'Journey Into Mystery' #1 Review: A Solid Superhero Debut for the McElroys

War of the Realms: Journey Into Mystery #1 is a lighthearted and unconventional superhero adventure. Written by the McElroys (of The Adventure Zone and My Brother, My Brother and Me podcast fame) and illustrated by Andre Lima Araujo, the new miniseries stars the newly resurrected Balder and Spider-Man (Miles Morales) as the pair collect a hodgepodge cast of superheroes to protect Laussa Odinsdottir, the daughter of Odin and Freyja and Thor's younger sister, from Muspelheim fire demons.

While the McElroys are best known for their popular podcast empire, the family also successfully wrote a best-selling graphic novel based on The Adventure Zone. So it shouldn't be too surprising that Journey Into Mystery is so polished compared to other recent Marvel comics written by non-comics creator celebrities. The book is well-paced and keeps the reader engaged, providing the readers with just about as much context as they need to enjoy the book. While most of the first issue is spent explaining who the characters are, I'm impressed that the McElroys found mostly succinct ways to explain dense continuity in an understandable way for their legion of fans who might pick up this comic. Explaining who Druid (the son of a D-list Avenger), Deathlocket, or even Balder is to casual fans is a hard task, and the McElroys wisely choose to sidestep the continuity explanations and focus on the character's personalities instead.

Journey Into Mystery has a decent mix of humor and madcap action, focusing mostly on Balder's struggle to adapt to the legacy heroes that have popped up during his stay in Hel and the heroes struggling to keep a baby calm while avoiding fire demons during a car chase. Although the comic is definitely lighthearted in tone, the characters feel mostly consistent with their past depictions, albeit a little chattier than usual. It helps that Journey Into Mystery has a few "blank slate" characters in its cast -- Druid never had much of a personality to begin with -- so the McElroy brand of humor doesn't really contradict anything we've seen in past comics.

Marvel fans might complain about a few disconnects in the series; it's unclear why the demons are targeting a baby (whether it's just a general "Kill all the Asgardians" or if it has something to do with her past ties to Surtur, former ruler of Muspelheim) nor does the book explain how the fire demons found the heroes or why they're driving a fiery semi-truck tank of death. However, Journey Into Mystery is disconnected enough from the main War of the Realms series to simply handwave these nitpicky questions and focus on enjoying the ride.

The art, unfortunately, is wildly inconsistent at times. Araujo struggles with faces here and there -- the heroes' eyes tend to grow and shrink at random -- and his figures are mostly pudgy and flat looking. Although I guess you could say it was a stylistic decision to de-emphasize any muscles these characters might have, it mostly feels lazy or rushed. The coloring by Chris O'Halloran is also a bit rough, too reliant on digital shadowing effects that give some panels a very hazy look. Sadly, I think Journey Into Mystery looks very much like an unimportant tie-in to an event series, which is a shame given the high-profile nature of the writers.

Neither McElroy fans nor Marvel die-hards will be disappointed with Journey Into Mystery. It's a fun comic that fits within the greater tapestry of the Marvel Universe and retains just enough of the McElroys' distinct voices to feel unique.

Published by Marvel Comics

On April 10, 2019

Written by The McElroys


Art by Andre Lima Araujo

Letters by VC's Clayton Cowles