There's a big Marvel event going on. You might have heard about it: "Fear Itself." It's only been going for three issues, but already some are complaining that it's going nowhere. Those people are right. It's still spinning its wheels in the first act, maybe hinting at the second. It needs some serious oomph. A shame it can't borrow any from this title, because "Journey Into Mystery" just packed more plot and mischievous machinations into one issue, of only 20 pages and one illustrated recap page, than the actual event has managed in at least triple the amount of space.
Loki is working as many angles as he can behind the scenes. That's not quite a shock, but this time maybe he's doing it for a positive outcome, and his intentions are still pure. Maybe. It's hard to ever actually feel sure of Loki's endgame hopes, but you can at least see here he is a precocious child thinking many steps ahead of his opposition. Watching a smart character written by an intelligent creator is a joy comic readers aren't afforded as many times as they should be. To have the erudition of Kieron Gillen matched by his lyrical prose and sharp tongues makes this book feel like a biting play performed in a village somewhere by gaslight.
Much of this title revolves around moments in "Fear Itself" and while the major points are covered in the recap page you certainly might feel like you're missing out on something if you haven't read the parent title. You haven't, really, so feel free to enjoy this book as it shows us the seedy backstage dealings Loki is bringing to this entire fiasco.
Loki manipulates the situations in Hel and Hell between Hela and Mephisto. Both sequences are written with tight dialogue and expert maneuvering. Loki is smart enough to make his proclamations to both sides extravagant enough that neither will take the time to question Loki's place amongst the news before acting upon it. He sets the wheels in motion and gives himself just enough time to get to the next step. You have to appreciate how much is in this issue as a lesser writer would have made each visit to a lord of the dead its own separate issue. This could have so easily been padded out, but the dual pace makes this issue tick along with purpose and vigor.
Doug Braithwaite brings Loki alive on the page. He looks innocent in some panels and determined in others like only a man of experience can be. It's almost like the titular character is an apparition of form and such a trick works to only better accentuate the ethereal nature of Loki's connection to the truth. The colors from Ulises Arreola make Asgard and the Hells into mystical realms of magic and fantasy. Mists and diffused light rule the landscape and anything can happen.
"Journey Into Mystery" is a twisting book of backstabbing and situation massaging. This is Asgard as politics with magic. It holds its focus on the smartest character and so sets out to be the smartest book around. Loki isn't out to punch the world into shape, he's going to slowly knead it with his words and desires. That makes this a clever mystical drama, but one which still delivers action of hellhounds duelling and the ghoulish appearance of the dead and the dying. You can enjoy this book without the event, and you really should.