For the third time in its history, this comic is titled "Journey into Mystery." Originating under that title it eventually became "The Mighty Thor" with issue 126 and, then, returned to its original name for 20 issues starting with issue 503 when Thor joined the other Avengers in the "Heroes Reborn" relaunch. This time, "Thor" becomes "Journey into Mystery" as Thor gets another relaunched comic later this month in "The Mighty Thor," leaving his old title to return to its original name and focus on the newly resurrected Loki. Better yet, Kieron Gillen who, last year, demonstrated a clear understanding of the character returns to pen his adventures heading forward.
"The adventures of Loki" sounds like a cool idea for an ongoing series until you stop and wonder exactly what that means. Gillen wisely approaches the first issue with that question, combining it with another one: why did Loki sacrifice his life to save Asgard after engineering its destruction? The answer is a logical one and sets the tone for the series to come with the new, young Loki in a difficult spot. He's not his old self, but everyone thinks of him as the Loki they knew.
The dynamic between Loki and Thor shown here is something that hasn't been seen. With Thor still an adult and Loki a child, there's a very different brother relationship here. Thor takes on the role of the big brother that looks out for his kid brother, including making sure he isn't getting into too much trouble despite Loki's antics amusing him. You can see why Thor would want his mischievous brother back in the scenes they share.
The manner in which Gillen approaches this issue is a step up from his previous work on "Thor." The opening scene, both in the narrative prose and construction, is reminiscent of Neil Gaiman's writing, as is a later scene where Loki is put on a quest to meet himself. There's a sense of grandeur to Gillen's writing that wasn't there before. He still maintains the strong characterization that marked his earlier work with the characters, but combining both makes for a stronger, more impressive comic.
Doug Braithwaite has sporadically offered his services to the Thor titles over the past couple of years and always has done a good job. Ulises Arreola's colors, though, definitely give his art a more textured look. Since his art is colored over the pencils, the colorist can really make or break Braithwaite's work, and Arreola hits the right mix of painterly style and more traditional comic book coloring.
Braithwaite's compositions and character work drive this issue. In the scene between Loki and Thor, he does a great job of emphasizing their difference in size and how that impacts their relationship. Loki's mischievous smirk is a highlight of the issue, summing up the character in a single look. At this age, he has an impish charm that's entertaining.
The debut of the new "Journey into Mystery" is definitely the sort of comic that Thor fans will love. Gillen writes a fantastic Loki and sets the book on a smart course for the future. A title starring Loki may not be the first book that springs to mind as a logical spin-off from "Thor," but is proves in one issue that it should be.