Kathryn Immonen is one of the unsung greats of comic writing. Her all-too brief Runaways stories were too late to save the title from cancellation, but they at least put the characters back into a position to be followed and cared about again, she wrote one of the most dynamic teamings of Wolverine and Jubilee and, most recently, she took over a dangerous, potentially directionless title Journey Into Mystery and set it on-course, focusing on another underused great: Sif (after a great run focusing on Kid Loki). Last issue was pure comics fun, but this issue brings things back into sharp, dramatic focus as Gaea the All-Mother suddenly faints and no one in Asgardia seems to know what is ailing her. Attempts to have her diagnosed by a mortal doctor, Jane Foster naturally, lead to the question of a quarantine, a question answered by the ever-ready Tony Stark with a base on the moon of Jupiter. Of course. I really want to highlight what an absolute joy it is to see Sif and Foster interact, and while they do briefly bring up their mutual love interest, it’s the concern for Gaea that truly brings them together. Immonen has a way of writing naturalistic dialog for unnatural characters, making the Asgardians as relatable as if they were regular people, but not QUITE to the extent that you ever forget their supernatural origins.
Valerio Schiti wasn’t a penciller I’d ever heard of, and with a name like that it is a surprise. Far more surprising is that I’d never heard of a talent like this one as I’ve scarcely seen characters THIS expressive. It’s common praise, but I really want to point out the sheer range of emotion that these characters have on display. One panel in particular just screams, “Surprised, confused and annoyed” all at once and without any words. These two creators are absolutely perfect for eachother. Jordie Bellaire’s colors likewise demand attention, and they’re put to a test in this issue as no fewer than three COMPLETELY different settings are traversed (mythical garden, urban city, space station) and each one is given a beautiful amount of care and character.
Beta Ray Bill, one of my favorite B-listers with one of the silliest names in comics, appears on the cover, but doesn’t burst onto the scene until the last few pages. That’s not even REALLY a complaint as much as it is a personal gripe, I just wanted him to appear as soon as possible because of my irrational, fanboy love.
This series deserves a great deal more love than it gets. I think it’s great how much Marvel promotes it, and I’m hoping it’s selling well because these stories have yet to disappoint. If you’re looking for a fun comic with a strong female lead that doesn’t skimp on dramatic beats, this is the perfect book for you. Even if you just want an interesting story with some characters who are too often in the shadow of the A-listers, I can’t recommend this one enough.