Marvel's latest "Next Big Thing" conference call with the comic book press revaled the new Journey Into Mystery creative team, starting with November's issue #646: writer Kathryn Immonen and artist Valerio Schiti. (Edit: An earlier version of the cover provided by Marvel indicated a price increase to $3.99; it will remain at $2.99.)
Additionally, the series will shift in focus from Kid Loki — the star of writer Kieron Gillen's run on the title, which ends in October — to another Asgardian, Sif.
Here's our live coverage of the press conference:
Marvel's James Viscardi starts the call by confirming that Kathryn Immonen (on the line for the conference, along with series editor Lauren Sankovitch) is indeed the new writer of Journey Into Mystery.
Sankovitch explains the shift from Loki to Sif: "Going forward with #646, we really wanted to mix it up a little bit, and try a new focus, but still keep the same level of excitement and character drama, and sheer fun, that people have come to expect from the book."
"Naturally, Kathryn was at the top of my list of people who had a good handle on character, and keeping things interesting, and telling compelling, exciting stories," Sankovitch continued.
Sankovitch discloses that it was her idea to make Sif the lead character, calling her "a warrior born" who "has a lot of fight and verve and fire to her."
Immonen says that the central question for any character is what they want, and what Sif wants is to be a better warrior. "In doing that, on her journey, she makes some terrible decisions, and she puts a lot of people in peril."
Sif will be a journey on self-discovery, and will be explored away from her relationships to Thor and Heimdall.
Immonen says that in the first few issues things go "terribly, terribly wrong" for Sif on her journey. "In fact, you might say things go berserk," Sankovitch adds.
Sankovitch explains that she was alluding to the "Berserker Spell," which Sif sees as a way for her to become the "ultimate warrior."
"With every spell, as we all know, there are consequences for actions you might take," Sankovitch says.
What familiar characters will be involved beyond Sif? Immonen says that they're looking at the Asgardians and the series itself in a way that she doesn't think has done before, so there will be familiar faces, but maybe not the ones that readers expect.
"They all are familiar faces from Journey Into Mystery, for sure," Sankovitch says.
Immonen says that she believes that since Asgardian characters don't have civilian alter egos, they're almost "more human" to write.
First press question asks for more on Immonen's take on Sif. "I don't feel that she's just a warrior," Immonen says. "I kind of liken her to — and this is going to sound terrible — like my dog. My dog is this committed hound dog. He just assumes that you're right behind him with whatever energy he has. Sif just leaps, she never looks back."
Immonen says she also sees a similarity between Sif and Loki, since "neither of them can ever be Thor."
Next press question - does the cover to #646 contain any hints? Immonen says she hasn't actually seen it. Sankovitch answers that it's something of a metaphor for the Nine Realms, in that though it's anchored in Asgard, there are opportunities to be told throughout.
Next press question - who is the artist on the book? As surmised from the cover info, it's Valerio Schiti, who has worked on IDW's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics.
Sankovitch calls his art "very exciting," and compliments his ability to draw non-human creatures.
Next press question - any classic runs on Thor that have inspired your story? Immonen says not directly. "Sif herself has been an ancillary character. I think there's a lot of her that's completely unexplored. I'm not really looking to look backwards, or call back to previous Thor story arcs in that way."
Next press question (via Newsarama) - does Sif starring in a series point to any possible synergy between Marvel publishing and Marvel Studios, and a bigger role for the character in 2013's Thor: The Dark World?
"As of right now, we're doing Sif because we think she's pretty great," Sankovitch responds. "Looking for a character that could take us in a new, fun direction. She's a doer, she's an adventurer that can kind of lead this title to its next chapter. And if Marvel Studios wants to do something based on my book, I have no problem with that."
Next press question was similar, asking if any plot elements might be similar between the comic and the movie. Sankovitch says that's not the plan as of now, but it remains to be seen in the future if anything "trickles in."
Next press question concerns Immonen's thoughts on following Kieron Gillen's run on the series. Immonen says it was "daunting" to follow what Gillen did. "I love the tone of what he did," she adds. "My fervent hope is to follow with the same spirit of adventure that book embodies. We're looking at this Sif story as a first arc. There is not a 23-issue arc currently planned out. That's not where we're headed, and I think it would be foolish for me to think that would be possible."
What tone is Immonen looking to establish? "There's a lot of kicking ass and not taking a lot of names in this one," Immonen answers. "She's an action hero and a fighter in a way that Loki is not. Maybe what I do a little bit differently than other people is that I don't use the talking to get to the fighting, I use the fighting to get to the talking. So that's where I am with that."
Another question from Newsarama — does Sif see a lot of room to add new layers to Sif as a character? "Yeah, I hope so. It would be sad if that's not the case," she answers. "I think she is really interesting and unusual."
Is Immonen planning on further exploring Marvel's take on Asgardian mythology? "I think it's very challenging. You see names in the Marvel U for Norse gods, and you go and look them up, and it's something completely different."
Who will Sif face in the series? "Lots of monsters," Immonen says. She'll also face a "group of guys with an unusual relationship." Sankovitch says they're a group of warriors who are a "little out of touch."
Viscardi wraps up: Journey Into Mystery #646, from writer Kathryn Immonen and artist Valerio Schiti and starring Sif, is out in November.
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