Katherine Immonen and Valerio Schiti's "Journey Into Mystery" #646 takes no prisoners and throws readers into the deep end of the pool, whether they're ready or not. However, there's enough beauty, enthusiasm and mystery in this first issue to make a reader interested in taking that plunge, whether they fully understand it or not.
Immonen doesn't stop to explain anything, and I kind of love that. Most books would delve into detailed exposition to set up new readers, and it's true that there's a lot here to wade through. Though it probably feels like home to those well familiar with both Asgard stories and "Journey Into Mystery" in general, some of it will be very confusing for new readers (including yours truly). However, the setup is interesting enough that I find myself not caring that I don't yet understand every aspect of the book. In fact, I find myself quite interested in going on the adventure, of discovering what mysteries await Sif, and figuring out how it all hangs together. It's possibly inaccessible to some readers who will give up early on, but I hope enough can see the charm and potential and will keep reading.
The writing is strong throughout and Immonen commits fully to the Asgardian speak, which might be off-putting to some readers. However, it makes sense and anchors the story exactly where it's supposed be. I tend to find it charming and enjoyable, but if it grates, this may not the book for you. Perhaps most enjoyable in Immonen's writing is that the book is humorous, without ever letting Sif herself become the funny character, which feels right. Sif does funny things (like hold a child upside-down by his ankle, or argue with a young girl about fighting versus "using your words") but she's unaware that she's funny. It's a clever balance and I hope Immonen can hold onto it.
Schiti's visuals are sublime. Incredibly consistent throughout the book he has such a solid grasp on both Sif and her world that he's able to get wildly creative in how he chooses to represent things -- whether he's showing us pages from an ancient a book, a grouchy eater of the dead, a very angry teacher or even the children playing at Sif's feet. The book bursts with energy and creativity -- the fact that it's also stunningly beautiful just feels like gravy. However, it's the representation of Sif that is perhaps most impressive as she feels tall and strong, broad shouldered and athletic, as a warrior of her caliber should. She's beautiful, but there's nothing of a waifish unbelievable supermodel in her, she's a powerful hero through and through, and the visual representation of her is in perfect sync with what Immonen presents in the writing. Her costume, which could feel quite silly, is also very well handled. As a result of all of these smart, gorgeous choices, every page is simply a joy to look at. Jordie Bellaire's colors are fantastic -- Sif's hair is the blackest of blacks, the red of her costume, bold and commanding, without feeling garish or tacky, the blues and greens of "Teacher" a beautiful but sickly contrast with Sif.
Overall, what's most impressive is that Immonen and Schiti have created a journey for Sif in this first issue that feels both epic and also extremely personal. The story ends on a particularly compelling note, one that leaves me anxious for the next installment, and with this creative team at the helm, I'm excited to see what's next.