This was a ko-fi request. I could’ve done it on one of my review sites but chose to put it here for variety.
When a character breaks out, it’s usually a blessing to a comic company. Marvel and DC have swam in cash thanks to Deadpool and Harley Quinn. Marvel in the 80s clearly loved watching The Punisher grow from villain to hero. There’s story after story of unexpected characters becoming fan favorites then icons.
But what do you do when a character breaks out that would require a massive overhaul to make work? Loki, the God of Lies, is one of Marvel’s unrepentant villains. He has never been good. He cannot be good. But he was played by the insanely charming and handsome Tom Hiddleston so he developed a fanbase. And he would inevitably get a comic where the perpetually ugly and evil Loki was a pretty hero.
What wasn’t inevitable was just how intensely metafictive Loki: Agent of Asgard would be. Here is a book that should feel like a shameless attempt at playing to a new group of fans but instead reads as a meditation on the character as a whole. Writer Al Ewing did some of his earliest Marvel work here and like his other book I’ve written on, The Immortal Hulk, he crafts s book as much about the past as the present.
The premise of the book is far from simple. The idea is that a younger Loki, though not the youngest we’ve seen, agrees to help Asgard in exchange for getting redemption in myth. The problem is the first mission of his sends him to fetch dark energy revealed to be his future self, who also looks like the more classic gnarled, creepy Loki. His future self knows Loki is fated to return to his ways. He may have even inspired this redemption attempt so he can turn his most evil. Frighteningly, the notion never ends that everyone may need Loki to be evil for security. And all throughout the book, the question looms: can you change your fate?
I’ll get this book’s big issue dealt with so I can just praise it to the sky. It’s convoluted. You do need to keep notes. Wikipedia is so helpful. Loki has a tangled history and Ewing never lets you forget it. I’m not going to lie and say I have the fullest understanding even with a thorough read.
But that’s exactly the point. Ewing wants to examine the idea of mythical characters having multiple incarnations. We have what amounts to the Hiddleston Loki vs the Classic Loki and Ewing is pondering which version is valid, ultimately concluding every version is. Indeed, at the end it’s obvious Loki himself has made peace with that.
And that’s what makes the book sing. It’s a comment on the need for status quo. Loki is fighting a world that does not want him to redeem even if they’d be better off if he did just as comics would be better if they’d let characters grow but instead find comfort in the status quo. The book that marked Ewing’s first truly major work at Marvel pulls no punches in questioning how the company runs.
That’s not to say that the book is just a work of self analysis. It’s a ton of fun just as a read. Ewing and artist Lee Garbett know what makes a rollicking bold read. Loki is written as a clever, funny, bold hero who always has an angle. You’re always excited to see what he does next. I also loved his sidekick, the bitter cynic Verity who can tell who is lying at all times. They’re a fun platonic pair.
The book looks great too. It’s got a very classic look to it. Garbett gives detail to every scene. Action looks bold and clean. Characters has a life to their expressions. It’s a book to soak in.
Loki: Agent of Asgard is a fascinating book. A book caught between the past and future that ultimately shrugs and embraces not knowing what will come. Highly recommended.