Gentle reader, what do you look for in a comic book? Good art? Fine storytelling? Bold adventure? Interesting characters? If you happened to say, "yes" to even one of those questions, then why not take a look at "Journey Into Mystery" #653? Written by Kathryn Immonen with enlightened art by Valerio Schiti, "Journey Into Mystery" #653 has all of the above, and more: humor, mythology, pathos and a strong protagonist who just so happens to be female -- all requests that fill message boards, tweets and reports from comic convention panels. The most stunning part of all of this is that this regular, monthly comic is still just $2.99 at a time when readers and reviewers don't hesitate to whine about comic book prices.
The cover boasts a space opera contained within this issue and it really isn't that far off. Two long-lost lovers in the form of Sif and Beta Ray Bill reunite in the midst of total chaos only to find that while things have definitely changed for each of them (and certainly between them), so very many things are the same. Immonen continues to write the best Sif I have ever (or will ever) read, giving the warrior strength, depth, passion and bravado, making a human character of a goddess I would have found little interest in just two years ago. The writer takes all of those qualities and inserts them into Beta Ray Bill as well, but drapes a veil of loneliness around the wielder of Stormbringer. Bill and Sif are the only characters with lines in "Journey Into Mystery" #653, as though they are the only souls left in the universe.
Narrowing the canvas so tightly for artist Valerio Schiti invites the masterful penciler to excel. Every issue from Schiti has been gorgeously rendered, worthy of inclusion in the ultimate "How To" book for comics creation. Jordie Bellaire matches Schiti stroke for stroke, posting bombastic, bold colors on top of Schiti's strong, organic characters and brilliantly detailed scenery. Some settings require subtle shifts in color to match the emotion dictated by Immonen's story and Bellaire brings the colors to play: the cool hues as Bill tries to retrieve Skuttlebutt only to be even more downtrodden; the oranges of heated argument as Sif and Bill direct their own frustrations against the other; and the neutral grays that fill the background of the reunion between two of Thor's most trusted comrades. As Bellaire does for the coloring, Clayton Cowles brings to the lettering. Both Bill and Sif demand lettering beyond the normal, yet Sif's should be distinctly Asgardian while Bill's should at the very least be substantially alien. Cowles does that and more, providing the most soothingly aged caption scrolls to roll this story along.
Sif has a great thing going here and she just needs more support. She gets character support from Beta Ray Bill, but support of "Journey Into Mystery" #653 needs to come from the readers. In this day and age when a comic book can be had through three mouse clicks or less, there is no reason to let this $2.99 gem evade your enjoyment.