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Journey Into Mystery #655 – Review

by Kathryn Immonen (Writer), Valerio Schiti (Artist), Jordie Bellaire (Colorist)

The Story: Gaea needs to return back to normal and it seems that only Beta Ray Bill, Sif and Ti-Asha Ra/Skuttlebutt can make it so.

The Review: Journey Into Mystery has a strange history when one looks into the title’s history since it’s return into publishing. After Kieron Gillen was done with his Kid Loki story, people were dubious a bit as they wondered if the quality would be consistent with a new writer and lead character. Thankfully, Kathryn Immonen knew what she was doing when she wrote the first arc, Stronger Than Monsters, which featured a much deeper Sif interacting with the Asgardian mythology of the Marvel universe. It was energetic, fun and featured plenty of things that people were asking for, namely a female lead-character written by a female writer. It was great and this title seemed to keep on with the tradition that its precedent writer had set.

Unfortunately, the book is cancelled, most probably due to low sales. It is always a bit disheartening to see a beloved title gets the cancellation axe as it is so early in its run, yet it’s a reality that a lot of people are sadly aware of in this market. However, what’s much more disappointing, in a way, would be the fact that the closing arc, including this very conclusion, hasn’t been exactly on part with the other issues of this series.
What began as a book with a strong identity turned into something else that did not seem to quite fit with what was established before. Despite the use of Beta Ray Bill, a staple in the Asgardian lore of the Marvel universe since Walter Simonson created him in his seminar run, the whole arc with Gaea never really flew very high, due to many problems.

The first one of them, which is actually seen in this issue, would be the fact that it never seem to stick to a particular tone, switching around multiple times which cause the narrative to become unfocused and jumbled. Is it a comic which revolve around Beta Ray Bill or Sif? Is the problem of Ti-Asha Ra important or is it secondary to the whole Gaea situation? Is the primary aspect the ambiance, the characters, the humor, the awkward relationship between those various personality or the conflict with the ship and Gaea? It seems that the comic itself never really knows which of these aspects it should focus on, as some of them don’t get developed very much, or at least not enough to be properly interesting for the readers.

The lack of focus also comes from the fact that the pacing of the whole issue is a bit off, as the story rushes to its conclusion while trying to put every of the previously named elements together o at least to where they are supposed to be at the end of this arc. Some of the plot threads even conclude in ways that never seem to connect to the plot in general, as if by magic. How did Ti-Asha Ra get separated from Skuttlebutt? How did Gaea actually returned to her former state? We’ll never properly know. It isn’t exactly the fault of the creative team, yet it’s disappointing to see a comic that began very strongly being kind of weak in its very final issue.

Not all aspects are weak, though, as there are some fun ideas mixed in all this confusion. The parts where Beta Ray Bill and Sif teams up to fight what’s in their way comes off as being fun, as does the conclusion to the actual story. It’s an effective joke that does not exactly work as the conclusion of a whole title, yet it does provide chuckles.

The strongest aspect, by far, is the art of Valerio Schiti. Doing some fantastic work ever since he began on this title, he does not disappoint at all in this issue as well as his fluid and expressive art comes through once more. The high diversity and richness of the expressions and emotions conveyed through the characters are still present, as is the excellent body language. There isn’t a single panel where the characters actions are confusing, as Schiti shows that he can really add his own voice to the story, even with weird characters like Beta Ray Bill. The various elements of the background are also quite great, adding to the general feeling of the comic instead of being there only to remove the empty space in some of the pages. Valerio Schiti has been a true gem to this title and I do hope he gets a high-profile book after this one, as he has shown he earned it in those pages.

If there’s one that doesn’t have to show how talented he is, it has to be Jordie Bellaire who is an absolute beast of a colorist here. The number of colors and tones he is able to match here is simply stunning, as he switches up the color of the background, the elements and close to everything to make sure it is done right. Red alarm room, deep space, cataclysmic green explosion, normal suburban area, each of these environments are done with the right palette, giving a rich diversity that works absolutely well with Schiti’s work.

The Conclusion: There are some fun moments and the work by both Valerio Schiti and Jordie Bellaire is spectacular, yet the lack of focus and development on some of its aspects makes the book suffer a bit in its concluding chapter. It’s superb visually, yet the book deserved better in the end.

Grade: C+

Hugo Robberts Larivière

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2 Responses

  1. Bit confusing at the end, but still thoroughly enjoyable. I’m going to miss this book a lot – it really had the old-school comic book magic. I’m curious to see where Schiti ends up – unfortunately, it’s statistically unlikely to be anywhere I’m willing to follow, but on the right project I’d follow him in a heartbeat. The man can do proper facial expressions for Beta Ray Bill, for god’s sake! Hopefully, Bellaire will be available to add her magic.

    • From what I can see, Schiti will end up on Avengers A.I if the solicitations are to be believed. It’s kind of a shame that he ends up on a title that won’t really do him much good in terms of enhancing his profile, but perhaps he can do good there as well.

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