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

The Story: Loki cuts a deal with the biggest, toughest demon in limbo before seeking the aid of a very shiny resident of Asgard.

What’s Good: One thing I’ve really appreciated about Kieron Gillen’s Journey into Mystery has been it’s pacing.  Each issue is a full experience, seeing Loki get himself into a scrape, cut a deal with a megapower or two, and achieve an objective.  Each issue then leaves us with a prelude for next month’s issue, showing where Loki’s going to be heading to next.  It’s a really great format that makes each issue comprehensive and satisfying, while also leaving the reader desperately wanting the next installment.  It’s a fine balance, and Gillen rides it well.

Meanwhile, Loki remains as endearing as ever as we once again watch his machinations unfold as he constantly seems one step ahead of the big boys of the Nine Realms.  Gillen makes it easy to see suggestions of how exactly Loki is manipulating the great powers he runs up against, Surtur in this case, yet that the big demon seems unaware of any foul play ends up forging a kind of link between Loki and the reader and makes us all the more attached.  Loki’s escape route was also a really nice touch of comedy and mischief.  Similarly, it’s just so easy to root for Loki as he runs from a vengeful Hel-Wolf or dodges giant demon swords, as the character manages to be crafty and lovable, but also vulnerable.  As witty and smart as Loki is, Gillen is aware of his physical fragility and how most readers will react to a kid in danger.

Meanwhile, Doug Braithwaite is as epic and generally awesome as ever and despite the extra colorist, there’s really not any noticeable difference from previous months.  I remain impressed at how Braithwaite is able to produce detailed, impressive work like this month after month without any delays.

Also, that ending…  Wow.  Just wow.  It’s as though Gillen sat back and thinks to himself each month “how can I make Kid Loki more awesome?”

What’s Not So Good: There’s really not much to complain about.  I suppose this issue isn’t quite as good as previous issues, but that’s more due to just how great those issues were.  It’s not really because Gillen does anything wrong per say, but the quality of these issues, while always good, can get that little extra nudge depending on just who Loki runs into.

While the Hel Wolf bit is fun (and oh how I’ll miss him), it doesn’t last long and unfortunately, Surtur just isn’t quite as interesting a foil to Loki as Mephisto, Leah, or Volstagg.

Another thing that this issue made clear as well was just how integral Kid Loki is to this series.  When Gillen chooses to turn the focus to Tyr, Leah, and the Disir in New Jersey, it’s still solid, but it lacks that certain spark that makes Journey into Mystery an A grade comic each month.  The characters are well written, but these scenes, while funny in spots, lack that special something.  At this point, it’s as though Kid Loki is so awesome, that these characters need him around to be at their best.  That said, with more development, I think Leah in particular may eventually get past this.

Conclusion: A lot of the negatives I list are really entirely due to Journey into Mystery’s sky-high standard.  Taken on it’s own, this issue is absolutely fantastic and not at all a bump in the road or a misstep.

Grade: B+

-Alex Evans