Kathryn Immonen (Writer), Valerio Schiti (Artist), Jordie Bellaire (Colorist)
The Story: Gaea gets out of her funk as Beta Ray Bill gets reason to get out of his as well.
The Review: I am of two mind about this issue. While I can certainly appreciate the amount of panel time one character I love is getting, I am not sure if this is a good thing for the story and its progression. On the other hand, the character work on some of the players in this issue is well done, so it’s quite troubling to see that it doesn’t necessarily adds up to the overall experience in a compelling fashion.
Kathryn Immonen, on her short tenure on this title (a tenure that actually ends in one mere issue), has done wonders with Sif, giving her a wholesome personality that went beyond being the love interest warrior woman of Thor. In this issue, she continues the trend by pushing forward her dedication to her duty, her friends and her willingness to go forward to meet danger. Just like in the previous issue, Sif remains a compelling lead as her adventurous side take us to other place that show that she can fit in close to any context. She also works that magic with Beta Ray Bill, using the development put in place by writers like Walter Simonson and Kieron Gillen in order to use the character in smart ways. She plays his desperation, his bravery and his awkwardness with the unknown and women to create a fun, yet very truthful interpretation of the character.
However, while these two characters are very well-written, they do not mesh together that well in the actual story they are in, as if they were actually stealing the spotlight from each other. As we switch from the space-horror story to the general trouble with Beta Ray Bill and his ship Skuttlebutt, we never see those scenes connect in ways that truly feel organic and important to the developing story. While these scenes are interesting on their own and do plenty to showcase the history of the characters and how their interaction might have changed, it lacks cohesion to the picture at large.
As for the proverbial picture, the story, as far as it goes, is actually filled with potential, yet with not enough panel time to feel that big or even central to what is going on with the characters. A being like Gaea, one of the All-Mothers of Asgardia and the one woman representing the planet, being somewhat controlled and possessed by some kind of alien space-ship that parasites a section the space station she is in should feel important, yet it is relegated to the background as we get more focus on Beta Ray Bill and the Skuttlebutt/Ti-Asha Ra situation. I love this character, yet this guest-spot of his is somehow slowing the book down, which is a pity.
What’s much more agreeable, though, is the fact that Valerio Schiti is still as talented as ever. His incredibly large range of facial expressions makes each character feel very much alive and expressive, their emotions showing through the fluid and decidedly mobile positions. His art is far from static, as his progression from panel to panel feel natural in terms of movements. The characters are also drawn quite well, like Sif and her always impressive hair or his redesign of Beta Ray Bill and his armor. I swear, he has a talent for drawing the large, tall and uniquely shaped Korbinite warrior, which almost begs for him to draw that character in other series*. His environment is also not too shabby, as the way he draws the spaceship interior, the depth of space and strange, almost horrific aspect of the unknown elements that are to be found in this issue.
His art looks very good also due to the work of Jordie Bellaire, who combine a simplistic approach to some elements with complex techniques to form something altogether great. As the situation of Beta Ray Bill is sorrowful, we get a background composed of blue, purple and other cold colors, yet when hope is back, the colors change from yellow, red and orange, warm colors. The strange combination in the scene with Gaea and Sif, with bright green, red and black, brings an eerie feel, yet one filled with mystery. It creates an ambiguous appreciation and approach to the scene that works with the space-horror theme that Sif is currently living. This issue is filled with color decision such as these, showing that Bellaire knows how to create contrast and how to use tones in order to enhance the effectiveness of the script.
The Conclusion: Some stunning artwork and a great handle on characters cannot divert from a lack of clear focus and coherence between the two stories presented here, which bring an entertaining and well-written issue down a little bit.
-Hugo Robberts Larivière
*A Beta Ray Bill series by Kathryn Immonen and Valerio Schiti. Make it happen and I’ll buy it, Marvel.