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

The Story: With war in hell on the horizon, Loki brokers a deal with Mephisto and Hela.

What’s Good: In case you didn’t know, Kieron Gillen’s Journey into Mystery is among Marvel’s very best books.  It’s witty, charming, funny, dramatic, and epic, just like its lead character.  It’s also remarkably consistent in its quality and so, once again this month, we get a fantastic outing from Kid Loki and friends.  As ever, the little guy oozes charisma and carries the book with ease.  His machinations are a joy to watch, his jokes are consistently funny, and he’s all-around adorable and naturally likable.

This month in particular, it’s really good fun-seeing Loki play the mega-powers off one another, manipulating beings far beyond him in power to suit his ends.  He also does it with such grace and humour that it’s a joy to watch and the dialogue is eloquently written by far, far ever ever being dry.  Loki’s humour is also often edgy in its wit.  One line he delivers in particular to the Tongue of the Serpent really got a laugh out of me.  Gillen’s clearly quite a funny guy, and the humour isn’t just extended to Loki; Hel-Wolf’s grumpy, murderous demeanor is great and there’s a fantastic sight gag Gillen delivers near the end of the issue when Loki, Ikol, and Hel Wolf get beamed to a backyard in New Jersey.

Mephisto, Hela, and new character Leah are all excellently written.  I cannot stop heaping praise on Gillen’s dialogue, which carries this issue.  Mephisto is as slimy as ever (he even gives us the recap page!) and Leah’s playing the straight man to Loki makes me very happy to see her as an addition to the cast.

Then there’s the issue’s ending, which is a huge twist.  On the one hand, it shows that even in kid form, Loki is capable of heartlessness if it serves his ends.  On the other hand, it’s also a genius maneuver on Loki’s part that shows a great deal of forethought and, well, it’s also pretty hilarious.

While Gillen is cranking out some of the best work of his career on this series, the same can be said for artist Doug Braithwaite and colorist Ulises Arreola.  Their work is as epic and lush as ever, at times taking on a dreamy feel when rendering hell or suburbia.  It’s beautiful stuff that leaves you lingering longer on pages and it’s the sort of stuff that really transports you into the world Gillen is creating.  I also always appreciate when artists go for a painted look, but don’t sacrifice one iota of detail, fluidity, or emotional quality in the characters’ faces.

What’s Not So Good: I hate reviewing this book.  It’s so consistently excellent from month to month and leaves me little to gripe about.  It makes writing reviews a chore.  Damn you, Mr. Gillen!

Conclusion: Are you reading this?  If not, you really should be, because I can guarantee that this comic is better than a good chunk of whatever’s on your pull list.  That’s certainly the case for me.

Grade: A-

-Alex Evans