By: Kieron Gillen (writer), Carmine di Giandomenico (art), Chris Sotomayor (colors), and Clayton Cowles (letters)

The Story: Loki tries to save Leah while Thor finds himself in Hel.

The Review: Five issues in and the Everything Burns crossover is still going strong, serving as an effective and complete culmination of Kieron Gillen’s run on Journey into Mystery, with no stone left unturned and no element left unused, as Hela and the Disir get in the mix this month.

What really makes this issue shine, like most issues of JIM, is the excellent character-work.  Amidst all the bluster and wit, there’s a real aura of sadness and guilt that comes off of Loki throughout the whole issue.  Truly, Everything Burns is everything Loki has done throughout the series coming around to bite him and Gillen does a great job in emphasizing that fact.  This isn’t just Loki with his back against the wall, this is a sad Loki faced with the ruin he’s wrought, alone and outcast.

I’ve repeatedly heaped praise on JIM, and Everything Burns, for being a real “fantasy comic,” following many of the tropes of that genre.  Case in point is Gillen’s use of Volstagg in this issue.  He serves as the beleaguered weighed down with a heavy burden, the king who doesn’t want his crown.  It’s a great figure in fantasy novels and it works great here, particularly given that it’s the usually jovial and cocky Volstagg.  Seeing him glumly trying to hold the line, faced with the ruin of his kingdom leads to some really solid characterization and true “fantasy” feel.

The star of the show this month, however, is the development in the relationship between Loki and the Leah of his creation.  It leads up to an epic moment that results in some really sincere, touching dialogue between the two.  On the one hand, it’s a case of Loki being both selfish and heroic, but it’s impossible not to side with him in the matter.  The Loki/Leah relationship has always been one of the series strongest elements and it’s good to see that it continues to have a ton of heart.  It’s misty-eyed stuff that’ll pull you into the comic and have you truly caring about these fanciful characters.

Gillen’s use of Thori is also outstanding here, full of twists and turns and lots of surprising character development.  Gillen really uses the character to sort of lead the reader by the nose and, when all is said and done, he really makes you realize just how much you cared about that damned dog.

The one weakness of the issue continues to be the art.  Again, I’m just not a fan of Carmine di Giandomenico.  It’s not his worst outing, but it’s still overly muddy and indistinct for my tastes.  A story like this really does require an epic fantasy feel, and that really requires either clean, distinct lines as with Alan Davis over in Mighty Thor, or a more painterly feel like Doug Braithwaite’s, earlier in the series.  Di Giandomenico’s work doesn’t fit into either of these catagories and his work struggles to depict the big stuff, looking muddled and confused and too “small” as a result, while when it comes to the more nuanced scenes, his work is just too indistinct and smudgy.  His work is simply neither clear nor grand enough; a story like this requires a certain degree of polish to the work, which di Giandomenico’s style simply cannot deliver.

Conclusion: Even with underwhelming art, I think it says a lot about the quality of the script that I still absolutely loved this issue.

Grade: B+

– Alex Evans