The Fifth Color | Not to bury Sif, but to praise her

by  in Comic News Comment
The Fifth Color | Not to bury Sif, but to praise her

This morning I woke up to the Tumblr rumblings that Journey into Mystery would no longer be with us. Sure, it was absent from Marvel’s September solicitations, but I could kind of lie to myself and think maybe the book would skip a month, or maybe the publisher just forgot. I can lie to myself with the best of them! But sales haven’t been kind, and writer Kathryn Immonen left us a very gracious note that August’s Journey into Mystery #655 will be the final issue.

And I cannot take this lying down.

Journey Into Mystery is an odd title; it harks back to an age of storytelling that we honestly do not have any more. It’s a vague heading, just a walk into something unknown that served the book well when it was a horror anthology, but not when Thor started to grace its covers. “Journey” fit, as his tales were adventurous yarns that took him across the Nine Realms and, OK, maybe “Mystery” was a nice fit as well as the creatures and villains he fought were from myth and legend, anomalies in themselves. Still, Thor: God of Thunder is a great title while Journey Into Mystery could be anything.

Under Kieron Gillen’s wing, that title became foreboding. Loki, being a trickster, has a lot of mystery about him, and his journeys were a metaphor for his character arc as well as exotic locales. Fresh off a high as Marvel’s top movie villain, Loki was an amazing center for Gillen’s run, with bold, dreamy artwork, pop-culture references and realms beyond our imagination. It was like reading a fairy tale at times, one relatable to the modern day and magical enough to be of myth and legend. As all good things do, this era came to an end and Immonen took the reins.

Well, Sif took the reins, as she was our main focus through the series. It wasn’t so much of a new #1 status quo where everything was different. In fact, a lot of the best parts stayed the same: Sif went on adventures, and she learned a lot about herself and the lengths that she would go to. We were treated to worlds both urban and fantastic. She had a journey of self-discovery and of myth. The cast was all there, and we got to see something super rare in Marvel comics right now: a family. An honest-to-god family with kids and parents and relatives and siblings, the works. The only other family that comes to mind is the Fantastic Four. From the opening pages, we took a look at Volstagg’s brood of children and his wife, all of whom survived the last great Asgardian catastrophe and were simply putting their lives back together. There was something so inviting about those first pages as we got to know what Asgard was like on a day-to-day basis, when the heroes weren’t home and the hearth was just as important as the sword. It was so lovingly detailed, from the kids at the table reading old Marvel comics to Sif sitting down to chat with Hildegund about her family and what was to come next for them, I could easily see why the warrior woman Sif would go to extremes to protect her people and all of Asgard. I’m such an easy mark for moments where we show what our heroes are fighting for, whether it’s the streets of New York City or the high halls of Asgard; context is a beautiful thing.

Sif heads out on a risky adventure to gain an ancient power, and it’s fantastic. It’s fun (remember fun?), adventurous, full of sword-swinging, monster-slaying action and adventure. It has a variety of characters and monsters that sang off the page under the amazing artists tapped to work on this book. Mostly, it’s Valerio Schiti, who made Sif beautiful and proud, a warrior and a woman, then set her in some of the most fantastic environments and against some amazing-looking monsters. The Nine Realms look like nine different realms under his brush strokes, and even New York looks tall and dark, a realm of a different color. He made all the Asgardians tall, taller than the humans around them, and it worked as a way to remind us the scale on which we were working. The gods were funny, empathetic, almost human at times, but the height difference reminded us that these were immortal beings out of Norse legend, larger than life, no matter how close we felt to them.

Journey Into Mystery #651 is a self-contained story where an adventurous little girl runs into dwarves and Fenris Wolf and is not only smart enough to go get help at the sight of the great beast, but clever enough to outwit the wolf in the final panels. The Warriors Three, Sif and Thor are all there, but it remains this amazing little tale of one of Volstagg’s daughters having herself a late night adventure. Because of this, I set it on my store’s front counter as my pick of the week and had the absolute delight to sell a few copies to fathers looking for a comic for their little girl. Imagine that! It’s a feeling I don’t get to have with Marvel comics as much as I would like to, as Marvel doesn’t have a lot of books aimed towards kids, but this issue fit the bill. I couldn’t say the rest of the series was going to work for young female readers, but the fact it could take an issue to talk to an all ages audience speaks a lot for how well this series was written. Immonen has a great way with the heart and being able to tell fantastic space stories one moment and look through the eyes of a child the next is not something a lot of other writers could attempt.

I don’t want Journey Into Mystery to end. I want to praise what the book has become to longtime readers of Thor and fans of Gillen’s Loki. I want to put it in the hands of more young readers. I want as many people as I can to know that this book is quality, something special and unique on the stands and just because it’s being cancelled is no reason to give up. We comic fans can be a pretty cynical bunch, and I have totally done my share of griping and complaining about how things could be better. It’s in our nature to love too much and be disappointed in anything less than the best. Trust me, Journey Into Mystery is one of Marvel’s best right now, and it would be a shame if everyone didn’t get a chance to enjoy it while it’s here.