Journey Into Mystery #646
Written by Kathryn Immonen
Art by Valerio Schiti
Color by Jordie Bellaire
Letters & Production by VC’s Clayton Cowles
Kid Loki is dead. Long live Kid Loki. But that’s in the pages of another book (next year’s Young Avengers). Meanwhile, Journey into Mystery continues (sans a renumbering!) with a new creative team and a new focus. Just as Gillen repurposed the title as a venue for deconstructing Thor’s trickster half-brother, incoming writer Kathryn Immonen has elected to shine a spotlight on Lady Sif. Given Jason Aaron’s smart exclusion of the thunder god’s typical support cast in the pages of Thor: God of Thunder, JiM is also, for the time being, our one-stop shop for all other Asgardians.
Curiously enough, this first issue opens with an editorial homage to Shaft, with Sif in Richard Roundtree’s title role. It’s not the playfulness longtime Thor fans expect of Asgard’s leading lady, the juxtaposition made all the more apparent as we delve into the story proper. But that’s part of the book’s charm. She might not laugh, but that doesn’t mean we can’t. Sif isn’t exactly Lilith Sternin, but she’s at the opposite end of Asgardia’s jocularity spectrum from the voluminous Volstagg (then, the big guy does skew the curve a bit). Sif is a warrior in a society that celebrates warriors. She’s revered among her people, but there may always be that Wonder Woman curse, forever third in Asgardia’s trinity after Thor and her brother Heimdall. There’s a noble sadness about Sif which has long lent her the bearing of a valiant knight in contrast to her viking-like kinsman. Her sections of Walt Simonson’s definitive run on the Thor title seemed steeped in the pathos of Arthurian legend, especially in her triangle with Thor and Beta Ray Bill.
That characterization carries over to Immonen’s interpretation of the character, at least in this starting point. Often, Sif’s stern and humorless demeanor serves as the brunt for jokes. During a visit with Volstagg’s wife Hildegund and their many children, Sif comes across as old-fashioned and needlessly serious. Part of that is a exploration of larger Midgard’s influence on the earthbound Asgardia. The kids read comics from care-packages provided by the Red Cross (the Bloody Cairn as they call it). One young girl rejects physical aggression when Sif catches her struggling a rough-housing brother, insisting that words would be a better weapon. Sif simply doesn’t understand the mentality, yearning for a return to the old bravado of a mythic past that doubled as her own reality.
Frequent raids on Asgardia and its libraries spur Sif to better herself as a warrior. Her journey takes her across the many realms. Immonen has a thoughtful appreciation for the absurdity of the World Tree, playing it entirely straight when needed, but unafraid to poke fun at ancient dragons who feed on the dead. That makes JiM such a crucial companion piece to Thor: God of Thunder, as that other book is so spectacular, but also deeply serious. Sif’s story is hardly a spoof, but its levity is a welcome refresher. It helps that the main character is such a perfect straight-woman, dignified but not unflinching in her comical dealings with the aforementioned dragon.
That skillful interplay between lofty drama and light comedy is reflected in the art. Valerio Schiti and colorist Jordie Bellaire offer a vibrant Asgardia and expressive Asgardians. Again, night and day from what Esad Ribic’s doing across the way, and that’s exactly as it should be. I keep coming back to the dragon Nidhogg, but he’s a great example of the balance. He’s expressive enough to pull faces and act as a punchline, but that level of play works in the opposite direction as well, making for some sinister imagery. That range isn’t easy.
Oh. Immonen’s also deft with Thor-speak.
“And now, how sits it with you?”
“Like the taste of a thousand meals not eaten. My belly touches my spine with the hunger of it.”
Without giving too much away, that’s Sif undergoing something of a transformation. It’s a shocking direction, one that might spell a departure from all I’ve said of the character’s behavior up to this point. In the end, I suspect it might bolster that characterization. Until then, Sif’s going to display a whole new attitude.
Story: 4 / Art: 4 / Overall: 4
(Out of 5 Stars)