Saturday, April 16, 2011

Journey Into Mystery #622 – Review

Kieron Gillen is taking up the reins on this new and renumbered Thor title, Journey Into Mystery, while Matt Fraction is getting a new #1 with The Mighty Thor. Here we have Loki taking centre stage. This concept is a massive sell for me, I’m picking it up but no other Thor titles, but if you’re unsure of the sell then hit the jump and see my thoughts on why this is one strong debut from Marvel.

Journey Into Mystery #622

Written by Kieron Gillen
Art by Dougie Braithwaite

To set the scene, Loki, the god of mischief and chaos, was killed at the end of the event Siege. When he was brought back, at the start of Fraction’s run, Loki found himself in the body of a child. And with no recollection of his evil past.

This title is either going to be the fall of Loki, again, or the redemption. I’m not sure if Gillen has stated his intent but I kind of like not knowing. There are so many lines of dialogue in this issue that could be taken either way. Because it’s Loki, you never know when to trust what he says or in what tone he intends it. The layers run deep and Gillen plays with this in a whimsical fashion.

In fact, let’s jump to the biggest sell of this title, Gillen’s writing. He’s somewhere between regal ballad and fairy tale on this title and it’s a perfect fit. This might be the Marvel U but it’s still gods we are dealing with. I don’t want things to be flippant, I want grandeur and elegance. Gillen heaps on both but it never comes across as pretentious or impenetrable. Gillen is one of the few writers (and Jim McCann did it on Return of the Dapper Men) who knows how to craft sentences into melody. The Asgardian font from Clayton Cowles doesn’t hurt either.

This book opens with a set of magpies reacting to the death of Loki only to wind up, much later, in front of the new Loki. The wheels were in motion instantly, perhaps everything is a plan? That’s half the glee of deciphering the events in this comic, and I think this will continue into further issues. The ballad of the magpies is amusing and horrendous at equal turns, as all good tales for children are, and the final moment of the last magpie is suitably macabre.

What then follows is another series of events that might be preordained. Loki embarks to find some truth with the key delivered to him. He’s then taken through seven scenes and tasks, I’m sure the number is no coincidence as it holds the most importance in all good tales of days long gone, and finally Loki comes face to face with the man he once was. Loki has left a message behind for after his demise, and one he knew only he could find again.

The conversation between Loki and Loki is layered. It’s mildly expositional but mostly it’s just amazing. It could be instructional or cautionary. It’s hard to say. The only way to see how Loki turns out is to continue to read the title. I’m certainly keen to do so after this first issue.

The final pages that tie into Fear Itself, the major Marvel event on right now, are perfunctory but still fun. Especially to see Dougie Braithwaite’s take on those Immonen pages. The Quesada-like Rainbow Bridge is specifically interesting.

Then we get the final line from Loki and aside from it needing one of those two instances of the word 'sure' changed into a 'certainly' it’s a great send off for this issue. There’s going to be mischief ahead, and chaos, but I don’t know how Loki will react to it or what his part of it all will be.

I really hope Loki winds up being a hero. Maybe things will look bad and it’s a set up by old Loki, and one that new Loki can overcome, but I don’t want it to just be another scheme. And I have faith that Gillen won’t go the predictable route. He’ll take the chaotic path, as befits this particular god.

It should also be said noted that Braithwaite is a near perfect match on art for this title. His style is grand and majestic and exactly how these gods, and their epic travels, should look. Ulises Arreola lends the colours in spectacular fashion to make everything feel more intense than real. I’m also a fan of the androgyny of Loki here. It makes him appear more elusive and appealing in a very strange and ethereal way. He could slip into any situation and that’s dangerous.

Verdict – Must Read. The Asgardian gods are finally treated as deities and monsters. Being merely heroes and villains was far too pedestrian. Gillen makes this book a delight of fantastical whimsy and subversively dangerous sleight of hand, like all good fairy tales need to be. This is going to be the top Asgardian book published by Marvel, just you wait and see.

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Retcon Joe said...

I bought it! I read it! I loved it! I haven't been this excited since ElfQuest. Loki is to Journey into Mystery as Lex Luthor is to Action Comics. Here's hoping Gillen can breathe life into a title that should keep us in supense every issue. I really enjoyed the way the story was told. The art was bold and wonderful. Journey Into Mystery has the opportunity of being one of the best fantasy pieces this year.

Midnight Monk said...

Not the biggest fan of any Thor series but villain books tend to draw me in and a book focusing on Loki seems very interesting especially given this new take on Loki

Anonymous said...

I really think journey into mystery is going to better than the mighty thor

jpbl1976 said...

I actually posted on Gillen's blog that I thought he channeled 90's Neil Gaiman at his best during the Magpie sequence and he replied and seemed to agree; he said he wanted to set the tone very clearly early on. I'd say he succeeded quite well.

I don't know why the man isn't a Marvel Architect. Maybe next year?

Retcon Joe said...


I agree with the Magpie sequence. I thought it brought an intrinsic quality that truly sets the stage for well rounded story telling and multi-faceted characters.

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