handle the scenes. It’s more action, with Howard the Duck (a wonderful characterization from Cain on him too) and Miles Morales Spider-Man (did Cain mean to highlight the charge Ultimate Miles has the same personality as Ultimate Peter, because she does). There are also zombies. And a lot of laughs. It’s a good issue; Cain perfectly balances action, humor, and serious commentary.

Bobbi and Her Amazing Friends. Art: Ibrahim Moustafa.
Bobbi and Her Amazing Friends. Art: Ibrahim Moustafa.

Then there’s the special, the dessert. Fine Joëlle Jones art. It’s a mystery. Funny. Dessert.

Mockingbird: I Can Explain starts strong enough, then Cain and Niemczyk blast through expectations. It’s a fantastic comic book.

CREDITS

Writer, Chelsea Cain; pencillers, Kate Niemczyk, Ibrahim Moustafa, and Jöelle Jones; inkers, Niemczyk, Sean Parsons, Moustafa, and Jones; colorist, Rachelle Rosenberg; letterer, Joe Caramagna; editors, Alanna Smith, Christina Harrington, Jon Moisan, and Katie Kubert; publisher, Marvel Comics.

New Avengers: The Reunion 4 (August 2009)

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It ends very cute. Nauseatingly cute because of the pseudo-manga face Lopez gives Hawkeye. It looks like a Twilight comic or something.

McCann has a speedy read here but he gets a lot done. He has the big villain reveal, which is silly–I don’t care If McCann’s Mockingbird is a female character far better than most female superheroes… I don’t believe she’s a genius biologist for a minute. I also don’t believe Hawkeye’s over the age of fourteen, not with that yaoi-ready Lopez art.

But it works. It’s charming enough and cute enough. Though there are way too many panels with nonsensical expository dialogue, either explaining Hawkeye’s archery skills or silly chemical reactions.

Maybe the ending’s too cute. With McCann covering so much, I forgot about the diamond the couple make together. I’m still positive, even if it doesn’t sound like it.

Even with Lopez’s absurd Clint.

CREDITS

Writer, Jim McCann; penciller, David Lopez; inker, Alvaro Lopez; colorists, Daniele Rudoni and Marco Patrucco; letterer, Dave Lanphear; editor, Jeanine Schaefer; publisher, Marvel Comics.

New Avengers: The Reunion 3 (July 2009)

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Ah ha, so while she was on Planet Skrull–next planet over from Planet Hulk–Mockingbird (I’m sorry, I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to call her Bobbi) had a Skrull stalker who impersonated Hawkeye. Not just impersonated him, but filled her in on the details of his life.

It’s somewhat interesting backstory but the character doesn’t need it at all. Being kidnapped by shapeshifting aliens is enough. Instead, McCann just uses it to fill the issue… and to let Lopez do his retro art thing.

It’s an incredible narrative misstep for the issue because it takes up more pages than the regular story and is just explained as a fainting spell. But the series does appear to be the slightly comedic couples bickering comic book I’m always looking for and infrequently find. I wonder if anyone told McCann bickering couples comics don’t last long on the racks.

CREDITS

Double Indemnity; writer, Jim McCann; penciller, David Lopez; inker, Alvaro Lopez; colorists, Daniele Rudoni and Marco Patrucco; letterer, Dave Lanphear; editor, Jeanine Schaefer; publisher, Marvel Comics.

New Avengers: The Reunion 2 (June 2009)

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It’s a soap opera, but not as a pejorative. I mean, I could be nicer and say it’s a character drama, but it’s really not because the characters are solely defined by events, nothing deeper. So it’s a soap opera. And a damned good one.

Wait, wait, I do need to complain for a moment about the Lopez art. The sideburns on Clint? A disaster. A fashion disaster. Doesn’t Disney have any fashion people at ABC who can consult on these things?

For a while it seems like the issue is going to be a spy thing–Clint and Mockingbird are on this spy mission–but then it turns out it’s just about her dealing with coming back from the dead. Though there is some super-future James Bond type stuff and it’s lame.

McCann does a good job with a female protagonist, which makes Reunion rare for a comic.

CREDITS

Kiss Me Deadly; writer, Jim McCann; penciller, David Lopez; inker, Alvaro Lopez; colorists, Daniele Rudoni and Marco Patrucco; letterer, Dave Lanphear; editor, Jeanine Schaefer; publisher, Marvel Comics.

New Avengers: The Reunion 1 (May 2009)

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How clean can Lopez’s artwork get? I mean, he draws Clint like he’s some kind of Backstreet Boy. Mockingbird comes off a lot better–Lopez has a similar problem with Bucky Captain America, he looks about twelve. When he and Clint bicker–a decent scene too–it’s like the Little Rascals fighting over a gumdrop.

Still, it’s a solid enough first issue for what’s actually a pretty strange Marvel comic. Reunion might have been an a-list title back in the eighties, but today it’s just weird. It’s a retro book with a blandly (I mean that one in the nicest possible way) modern looking art style.

McCann isn’t a writer I’m familiar with, but his scenes–particularly the banter–is solid enough to encourage further reading. Given the plot–a Secret Invasion sequel–can’t be anything special, what else is there?

But I don’t believe Clint watches “Grey’s Anatomy.”

CREDITS

The Lady Vanishes; writer, Jim McCann; penciller, David Lopez; inker, Alvaro Lopez; colorist, Daniele Rudoni; letterer, Dave Lanphear; editor, Jeanine Schaefer; publisher, Marvel Comics.

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