by Kieron Gillen (script), Doug Braithwaite (pencils), Ulises Arreola (colors), and Clayton Cowles (letters)

The Story: Loki is faced with decisions as he begins his epic adventure.

The Review: Well, I can now say that Kieron Gillen’s Journey into Mystery certainly does not fall into “first issue syndrome.”  In other words, the second installment is still awesome.

Much of this is due to the fact that, perhaps even moreso this time around, Gillen really has his main character, kid Loki, all but completely carry the weight of this comic.  That can be a risky move, but thankfully, kid Loki has proven to be an awesome concept that Gillen is executing to perfection.  For starters, he’s absolutely adorable in a way that’s impossible to dislike.  He’s the sort of protagonist that one can’t help but love and root for and is a perfect mix of beyond-his-years wit and intelligence  and childish glee, innocence, and humour.  It’s a fascinating paradox for a child character to carry such a heavy burden while still being, most definitely, a kid at heart.  It also makes for great reading.

But it’s not just in the character-work that Gillen excels; his storytelling and issue structure is also top-notch.  Even portions of the issue that seem like a digression end up being thematically crucial.  For instance, this month, we get a really cool tale about how Loki challenged Thor into taming his fire-breathing goats.  It’s a neat story that doesn’t seem especially relevant until kid Loki tames a mount of his own.  While details from the flashback play a role in how Loki does this, more interesting is the manner in which Loki unconsciously follows the words of his older self to Thor in choosing a ridiculously hard beast to tame.  It’s a neat little narrative circle that is both elegant and subtle.

Gillen also continues to use the rest of the Asgardian cast to good effect.  His Thor remains an excellent big brother figure, a stalwart and unwavering heroic figure that merits Loki’s looking up to him.  Volstagg is similarly well-done; he’s funny and he’s most definitely still Volstagg, but he’s also not the one-note running joke of a character that he’s often reduced to.  In both protecting Loki and messing with him, it’s a relationship that’s quite fun to read.  There’s also a new character introduced in Hel Wolf who looks like he’ll have a wonderful dynamic with Loki as the disgruntled and unwilling ally.

Then there’s the art.  I liked Braithwaite’s art on Thor, but this is at another level entirely.  The word “epic” is thrown around quite a bit, something I’m guilty of myself, but truly, this is art that cannot be better described with any other single word.  This is lush, painted, fantasy-storybook epic.  Braithwaite’s art and Arreola’s colors make Loki’s story and world look immense, important, and full of life.  It’s the sort of art that continually reminds you that you’re reading a story, or rather a mighty tale, and is proud of that fact.

If there’s any complaint I can levy against this issue, it’s that we still don’t know what Loki’s mission is.  That said, given the events hinted at next month and just how damned good this was, I’m willing to put myself in Gillen’s hands and move at his pace; one doesn’t rush epic storytelling, after all.

Conclusion: Two issues in, this is set to take a place among the very best comics out of Marvel.  I hope people are reading it.

Grade: A –

-Alex Evans