Aug 7, 2014

Why Not Sif? A Look at Immonen, Schiti, and Bellaire's Run on Asgard's Shieldmaiden

Why Not Sif?

From the new Captain Marvel to the always entertaining She-Hulk to the new and exciting Angela, we have more female-centric Marvel books at this point than I can remember ever having in my comics-reading lifetime, which is almost as long as my actual lifetime. With this increased focus on female-led series, though, there is one character for whomI have to wonder why Marvel isn’t pushing as much as they could.

That’s right, that’s Lady Sif, one of Asgard’s greatest warriors and certified true badass. Created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee (at this point, someone will want to comment with “Stan and Jack didn’t create Sif; the Vikings did,” which, congratulations, you people have mastered the nuance of semantics) to be Thor’s traveling companion and second girlfriend, after Jane Foster, Sif has a pretty strong central concept: she is the fiercest female warrior in all of Asgard, and next to Thor, the best warrior who doesn’t run in a pack. She’s also had a fairly simple history despite being around since the 60s. Ignoring an unfortunate stretch of time when she and Jane Foster shared a body (we will never speak of this again, ever), Sif’s just a warrior. Sometimes she dates Thor, sometimes she doesn’t, but her priority is the safety of Asgard.

There hasn’t been much effort in the way of solo Sif stories, which is surprising to me because she seems to be a character rife with possibility. (To be fair, we could say this about Thor’s entire supporting cast, which is arguably the richest supporting cast next to Batman, in terms of being able to stand on their own without the lead character. Not much effort has been made to do much with them.) But last year, Kathryn Immonen, Valerio Schiti, and Jordi Bellaire used her for a short run to end the Journey Into Mystery series. And they knocked it out of the park.

Starting with the premise that Sif wants to be a better warrior, we follow Asgard’s premiere fighter as she gets cursed with a spell that triggers her berserker rage. Hooking up with a bunch of other warriors who all fell for the same curse millennia ago, Sif has to save the Earth from a bunch of monsters. Along the way, she gets to show off her fighting skills.

She also gets hit on by the Superior Spider-Man, which is how I realized how buried in Marvel’s lineup this run was. I was buying Superior Spider-Man at the time and still wasn’t aware of this appearance until almost a year after it happened.

Here’s a cute Easter egg. Spot the South Park residents!

Schiti really took it to a whole new level in the next storyline, “Seeds of Destruction,” in which Sif teams up with Beta Ray Bill to save Gaea and Bill’s girlfriend, Ti Asha Ra. He pulls off a neat trick here with polyptychs that give a sense of movement throughout the page while being able to zoom in on Sif’s expressions.

Schiti’s just a master of expressions in general. He’s like this generation’s Kevin Maguire, only without the inexplicable need to have everyone mug for the camera all the time.

And look at that color palette too. Just vibrant and bold color choices by Jordie Bellaire throughout the entire run.

Kathryn Immonen’s dialogue brought out an innocence in Sif that balanced out her aggressive personality, and a kind of naivete about human dynamics and the way things work. At the end of the day, Sif’s as simple as her concept. She wants to fight to protect Asgard, and she’ll… fight to… keep fighting, I guess.

This run was cancelled after “Seeds of Destruction,” and giving Sif more chances seems to be an issue of marketability. It’s not really a cool name. I know “Thor” is just a name, but there’s an oomph factor to it that “Sif” doesn’t have. It’s kind of like how in basketball, the best guys always have cool names. The number 1 pick in the 1996 NBA draft was Allen Iverson, a guy who had many shoes, a rap album, and changed NBA culture as we know it. The number pick in the 1995 NBA draft was a dude named Joe Smith. Names have power.

But wait, you say. Loki has his own series, and Angela will soon as well. They both have subtitles: “Agent of Asgard” and “Asgard’s Assassin,” respectively. Why not give Sif a new title? I don’t know what it would be, but now would be the time to do it. We’ve got an actress in Jaimie Alexander that loves playing the character (her guest shot on Agents of SHIELD was the best part of an otherwise mediocre season). The multimedia profile of the character will likely never be higher than this. So as a company overall, why not push Sif along with everyone else?

Is money really a reason? Can we really say Angela is going to absolutely make more money as a lead? Maybe before the movies, sure, but now I don’t think you can make that claim. The Immonen/Schiti/Bellaire Sif comics were as good as any superhero comics in existence, and proves that the character is rife with possibility. In Marvel’s entire catalogue, it seems like a shame to overlook her.

You can get the complete collection (very affordable) here:

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