Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Journey Into Mystery Featuring Sif, Volume 1: Stronger Than Monsters by Kathryn Immonen Review

Here’s the deal: I’ve written too many 1 star reviews which were detailed breakdowns about the problems of superhero comics from Marvel and DC and, besides some books that deserve more scrutiny, they pretty much say the same thing every time: a lack of imagination, a lack of strong character development, generic storytelling, blah blah blah. Journey Into Mystery is guilty of the same sins but isn’t worth writing about in detail. Instead I’m going to propose ways that this comic could have been improved. But before we start, I’m aware that Journey Into Mystery is now cancelled so these changes come too late, and, having read Stronger Than Monsters, I can see why Marvel made that choice. These are just ideas that could’ve saved the series and that interest me as a superhero comics reader looking for something a little different.

This book is about Lady Sif who is basically written as female Thor. This is terrible because it’s essentially saying she has no character and is different from Thor purely because she doesn’t possess a Y chromosome. So let’s distinguish Sif in some way from Thor - like maybe NOT a warrior obsessed woman out to prove a woman is as deadly as a man. Yawn. Been done. I don’t think anyone doubts women can kick ass like men, so how about women - Kathryn Immonen I’m looking at you - drop this as an issue forever? How about we take it as read that Sif can look after herself and make her stories NOT warrior/fighting themed or about honour and other overused concepts like that but about these things instead:

1) Explore current popular culture. Sif could be walking through a city that is holding a Justin Bieber concert. Interested, she follows the crowds of fans and winds up inside the concert, hears Bieber’s music and decapitates him. And maybe Sif goes after a few other annoying celebrities while she’s at it - Mel Gibson, One Direction, Michael Bay movies, and so on. Sure, it’ll date the comic but at least make it more memorable than it was, and it’ll have grabbed some headlines and shifted more copies of the comic than it previously did.

2) Make her guileless and child-like in outlook, but still of course deadly. Instead of a jaded, weary attitude, how about cheerful and happy - Marvel, you’re not DC, you can do this. Your characters don’t all need to be tortured, brooding dickheads gritting their teeth like they’re constipated while standing in the rain - they can celebrate the good things in life. Sif can help out ordinary people with their lives as she wanders through Midgard, kicking bullies’ asses, and brightening up lives wherever she goes. Being angry, crazed and bloodthirsty like she is in this book is boring. Going after bankers or Richard Branson and humiliating them? I’d like to see that. Remember that Captain America cover of him punching Hitler? Let’s get back to that for the 21st century!

3) Break the fourth wall. Deadpool can do it, why not Sif? It makes her a more urgent presence on the page and makes her more personable. And while we’re at it, let’s cut the “thou” and “wilt” and all that crap. It was never good back in the 60s when it was introduced and, decades later, it’s still not good. Give her a sense of humour - women superheroes are important to have but female supes who don’t take themselves too seriously are too few and far between. Women can be funny too, why not Sif?

4) The title is Journey Into Mystery and riffs on the campy sci fi/fantasy stories of yesteryear - so let’s go for it. Don’t half ass it guys, you want to write stories from way back when with aliens from Mars and crazy adventures into unknown realms, really go for it. Make a story that’d make Grant Morrison shake his head in frustration, muttering “they went too far!” in every issue. Why not play around with form like Jeff Lemire is doing with his Vertigo series Trillium? Journey Into Mystery is one of the lowest selling books, so no one gives a crap what you do with it, so take some chances. Print it in four colours. Print it in black and white. Print it all in one colour. Print it back to front. Print it in single sheets, jumble them up, sell the pages loose in bags and have the reader construct their own journeys into mystery. Print it as a graphic poem. Print is as a song that only people who can read music can understand. Print it in prose.

5) Have Sif join the Scandinavian band Lordi and enter the Eurovision Song Contest.

6) Make Sif gay in defiance of DC’s latest bullshit and stage an enormous gay wedding with everyone in the Marvel Universe.

7) Have Sif fight a wizard, a band of dwarves, and an annoying midget with giant hairy feet who’re victimising an innocent dragon.

8) Have Sif parody famous Marvel stories, or even parody current Marvel Events like Infinity or Battle of the Atom - with sock puppets.

9) If you still want to do a Sif as female Thor story, go HUGE with it. Thor fights a God Butcher? Sif fights a Universe Killer. Or a dozen Universe Killers, one for each Universe they’ve killed. And the stakes are - the death of the reader of the comic itself!

10) Make Sif interested in a popular sport like golf, tennis, football (either American or soccer), basketball, baseball or racing - there aren’t enough sport comics out there and, as Brian Wood shows with his Image series Mara, there really need to be more. Sif the Olympic Gold Medallist - why not?

11) Sif gets sucked into World of Warcraft - the actual game - and has to fight her way out.

12) Sif parodies DC Comics stories, old and new.

13) Sif reviews pop culture - a review of GTA 5 or Matt Damon’s latest movie? I’d read that!

If I thought about this more I’d definitely come up with a longer list but I think I’ll stop there - you get my point. What you get with the actual book is a generic superhero fighting comic featuring a humourless and bland main character and a totally forgettable story. I would rather have read a comic featuring any or all of the ideas above. How about it, Marvel? You are the House of Ideas, after all! Prove it. 

Journey Into Mystery Featuring Sif - Volume 1: Stronger Than Monsters

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