Review: Sif

Cover for Sif 1 by Travel Foreman and June Chung.

She don't need another hero: Sif fights her way back to self-respect.

“I Am the Lady Sif”

Writer: Kelly Sue DeConnick
Penciller: Ryan Stegman
Inkers: Tom Palmer with Victor Olazaba
Colorist: Juan Doe
Letterer: VC’s Joe Sabino
Cover: Travel Foreman and June Chung

Sif has a tough lot in the Marvel pantheon. She’s a powerful and skilled warrior goddess, but somehow she keeps getting the short end of the stick. Loki shears off her golden hair in a symbolic rape, after which she’s sent away by her parents for warrior training– apparently, that’s the Asgardian concept of crisis counseling in action. When she returns, Sif and Thor proceed to have a relationship worthy of Jerry Springer, during which Thor hits her, she runs off with Beta Ray Bill, they discover that Thor’s mind-controlled, she takes Thor back and dumps Bill… oy. It’s all ugly.

That’s not even counting Sif making a pact with Mephisto at one point, or Thor exiling Sif from Asgard for objecting to his fascist reign. Or, you know, Thor hooking up with the Enchantress and getting her pregnant while Sif’s hanging around in exile. It’s a rough life in the MU if you’re an Asgardian battle maiden, apparently– and then, just when everything started to look up, Loki provoked the Ragnarok, stole Sif’s body, and imprisoned her in the form of a dying elderly woman.

Yeah. That’s some empowerment for Sif right there. When it’s not domestic abuse and getting thrown out of the hall in favor of the evil baby mama, it’s rape and more rape. Sure, Sif kicks ass against Surtur and is every bit as badass as Brunhild, but with a personal life that painful, it’s probably not much consolation… and if you’re a female comics fan, it’s not very cheering to see a character who’s had a lot of her development come at the expense of her autonomy.

Fortunately, Sif’s been placed in Kelly Sue DeConnick’s capable hands for the first step of her recovery from this ongoing soap opera. DeConnick is arguably best-known for her work on 30 Days of Night and Image’s Comic Book Tattoo anthology; she doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page of her own, and that’s a damn shame. Sif is a clear indication of a talent worth more recognition.

The book is a compact, kinetic tale of Sif’s first steps on the road from “survivor” back to “warrior.” Sheltered in the uneasy bosom of the citizens of Broxton, Sif is drinking and nursing hypervigilant combat reflexes when Beta Ray Bill (and Ti Asha Ra, last seen in Kieron Gillen’s Beta Ray Bill: Godhunter) arrives. Of course, he’s not trying to rekindle any romance– no, he wants a Real Man, in this case Thor, to help him regain his ship from Borg-like space pirates.

That’s when Sif stops having any of this macho nonsense, thankfully, and puts herself up in Thor’s stead. What follows is a vicious little romp reminiscent of Die Hard— “Come out to deep space! We’ll get together, have a few laughs!” Sif tests her physical mettle against the disciples of the Salvation Condition and her mental endurance against the memories of Loki’s tortures. The Korbinites become background figures, witnesses to her trial, and the story’s all the sharper for it; this story is all about Sif and how she wins her way back to her true self. DeConnick keeps the focus tight and the dialogue terse, emphasizing the tension Sif feels every day as a survivor.

The visuals convey this sense of tension as Sif throws herself into combat; artist Ryan Stegman has a clean style reminiscent of Madame Xanadu‘s Amy Reeder Hadley, making Sif seem like Nimue’s plucky adventuring cousin. The various residents of Broxton are salt-of-the-earth types, making a sharp contrast to Sif’s hard-edged biker beauty. Beta Ray Bill is as snouty and toothy as I’ve ever seen him– Stegman’s depiction makes Bill a heavy-hearted, distant taskmaster, presiding over Sif’s ordeal for her own good. The panel transitions are rapid and occasionally unnerving, highlighting Sif’s near-manic dread and battle rage. Particularly successful is a panel (I’ll try to get a pic uploaded later today) where a disciple of the Condition grabs Sif’s ankle… followed immediately by a quick cut to her revulsed, shell-socked reaction, and then to the lethal consequences. Solid, solid storytelling, a welcome change from the vague visual narrative you see in other titles.

Sif also sets up a future direction for the battle goddess… one that seems likely to pay off handsomely for her, especially when it’s seen in light of the events of Siege: Loki last week. I certainly hope Marvel lets DeConnick and Stegman run with that plotline, because it’s one I’d enjoy seeing.

One last confession. We bought two copies of Sif today. The first one was ordered weeks ago in our Golden Apple pull… but we were so eager to see how DeConnick and Stegman pulled this off that Chad bought a second copy on his way home from work. You should be that eager too; this book showcases two up-and-coming Marvel talents turning in rock-steady work that takes the misogynist tarnish off Sif and restores her to her Ripley-esque Simonson-era badassery.

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