Journey Into Mystery #650
US: May 2013
Currently at Marvel the only title still holding on to its heritage of chronological display, a heritage going all the way back to the ‘60s, is Journey Into Mystery. Resurrected after the “Siege” event a few years back, the title that originally introduced Thor to the world in the ‘60s at one point featured the ever-popular Kid Loki before he and writer Kieron Gillen hopped over to Young Avengers. The title was assumed to be on the bench until it was announced as one of the Marvel Now! rebranded books this time starring the Lady Sif and being presented by the under-appreciated talents of Kathryn Immonen and Valerio Schiti.
Marvel’s Norse god heroes have always been a troubled sell outside of their god of thunder, Thor. While the Warriors Three are beloved and Loki is a popculture icon, the characters never seemed to stick with fans and rarely could sustain a series of their own. Even less than those fan favorites, the character of Lady Sif been unable to stand on her own for all to see. Mostly this has been due to her being relegated to being a supporting character for Thor over the years and rarely been pushed out to the forefront as a protagonist. Thanks to Sif being featured in the Thor movie and its upcoming sequel, the public is starting to at least recognize her in a line-up and Marvel has capitalized on the opportunity. Here we have the new Journey into Mystery sailing towards a 650th issue and its one of Marvel Now!’s best titles.
These days in comics it’s almost impossible to find a long-running series actually holding on to its issue number on the front cover. Amazing Spider-Man, Action, Detective, and Uncanny X-Men are now all in the double digits instead of the triple digits like they once were. It’s an argument that fans, publishers, retailers, and purists all seem to have at various points when a new publishing initiative occurs: Does the issue count actually matter and does it affect a potential purchaser from buying the title? There has been little proof to support any argument for or against the numbering of comics. Yes new #1’s sell very high but you can slap a #1 on any book and watch the orders spike only to have it plateau and eventually return to routine sales. Before the glut of the ‘90s, no one brought up Amazing Spider-Man having a triple digit issue count being a deterrent to increased sales. After the Marvel Now! relaunch the only other titles besides Journey into Mystery to still have their original numbering are X-Factor and Dark Avengers (which is not only doesn’t have its original title of Thunderbolts but is also about to be canceled).
Aside from the debated topic of numbering a great deal of attention has been put on the absence of strong female characters leading their own title and an even greater absence of female talent spearheading those and other characters. With Journey into Mystery, we’re not only greeted to a truly great lead character in Sif but the creative team of Immonen and Schiti are a positively amazing match that we’re blessed to have presenting the title to us. The premise that Immonen starts the first arc with is of Sif trying to become a better warrior and being tricked into accepting a spell that makes her a “berserker”. Heimdel, her brother and fellow Norse god, exiles Sif to an island that has her meet and team up with other berserker gods as they fight creatures and get teleported first to Earth and then back to Sif’s home of Asgardia. The story is incredibly simple in terms of an arc yet Immonen adds layers of internal conflict within Sif and external conflict in harrowing action scenes drafted by Schiti. Spot-on and hilarious dialogue punctuates every scene and colorist Jordie Bellaire provides an incredibly bright and vivid color palette.
I find it fitting that the one of the only titles at Marvel and DC to be hitting these triple digits of a 650th issue is a title that meets an ever-increasing demand for engaging female characters shepherded by talented female creators. If you had told me earlier that one of the titles to stay in my pull-list after sampling all of the new Marvel Now! books would be a book starring Lady Sif, I would have chuckled and yet here I am giving it one of my highest recommendations and hoping beyond hope that it continues on into more arcs carrying Journey into Mystery to issue #700 and beyond.