War of the Realms: Journey Into Mystery #1

Writers: The McElroys
Artist: André Lima Araújo
Colorist: Chris O’Halloran
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Cover Artists: Valerio Schiti, David Curiel
Publisher: Marvel Comics

Review by Nico Sprezzatura

As alluded by the title, Journey Into Mystery is a tie-in to the new War of the Realms event that began last week, but eagle-eyed Marvel fans will recognize its name as being the original comic anthology series that introduced Thor in 1962. It’s been relaunched a few times since then, most notably as a secondary Thor title that featured supporting players Loki (and later, Sif) roughly a decade ago. On that level, you can see why Marvel chose to bring it back for their newest Thor-centric event.

Event tie-ins like these tend to vary in importance to the main story, but Journey Into Mystery feels fairly significant from the outset. With Thor himself missing during Malekith’s invasion of Earth, the rest of the Marvel Universe is left scrambling to stop one of his most notorious rogues. But shortly before Malekith began his onslaught, Thor’s step-mother Freyja revealed she birthed a secret child with Odin —Thor’s half-sister — and hid the baby (named Laussa) in Oklahoma to keep her safe from harm. Thor’s half-brother Balder the Brave, recently returned from Hel, pledges his life towards protecting his new baby sister. He is quickly forced to make good on his promise when Malekith finally arrives, tasked with locating Laussa before Malekith’s forces get to her first. Along the way, Balder hooks up with a prophesied (and unexpected) team of Midgardian superheroes — namely Kate Bishop, Miles Morales, Thor’s Hel pup Thori, Wonder Man, Death Locket, and Doctor Druid — to find Laussa and save her from evil.

This isn’t The McElroys’s first foray into comics; their first volume of graphic novels adapted from The Adventure Zone was released last year to popular success. On that level, it makes sense that Marvel would snatch them up for a high-profile project, especially since they often pluck creators from other forms of media to write comics. Sometimes it works out, sometimes not much — but in this instance, The McElroys acquit themselves rather nicely here.

War of the Realms: Journey Into Mystery #1 is very much a “getting the team together” issue, spending most of its page count on exposition and characters meeting each other, but the McElroy’s affable flair really makes this issue worth reading. In some ways, the premise of this tie-in is very much a classic tabletop role-playing campaign you’d hear on The Adventure Zone — this time set within the Marvel Universe — which makes The McElroys particularly suited for it. Because they’re not making their comicbook debut with this series, you can tell they’ve gotten comfortable writing in the medium, and I’d be interested to see them tackle an ongoing series at some point.

I haven’t been especially big on André Lima Araújo’s art in the past, but his work here really does it for me, switching between the high fantasy of Asgard and the mundanity of the ground-level Marvel Universe fairly easily. Journey Into Mystery is an action-packed book, and Araújo’s flexible aesthetic sells those scenes, but there’s also lots of low-key character moments throughout, and he displays a wide range of emotions on his characters’ faces to make them believable. Colorist Chris O’Halloran provides a technicolor palette worthy of the rainbow Bifrost bridge. The initial scene wherein Freyja reveals the existence of Laussa is bathed in soft pastels, for example, while later scenes are shown with sickly greens and blues, or hearty warm tones. It really does give Araújo’s linework a lot of texture it may not have otherwise.

The Verdict: Buy it.

Playing out like a tabletop RPG set within the Marvel Universe, The McElroys’s War of the Realms: Journey Into Mystery #1 is an enthralling fantasy adventure.

Nico Sprezzatura
Nico Frank Sprezzatura, middle name optional. 24. Schrödinger's writer.

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