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Journey Into Mystery #622

Written by Kieron Gillen

Art by Doug Braithwaite and Ulises Arreola

Lettered by Clayton Cowles

Published by Marvel Comics

Review by George Marston

Navigating the labyrinthine gamut of titles from any major company can be a chore for even a seasoned reader. Hell, half the time even someone who pores over the solicitations and Diamond lists misses something relevant because it was released in a special one-shot or a back up feature in a title I'm not necessarily picking up.

So how do you start? Well, Journey Into Mystery is as good a place as any.

I admit it requires some level of knowledge as to the nature of Thor and his Asgardian brethren, at least in relation to Marvel Comics, but Kieron Gillen seems much more comfortable with the characters than he did during his first run on Thor, which was at times laborious, and even heavy handed. Even the "Fear Itself" logo on the cover should not deter someone interested in Marvel's interpretation of the Norse Gods from reading this book, as any pertinent events are repeated here, albeit from a slightly different angle.

Gillen is aided by Doug Braithwaite's often breathtaking pencils, which forego inks in favor of an almost painterly tonal quality, and are lushly rendered by Ulises Arreola's subtle but still vivid colors. The result is that this book feels more like high fantasy than the standard superhero fare, and even the plot feels sort of like a quest. The story follows young Loki as he is presented with the key to answering one of the most maddening questions left in the aftermath of "Siege." After sorting through numerous clues and riddles, Loki finds what he's looking for, and much more, and is set on a new path that is sure to form the basis of the coming issues of this title.

Gillen's writing is the star player here. Braithwaite's art is magnificent, but Gillen's almost Tolkien-esque use of language plays directly into the tone of the mystery at hand, and somehow manages to keep 22 pages that are flush with exposition and conversation moving forward. His writing is only bogged down in the rare caption that drips with hints of verbal viscosity, and as a rule, comes off as fluid, playful, and at times even mischievous, just like his subject, Loki.

The book is not, however, perfect. It does play heavily into the last few years of Thor stories, and there will be moments that fly over the head of the un-inducted, but Gillen manages to squeeze in enough knowledge to give anyone a basic education. With all of that, this is as good a place to jump into Marvel's continuing saga as any, and longtime readers (and fans of Loki) will find a lot to love here.


The Infinite Vacation #2

Written by Nick Spencer

Art by Christian Ward

Lettering by Jeff Powell

Published by Image Comics

Review by Scott Cederlund

Every now and then, a good friend of mine and I get into some of the geekiest comic book arguments on twitter. One of the usual debates is when we're calmly (at least I like to think it's calm) discussing the pros and cons of the Earth-2 Superman. My friend takes the stance that having an Earth-2 Superman around, as well as a whole Multiverse of Supermen, dilutes the character and makes it harder to identify and emphasize with the "real" Superman, our Superman. Worlds can live and die but they're never going to do anything really meaningful with a character if they can eventually write it off as happening on Earth-42. My position is that the Multiverse shows all of the potential and possibilities of the character and the whole DC universe. I don't want to live in a world where Superman Blue and Superman Red aren't sitting around and trying to figure out who gets Lois Lane and who gets Lana Lang. So who's right? Does a Multiverse create no definitive version of a character, or does it create endless possible paths for a character to walk down?

According to The Infinite Vacation #2, we're probably both correct.

The Infinite Vacation #2 opens with our hero Mark being attacked by Redneck Mark, Slacker Mark and Nude Mark, versions of himself from different realities. On the infinite continuum of universes, the Mark of those universes are ending up dead and all the evidence points to our Mark, the one whose whole life is spent jumping from reality to reality in search the best "vacation,” as being the killer. In the first issue, Nick Spencer and Christian Ward introduced us to this wonderful Multiverse where the boundaries are blurred and it's hard to figure out where anyone started, much less where they're going to end up. It was a dizzying romp though a world of possibilities. Where Issue #1 opened up a myriad of choices and potential for Mark and everyone who could experience an The Infinite Vacation in an alternate world, #2 shows the horror it could be as a traveler, namely Mark, could get lost in these endless worlds.

Nick Spencer and Christian Ward, in the span of two issues, have shown us the dreams and nightmares that are possible when there are an endless number of choices and an endless number of escapes in life. Don’t like one world or one choice, just make another — as long as you have the cash. Spencer’s story walks a fine line and does not make any judgments on the life Mark or other’s like him have chosen to lead just as he doesn’t really make a judgment on Claire, who refuses to take part in these Infinite Vacations because she values the life she’s living just as much as Mark loves the thrill of being able to change his life over and over again. Spencer is able to give both characters honest voices. There are no judgments over the lives they’ve lived, even as Spencer begins showing us the consequences of the lives they’ve chosen.

The art in this book is something that’s sometimes hard to get a handle on. Mark’s story is told in bright, almost psychedelic colors. His artwork remains grounded during the quieter moments but he pulls off David Mack/Bill Sienkewicz-like subtle abstractions when Mark’s life becomes more sublime or disoriented. Ward isn’t just illustrating what happens to Mark, but he’s also illustrating Mark’s state of mind, adding shape and tone to Spencer’s script.

Neither Spencer or Ward make any judgment on Mark or Claire’s life but, like the first issue, there is a fumetti portion in this issue, a news interview with the company that provides these Infinite Vacations, that comes off as highly suspicious and judgmental of the businesses that own and operate these multi-dimensional vacations. The fumetti photes are harsh and solid, a stark contrast to Ward’s dreamlike and optimistic artwork. They're actually more insidious than anything Ward draws, and are still a puzzling part of this comic.

Mark is a unique character but there are an infinite number of variations of him throughout the Multiverse. He’s the Superman/Earth-2 Superman that my friend and I are always arguing about. Sure, Mark doesn’t have any super powers and isn’t the last survivor of a doomed world but he has a life that’s much bigger than a car and a house in the ‘burbs. He has the potential to be anything he wants to be, just as long as he can pay for it. For Nick Spencer and Charlie Ward, the Multiverse is a playground but they have not lost sight of their character Mark. In The Infinite Vacation #2, Spencer and Ward remind us that anything is possible, whether we can travel across dimensions or whether we just look up and take the opportunity to say “hi” to the person in front of us.

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