Backlist Books: ‘Mockingbird Volume 1: ‘I Can Explain’ by Chelsea Cain and Kate Niemczyk
‘Sup readers? Welcome to another edition of Backlist Books, the FanFest column that dusts off older books in the hopes that there are gems between the pages. Okay, so when it comes to comics and graphic novels, DC gets the lion’s share of my money. I think it’s because I cut my teeth on one of their most popular Elseworlds titles— Kingdom Come. If you haven’t read it yet, seriously, you should check it out— I love the MCU and I’ve read a couple of great runs from Marvel, but I’m more attached to DC’s characters and lore. I was going through my boxed-up comics when I pulled out something I hadn’t read before: Mockingbird Volume 1: I Can Explain by Chelsea Cain and Katie Niemczyk.
Before diving into the title, the most I knew of Mockingbird was that she was part of the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV show (full disclosure: I don’t watch that either), and also that she was Hawkeye’s ex-wife. After reading the title, I can confidently say that Bobbi Morse is a total badass. Brought to life via Cain’s mighty pen and Niemczyk’s lovely artwork, Bobbi Morse is a hyper-intelligent sass-master with the emotional flexibility of a steel rod.
Perhaps Cain’s run is most famous for the cover of its last issue— on it, Bobbi is standing on a beach, shielding her eyes from the sun, holding a large glass of what looks like lemonade. The issue, according to angry fans on Twitter, was the t-shirt the character wore: bright orange and emblazoned with the words “ASK ME ABOUT MY FEMINIST AGENDA.” The backlash Cain got inspired her to quit Twitter (she’s back now) and opened up a discussion about how insular and unwelcoming comic book culture can be towards women, and those long-time fans consider to be outsiders.
I really wish people had talked more about the comic itself, because I probably would have picked it up way sooner. Essentially, Bobbi— Agent 19, according to her S.H.I.E.L.D. paperwork— has no powers, but she spent an inordinate amount of time as a little girl exposing herself to radiation, and trying to get bitten by spiders, in order to get them. Well, she finally has them— and half the fun of the first volume is finding out how she got them and what the hell is going on.
Mockingbird is a lot of fun. It’s fast-paced, it’s visually appealing, it’s got a lot of action while balancing characterization. Cain leaves a mark on the history of Bobbi Morse, and it’s definitely for the better. I was a little confused at first, but by the end of the first volume, I was absolutely hungry for more, and a little more than disappointed that the series had been cancelled with only 8 issues to show for it.
Honestly, the only thing I disliked was the inclusion of Hamilton lyrics in one of the issues. I love Hamilton as much as the next person, but I dislike real-world references in fiction because they inarguably date the book (remember when books frequently mentioned people wearing ponchos and using their Blackberries or Palm Pilots? Yeahh…).
If you want a copy, you can check it out here.