“Shieldmaiden of Asgard, servant of the All-Mother. All warrior! All woman! Tough enough to kill, strong enough to love.” Who does this describe? Why, Lady Sif of course. And who, exactly, is Lady Sif? That seems to be the question writer Kathryn Immonen is intent on answering with her one-year run of “Journey into Mystery.”
“Journey into Mystery Featuring Sif—Volume 2: Seeds of Destruction” collects the final issues of Immonen’s short-lived run on the graphic novel title, featuring two stories. The first, titled “A Child’s Garden of Verses,” is a short tale about Sif, Thor, and the Warriors Three helping the young Hildegund re-leash the fearsome Fenris wolf. Immonen’s script is sharp, as always. She prevents the story from getting too serious, for the most part ignoring the gravity of the Fenris wolf being unleashed upon the world and instead focusing on the hilarity and confusion of huge, muscled warriors running around in their underwear in the middle of the night with a little girl.
Sif, one of said warriors, has been a supporting character in Thor comics since the ’60s, but has lacked precise characterization for a number of years, mostly languishing in character limbo up until recently. Prior knowledge of the character isn’t necessary to enjoy Immonen’s “Journey into Mystery,” however; any reader can just jump right in, though reading the first volume will enhance the experience of reading the second.
Guest artist Pepe Larraz’s work for this storyline meshes with Immonen’s script perfectly. Larraz’s characters are cartoon-y and energetic, with fantastic facial expressions, though they tend to inexplicably have their eyes closed on occasion. His storytelling abilities, too, are solid, and he has superb understandings of both movement and perspective.
However, while “A Child’s Garden of Verses” is incredibly fun, it doesn’t serve any larger purpose beyond temporarily throwing the spotlight on Hildegund, who is ordinarily a minor character.
This collection really begins to shine in the next story, “Seeds of Destruction,” from which it takes its title. The story’s setup is a bit convoluted: Gaea, Norse goddess of all living things, falls ill and is diagnosed by Dr. Jane Foster in a local Oklahoma walk-in clinic. Sif must accompany her to an Avengers space station orbiting Jupiter while she is quarantined, where they coincidentally run into Sif’s alien ex, Beta Ray Bill, and his current girlfriend, the also-alien Ti Asha Ra, who are being chased by a mysterious space ship.
However, the convolution only serves the story. Immonen’s superhero comics have long made fun of the genre’s typical conventions, as well as those of myth and epic tradition. In crafting a premise so complicated, Immonen effectively pokes fun at the absurdity of Norse gods, superheroes, aliens, and normal people all existing in the same continuity. It also allows Immonen to continue the commentary on myth and modernity that she began in the first volume, though in a subtler manner.
“Seeds of Destruction” also provides some superb character work for our leading lady. Whereas the first volume of Immonen’s run presented Sif as a ruthless, dedicated, tough-as-nails warrior with a heart of gold, in this story readers are shown a different side to her. Though Sif is still strong and brave, Immonen uses this storyline to give us a peek into the warrior’s vulnerability through her deftly handled interactions with a variety of supporting characters, such as the aforementioned aliens and Dr. Jane Foster.
Regular series artist Valerio Schiti’s work for “Seeds of Destruction” is, as always, stunning. Absolutely everything about his artwork is impeccable. His panels are lush and full of life. His characters, too, are spectacular. Like Larraz, he does a great job with facial expressions, and he has a wonderful understanding of posture and anatomy. His style is also incredibly versatile, and he is able to tailor his artwork to fit the mood of Immonen’s script, whether it calls for a comical moment between Sif and Beta Ray Bill or a dramatic image of Sif holding a fainting Gaea.
My only problem with Immonen’s script is her ending, which functions much better as one for “Seeds of Destruction” on its own rather than an ending for the series itself. This can likely be explained by “Journey into Mystery’s” abrupt cancellation, rather than any fault of Immonen herself. It is most certainly not as mind-boggling as the ending Immonen gave to “X-Men: Pixie Strikes Back!”
The first page of the first volume of Immonen’s “Journey into Mystery” asks us, “Verily, can you dig it?” Well, we certainly can. Volume two of “Journey into Mystery” isn’t quite perfect, but it’s as damn close as you’re going to get with modern superhero comics.