Dungy-Womb Women. I Have to Use That Sometime.
Even with just a Christmas-themed issue, Journey into Mystery continues to be the best Thor title around as Kieron Gillen keeps up the high quality of intelligence and wit to his writing of young Loki. An unexpected gift has come into the reborn god of mischief's possession, and he must scramble to deal with this litter of Hel-puppies by order of the All-Mothers.
The story premise is simple and even a bit silly, but it is also incredibly entertaining, which is all that really matters. This is mostly due to the homes Gillen has Loki find for his horrible pups and most of all, the behavior of the worst of the litter throughout the issue. If this little hell hound is to become a regular cast member of this series, I will be a very happy reader. His unrelenting rage and insults are enough to keep me entertained for a long time. This also serves to set him apart well from Ikol, Loki's other animal companion who typically has more rational things to say.
There are some references to Fear Itself and how Thor has now been forgotten, but this issue avoids dealing with any of it in any substantial way, allowing it mostly to branch off to follow its own story with Loki in the lead. Personally, that is fine since I find Journey into Mystery to be a far better book than the Mighty Thor. Those looking for this book to be a tighter companion piece to the main series may end up disappointed, though. While it does acknowledge everything that is currently happening in Thor's little corner of the Marvel Universe, it focuses more on doing its own thing.
You also can't go wrong dressing Volstagg up as Santa Claus no matter how briefly.
Despite being a simple one-off story, this issue really developments out of the various plot threads Gillen has been weaving since the beginning of his run and no doubt will factor into the stories to come later. Several bits of continuity are revisited here, including Tyr's new role as Hela's second and Mephisto's regained ownership of the Disir. This may not make it the most reader friendly, though it does do a good job at explaining as much as it can enough that readers should be able to follow the basics if not the finer details of these past plot elements. It is pretty rewarding for those who have been from the start.
The art by the Breitweisers is not a style that I would enjoy on most books, but I find it really suits this book. Their depiction of Thori, the worst of the Hel hounds, really steals the show.
This issue of Journey into Mystery features probably one of my favorite Christmas stories in comics. Usually, Christmas-themed issues are throwaway stories oozing with holiday cliches and little substance. That is definitely not the case here. Christmas is just part of this story's setting and not unnecessarily so. It actually adds to the story's atmosphere, making it all the better. This is what more Christmas issues should be like.