FIRST ISSUE: MOCKINGBIRD
An admirable first issue must, above all else, contain such matter as will compel a reader to buy the second issue. At the same time, while provoking curiosity through mysteriousness, a good first issue must avoid being so mysterious as to be cryptic or incomprehensible. And, thirdly, it should introduce the title’s principals, preferably in a way that makes us care about them. Fourth, a first issue should include a complete “episode”—that is, something should happen, a crisis of some kind, which is resolved by the end of the issue, without, at the same time, detracting from the cliffhanger aspect of the effort that will compel us to buy the next issue.
MOCKINGBIRD No.1 isn’t really a first issue. We know the character: an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., Barbara “Bobbi” Morse has been around for a while, both before and after she was brought back from the dead by Fury. Besides, this is a one-shot “50th anniversary” issue. So the usual criteria for a first issue don’t apply. The issue opens with her awakening in bed with her current lover, Lance Hunter, but she mutters the name of a former lover, “Clint” — as in Clint Barton, Hawkeye. Lance doesn’t seem to mind, though.
Barbara arises, gets dressed, reads in the morning paper that her mentor, Wilma Calvin, has been murdered, and goes to the morgue where Wilma’s corpse is residing. Joined by Wilma’s son Percy, Barbara conducts an autopsy and decides Percy killed his own mother. Percy, however, has drugged Barbara by lining her plastic gloves with neurotoxin, which knocks her out. When she recovers, she’s bound to an examining table, but she breaks free and takes Percy out. At the end of the issue, she’s back in bed with Lance, and as she turns out the light, she says, “Goodnight, Clint.” And Lance says: “You did that on purpose, right?”
A nicely circular storyline, but I don’t know why writer Chelsea Cain wants Barbara to object to Lance’s “cuddling her.” Probably because cuddling is intimate, and Barbara is trying not to be too intimate with Lance. But that’s just a guess.
The book is drawn by Joelle Jones in her usual hard-edged bold linear manner. But Cain doesn’t take full advantage of Jones’ talent in rendering action sequences. As you can see in the accompanying illustrations, the narrative on many of the book’s pages is carried by multiple tiny panels that permit a focus on only parts of the person depicted. This kind of pacing is skillfully managed, creating and sustaining mood for dramatic emphasis, and Cain/Joelle make it work here.
But they also contrive a huge two-page illustration of Barbara performing the autopsy under a massive ceiling light to no dramatic purpose. A conspicuous waste of space. Ditto the single page given to showing Percy hovering over Barbara’s body as she wakes up, chained to the examining table. The space would be better used in showing Barbara taking Percy down after she’s broken free of the shackles.
Given the over-all success of the book, this quibble is perhaps excessive. In any event, it’s nice to see Jones at work again in a pleasingly complex tale.