In the hands of Kathryn Immonen and Valerio Schiti, Sif's time at the helm of "Journey Into Mystery" has been both beautiful and bizarre -- too much of both, it seems, to last in the fickle world of comics. "Journey Into Mystery" #655 is a proper send off for Sif, though it's appropriately bittersweet.
Immonen, for all her skill and humor, is not an easy writer. She packs so much energy and so many layers into each issue that it takes a reader willing to work a little to fully appreciate her stories. Combined with the sometimes-insane Thor-related universe, it's possible there's just too much creativity for the average reader.
The final issue finds Sif, appropriately, saving the world, with Beta Ray Bill at her side as they try to reason with a Gaea possessed by sentient tech and intent on "fixing" the problems of the universe, rather than letting them evolve naturally over time. There's lots of punching and rescuing of "damsels," as well as a scene at an Observatory in British Columbia that makes for a fantastic contrast for the space hijinks.
As a bonus, if you're a fan of reading more deeply into the text, some of Sif's passionate speech about life can be seen as a commentary on "Journey Into Mystery" itself. It's smart, complicated work that yearns to be more than just superheroes, which I love about this book -- even if it does make it tough to categorize or digest for audiences wanting something a bit more straightforward. Among the messages, passion and punching, Immonen finds surprising moments of intimacy, between both Sif and Bill; and Ti Asha Ra and Bill. They're all the more powerful for their simplicity amongst the chaos of battle.
Schiti's work continues to be nothing short of stunning. I was unaware of Schiti before his "Journey Into Mystery" run, and based on this work alone, I would follow him just about anywhere. Like all issues prior, he excels at both strong character acting and high-powered action scenes: two things that should take him far in mainstream superhero comics. His Sif is beautiful but deadly -- always powerful, but always "human," a tough balance to maintain for any artist. Immonen writes awesome elements for Sif's world, and Schiti delivers every one of them with ease, whether it's a perfect Beta Ray Bill or a giant morphing tentacled Gaea; whether it take place in the far reaches of space, or Asgardia-cum-Broxton Oklahoma. Whatever the challenge, Schiti has proven himself a force to be reckoned with.
Jordie Bellaire's colors deserve a mention as well, considering that she manages to take every insane idea presented to her by Immonen and Schiti and give it effortless life through color. Wisely choosing to hold back when the story calls for it -- so that she can go absolutely bonkers in the scenes that demanded it -- her restraint creates an exceptional contrast between the real and unreal, between superhero and space opera, between the epic and the intimate.
For a run cut too short, this is a solid wrap up for an interesting book. Looking back at "Journey Into Mystery," one can only hope that the series' talent is quickly snapped up for other interesting projects and that Sif, so wonderfully brought to life by Immonen and Schiti, finds herself a home elsewhere. Especially considering her beefed up role in the forthcoming "Thor 2: The Dark World" it seems like Sif's star should be on the rise, despite the cancellation of this very good book.