By Steve Morris
A recurring theme in Journey Into Mystery is of the unknown, which is perhaps obvious for a series which is called, well, Journey Into Mystery. Throughout the series to this point, we’ve repeatedly found that the narrator is hiding parts of the story from us – and that the narrator is also, possibly, the talking Raven which is sat malevolently on Loki’s shoulder. To this point we’ve seen several different threats spread out and gather their political and physical forces together, with Hela, Mephisto and Surtur three of the main opposing forces circling round the story to this point. The All-Mother, as well, could be added to that category, depending on your perspective. With issue #633, the creative team throw up ten more enemies, before quickly hurling the last of them – Daimon Hellstrom, in roguish exorcist-at-large mode – straight after Loki on the last page. After a lengthy rest period, it’s impressive how swiftly Journey Into Mystery is able to turn around and shift into faster gear.
The shift is to a story about a different part of Marvel’s supernatural world, as we see the Lords of Fear gathering to discuss some of the issues which have arisen since the Serpent was defeated in Fear Itself. That leaves a “fear void”, which it seems we may now be looking to explore further. For his part, Loki has himself a prophetic dream which Ikol persuades him to follow up on immediately – it’s notable how quickly Loki takes up that advice – and it leads him off to fertile new ground. The death of Thor is clearly weighing on the young God far more than he’d led on, and it’s another reminder that the character shows you one face in order to hide the other.
When you’re dealing with a comic about Loki – heck, when you’re dealing with a comic written by Kieron Gillen in general – it’s dangerous to take the wrong inference. And that goes not just for the characters, but the narrative as a whole. As we see the various Fear Lords sat together, we have no idea of their importance beyond what we’re told by the narrator, who gives us far more elaborate character breakdowns than the actual dialogue suggests. We’re not sure whether to treat the characters seriously or not, because they do have supernatural power – but as seen here, they seem to largely cancel one another out. We can infer that this’ll be important in some way, but we’re getting all our information from the narrator rather than from the characters themselves. In addition, one tossed-off detail when we see the different Fear Lords is that Nightmare… isn’t there. The narrator makes sure to point out that Nightmare should be there, and that it’s interesting that he isn’t. Immediately, therefore, we infer that Nightmare is up to something else at this precise moment, even though we don’t see him at all this issue. Every other Fear Lord is there, trying to puff themselves up and appear more important than they are. Simply through his absence, Nightmare makes the biggest impression.
Although… to be fair, it’s also arguable that Nightmare is the only character to have much name recognition amongst the group, which also helps suggest at his greater importance. Again, the narrator is selling us a bill of goods, but it’s up to us to decide whether we accept it or not.
The Fear Lords have a brief discussion about the defeat of The Serpent which leads them absolutely nowhere, showing how different they are to characters like Loki or Mephisto, who have far more agency and ownership of their actions. In this issue, we see Loki trying to get some kind of a handle on Leah, whom he is trying to woo over to be his new friend. They go for a milkshake together, which leads Loki into the path of another bully – this time a human one, who sees Loki as an easy target. Loki tries to turn to flowery language to catch the bully off-guard, although it’s hard to tell just how effective the tactic is or who it is aimed at. The bully doesn’t pause for a second, but Leah breaks into action as a result -throwing the bully through a window. It’s a sign that she’s going to help Loki and will work to protect him, despite her protestations to the contrary. As we see later on, however, the scene leads to a confrontation with the All-Mother where Loki has to pretend he was the one who threw the kid through a window, and is sent to bed to think about what he has done.
As he walks away, he mutters a small complaint about Leah to himself. It’s a humanising moment, and shows us how Loki is still a kid with childish feelings at times – but it also shows that Loki hadn’t expected the scene in the café to go this way. He didn’t predict Leah throwing the kid through a window, his subsequent need to cover it up with the All-Mother (who don’t know about Leah, or at least pretend not to know) and his final punishment for the incident. It’s easy to see Loki as the almighty trickster, ten steps ahead of everyone – but sometimes his language gives away that he’s just as much about luck as anything else nowadays.
Language remains hugely important in this issue, as ever, as in the scene where Hellstrom attempts to save a young woman who appears to have been possessed. Hellstrom knocks on the door and demands to be invited in, and clearly we can once again infer that he needs to be invited into a room before he can make his way into the house. He explains himself and his presence in several different ways, but the owner of the house is slow to realise what’s happening – and by the time Hellstrom steps through the threshold, it’s already too late to save the girl. The invitation is a trap for Hellstrom, but you can sense the house-owner (and concerned dad) being not entirely sure whether he should be accommodating this strange shirtless vampire-man or not, and you can see how that fear of the unknown might give him pause at that time. It proves to be the death of his daughter, but it’s notable how Hellstrom goes out of his way to clear both himself and the father of any wrongdoing that evening. Something else caused this, and they are the ones to blame her, rather than the people trying to set things right. Now take that concept and apply it to Loki – interesting, right?
The issue ends with Loki blindsided by Hellstrom whilst taking a look around the ruins of The Serpent’s fortress. It speaks again to Journey into Mystery as a whole – exploring the ruins of another story to see what interesting new mysteries there are to uncover, before getting caught out by another crossover from an unlikely part of the Marvel Universe. At this point neither of them really know what they’re blundering into… but that’s never stopped either of them before.
Journey Into Mystery #633
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Richard Elson
Colourist: Jessica Kholinne
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Steve Morris runs this site! Having previously written for sites including The Beat, ComicsAlliance, CBR and The MNT, he can be found on Twitter here. He’s a bunny.