With a winning creative team like Kathryn Immonen and Valerio Schiti, "Journey into Mystery" #654 is nothing less than spectacular. The issue picks up with Sif's frantic search for Gaea, paralleled by Beta Ray Bill's attempts to reassemble the shambles his life has become, as they both slowly realize the presence of another, insidious creature on board the space station. Like the rest of the book so far, "Journey into Mystery" #654 is an absolute joy in its suspense, shocking plot twists and laugh-out-loud humor.
Immonen beautifully develops Sif's character on several different levels, building off the groundwork laid in previous issues. As a warrior, Sif has always made her duty to Asgard and the All-Mother her first priority; so, when her sense of duty and her fighter's instinct conflict, her struggle between loyalty and what seems right feels genuine. Her confusion and her frustration -- exacerbated by Beta Ray Bill's presence and her feelings for him -- are tangible in her dialogue, movements, and body language. Watching her deal with this inner turmoil while facing external threats is a delight that Immonen conducts with grace and style.
Overall, the issue contains a nice blend of suspense and humor. Although the story emanates the "Alien"-equse horror of being abandoned in space with an unseen foe, the humor never seems out of place. In fact, the humor strengthens the issue, offering the reader some respite from a story that is otherwise eerie and intense. It manifests in many different ways, from situation to dialogue, and demonstrates Immonen's mastery of drama and comedy in equal parts.
Schiti pulls off Immonen's wacky humor flawlessly. His style, so apt for the tone of the book, hits all the right notes through its attention to detail and, most enjoyably, facial expressions. Even with non-human characters like Beta Ray Bill, he works subtle details into each character that makes every emotion feel real and unique, from widening eyes to emphatic eyebrows to smiles that grow. What's more, Schiti doesn't gloss over the characters' unflattering reactions for aesthetic reasons; through visible wounds and ungraceful movements, he shows their vulnerabilities and makes them relatable. His eye for such minute detail extends to larger panels as well; even characters who are buried in the background get fully fleshed out expressions. With Jordie Bellaire's bold colors to help, the artwork only enhances Immonen's already fantastic storytelling with its impressive scope.
The issue comes together wonderfully under Immonen and Schiti's pens. With a combination of drama and comedy and straight up fun, "Journey into Mystery" is one of the best Marvel titles currently running, appealing to new and old readers alike. Immonen's writing could not have found a better home in Schiti's style; this writer-artist team consistently one-ups each other in terms of skill, relatability and humor. From start to breathtaking finish, this issue is an all-around pleasure to read, making the cancellation of this book even more of a true loss.