"Journey Into Mystery" #647 by Kathryn Immonen and Valerio Schiti, with colors by Jordie Bellaire and Asgardian lettering by Clayton Cowles, is one of those comic books that is just so damn good it makes you sit and reflect for a moment, taking stock of everything else you've read that day. Or week. Or month.
Sif, to me, has always been a fancy supporting character, more prone to appear as Thor's lover than partner, more apt to be relegated to assisting an adventure than leading one. Yes, that notion is squarely placed on my shoulders mostly for not reading more "Thor" comic books than I did as a youth, but back then Thor simply didn't appeal to me. Of course, back then Thor and his supporting crew could barely support one title, let alone two or more. With the Marvel NOW! shuffle, "Journey Into Mystery" swapped Kid Loki out of the starring role and dropped in Sif. Unlike most other titles, this one retained its original numbering, hoping to keep longtime readers engaged while luring newer readers into a seemingly long-established comic. I simply wish we had been so lucky as to have six-hundred and forty-six issues as enjoyable as this one. Kathryn Immonen avoids writing "generic strong female lead" in Asgardian armor and instead has given Sif a purpose and a passion. Sick of seeing Asgardia laid waste time and again, Sif sought to enhance her abilities. Except that enhancement has come with a lust for battle. Picking a fight everywhere she goes, Sif is a character bordering on becoming unlikable, but Immonen leaves enough of the character present in her struggle to keep the reader engaged and energized.
Note for note and line for line, Valerio Schiti draws up stunning imagery -- from Odin's ravens, Thought and Memory, perched upon the "Welcome to Broxton" sign to Heimdall placing his sister in an armbar. With strong outlines but understated, open detail, Schiti's artwork is uncommon on today's comic book rack. That same style makes the art inviting for Jordie Bellaire's colors and Bellaire returns the favor, making the pages sparkle under the classic Asgardian-speak filled word balloons from Clayton Cowles. Bellaire's color work adds as much emotion to the story as Schiti's facial expressions and character acting. Cool blues warn of uncertainty and battle while scenes of Sif's struggles glow toward red as they continue. There is enough awesomeness in the art of "Journey Into Mystery" #647 to fill multiple comics, but for twenty pages of story bargain priced at $2.99 (when did that become a bargain?!) this is the prettiest book I've picked up this week.
I've read a lot of comic books and had my opinions challenged or changed on a number of characters, but not once has any creative team pled their case as eloquently as Immonen and Schiti do in "Journey Into Mystery" #647. Quite simply, this issue, with casual yet measured inclusion of so much of the Asgardian legend and lore, is one of the best Marvel NOW! has to offer. With Thor nowhere to be seen, Sif is not only given the lead role, but has the opportunity to truly become a character worthy of her own title. "Journey Into Mystery" #647 may only be the second issue of Sif's lead and Immonen's story, but there is simply no denying how very enjoyable it is. Do yourself a favor on that last minute shopping run, stop by the comic shop and pick this book up if you haven't already. After all, you need to treat yourself once in awhile as well.