The advent of Kathryn Immonen and Valerie Schiti on "Journey Into Mystery" also signaled a shift in focus to Sif. It is Sif's shift to the background in this issue and guest artist Pepe Larraz that keep issue #651 from being as good as the rest of the run, but it's hopefully a minor blip in an otherwise stellar "new" book.
Immonen does a pretty good job of telling a satisfying one shot here, focusing on Fenris Wolf and Volstagg's young daughter Hilde as a re-invented Little Red Riding Hood of sorts. The story is packed to the gills with side characters from Thor and Sif to Volstagg, Fandral, and Hogun, which, though fun, doesn't leave a lot of room for anyone to shine. Unfortunately Sif as a lead is missed and that, combined with a confusing ending, makes the book the lesser of Immonen's recent offerings. The lack of clarity at the end of this issue is a shared failing of both the writing and art, as either could have saved the story from confusion, but neither manage it.
Larraz's art is inconsistent on the whole, sometimes appearing lush and lovely, with fine details and excellent character work. But when it's not so well considered it veers into sketchy almost rushed territory, which at its best is frustrating and at its worst hampers the storytelling. The action scenes are where Larraz seems to struggle, especially in comparison with Schiti who excels at action. The whole book might have worked better as a simple funny character piece, allowing both Immonen and Larraz to focus on what they do best (though Immonen has proved to be no slouch when it comes to writing action).
Despite a decent story from Immonen, the book badly misses both Schiti's art and Sif's star power, further proving what a dream team of creators and character they truly are. If anything, "Journey Into Mystery" #651 has reminded me how much I generally enjoy this book, how consistently stunning it has been and how much I hope the creative team gets the opportunity to continue cranking out delicious tales.