Journey Into Mystery #646 Review
By Andy Frisk
November 25, 2012 - 19:19
Publisher(s): Marvel Comics
Writer(s): Kathryn Immonen
Penciller(s): Valerio Schiti
Inker(s): Valerio Schiti
Colourist(s): Jordie Bellaire
Letterer(s): VC's Clayton Cowles
Cover Artist(s): Jeff Dekal
Aiding in the rescue efforts in the aftermath of Surtur the Fire Demon's assault upon Asgard, chronicled recently in the pages of Thor's regular comic (now cancelled and relaunched as part of Marvel NOW! as well), Sif, the mightiest and most storied female Asgardian warrior, muses over the loss of the great Asgardian Library where the the stories of Asgard, which contain "secrets hidden in the knowledge upon which Asgard is built," were contained for countless millennia. "Who really reads much anymore, anyway?" Sif reflects cynically. Volstagg's kids do. They read comic books at least, as Sif discovers. One of Gunrun's (Volstagg's wife) daughters believes in the power of words still though as Sif also discovers after breaking up a childhood row between her and her brother. All these musings over the written word, and the coded secret knowledge of the foundations of the Asgardian civilization contained therein, lead Sif to undertake a journey to learn the old beserker ways as they existed in ancient Asgardian times (as a metaphor on writer Kathryn Immonen's behalf for traditional knowledge of one's beginnings) in order to protect Asgard from the next apocalypse, only to discover that this knowledge is not as easily mastered as one might think...
One of the most refreshingly literary (and literary term inspired) issues of a mainstream superhero comic book that I've read in some time, Journey Into Mystery #646 is a smart, multi-textured, and deliciously meta-textual debut for Kathyrn Immonen's (Runaways, Wolverine and Jubilee) take on a long standing, and often regulated to background status, female hero of the Marvel Universe. Instead of jumping straight into the blood soaked action (there's enough of that later on), Immonen sets the stage for a superhero tale for smart readers, and lovers of literature (or at least the literary terms [and the exercise thereof] listed above). Immonen brings an element of intelligence to this opening salvo in the adventures of a headlining female Marvel Comics' super heroine (a category that Marvel Comics is struggling to keep up with their Distinguished Competition in) that is befitting, and smartly in opposition to, previous portrayals of the "hack first and ask questions later" themed stories that involved Sif over the years. Immonen doesn't change Sif's signature character though. She still hacks away pretty freely. Instead Immonen introduces a surrounding story and theme for Sif to labor through that has the potential to end up giving us a story that rebirths the character instead of rehashing her.
Bringing this smart affair to vivid life is artist Valerio Schiti (Angel, Ghost Rider). Schiti's Sif is as powerful looking as she is beautiful. While the backgrounds aren't very detailed (something that bothers me with many sequential artists), Schiti's absolutely beautiful and masterful command over facial expressions almost makes up for it.
As smart, sharp, and enjoyable as Kathyrn Immonen's Journey Into Mystery, with Sif as the lead, looks like it is going to be for those of us who love a good literary mental exercise, Journey Into Mystery #646 isn't as strong a debut (or re-imagining) of a female character as Azzarello's New 52 Wonder Woman #1 was, but it's not far behind. Has Marvel Comics finally found a character and writer to elevate one of their female heroes to the plateau that Azzarello has elevated DC Comics' Wonder Woman? Time will tell, but Immonen definitely has the writing chops to do so based on what we see here...
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