Two comics. Both tied into Marvel and DC’s respective crossovers. But a world apart.
Kieron Gillen has a rather malleable voice. We’ve seen how the author of Phonogram has moved to the political soap opera of the X-comics, the silliness of the Hulkified story to the majesty of the Loki work. Because, frankly, if I’d been told Journey Into Mystery was written by Neil Gaiman, I’d have happily believed it.
Or, rather it’s GK Chesterton with a touch of Michael Moorcock. Which is probably the same thing. This is a story of ravens magpies travelling the world with message, the language of which trips delightfully of the page. It is dark and light simultaneously, full of woe and tragedy yet with a bounciness that makes it a true pleasure to read. It is the very best of Sandman reduced into a few short pages, as we then follow Loki following a trail laid for him, and it’s a Moorcock gather-and-collect adventure game, still with the same light touch of narrative.
And the combination of Doug Braithwaite and Ulises Arreloa on art complements this beautifully too, mirroring that light/dark mix, muted grey lines infused with colour that bursts out from in places. This fails when we see the Thor Vs Odin scene, hard violent action doesn’t fit this style well, but for a journey into mystery, well, I can’t think of better.
Oh and there’s one of the better internet gags I’ve seen as well. Actually, there’s two of them, told with perfect timing.
All the characters, Thor, Loki (both of him), Volstagg are portrayed pitch perfectly and the chosen fonts mean you don’t even notice that Thor has dropped his faux-Shakespearian speech patterns.
And while measured scenes of standing around talking fits Journey Into Mystery like a glove. with Flash, it sticks out. This is a comic where movement is both text and subtext, yet we begin with Flashes not moving anywhere. Oh sure, Kid Flash runs around Hot Pursuit in mid conversation, but this is a dull beginning. Where Journey Into Mystery embedded exposition into lilting scenes of magpies flying and gods striding across mountains, the Flashes just… talk.
I mean, there is exposition to be told, both to Barry Allen and to the reading audience. We have to know that the timeline is about to unravel and change into Flashpoint. That changes in the world will affect the 51 other worlds. And that Bart Allen is at greater risk than others, as his future is far off. But can’t you show us this rather than just tell us? I mean you’ve got a projection system, there must have been more creative solutions in a comic book.
Anyway, the comic becomes far more effective when it dives into Barry’s police identity, as his concerns dovetail together, and we get a police investigation procedural. Francis Manapul’s artwork is suddenly more fluid and steps back from trying to be flashy, with Brian Bucceletto’s colours changing to matchand actually supports the narrative. Because now we have people standing and talking around that doesn’t seem out of place, and it’s far more interesting and involving read as a result.
And I guess that’s it. Telling a story through exposition is fine and dandy in a comic. But its the context that you give it that makes it work or not. This week Journey Into Mystery excels, while the Flash stumbles.
Comics courtesy of Orbital Comics, London.