“Try Something New.” That challenge is the whole reason for this feature’s existence. Month in and month out we buy the comics we know and love, the ones we look forward to every time but there are countless series that travel under our radar, ones that we just don’t give a chance and get passed by. That’s why I made a vow: every week I’d pick up an issue for a series that wasn’t on my pull-list in the hopes of finding a hidden gem. Welcome to Off The Shelf where we’ll discover if my leap of faith paid dividends this week. Also, I should mention that there be SPOILERS in this review. You are warned!
Loki: Agent of Asgard #1Publisher
Al Ewing, Lee Garbett, & Nolan Woodward
Prior Experience With Title
None. At all. And not just because it’s a first issue. Those who are familiar with my work and my website know that for all of my general comic book love, I am and always have been a DC boy. That said, I have read Civil War, which is referenced in these pages, and assorted miscellaneous other Marvel titles that all feed into my understanding of these characters.
Why Did I Give It A Shot?
Loving DC Comics does not mean I have no interest in Marvel. On the contrary, I think that Marvel lays claim to several terrific characters, stories, and artists (writers included). But my window into comics has always been my first love, mythology. DC offers me a direct window to that world by being so paradigmatic (which is what most people dislike about it – a lack of “realism”, if we can call it that). So I figured if I was going to buy my first Marvel comic EVER, maybe I should start with mythology. Hence, Loki. But why even venture into Marvel? And why now? To be honest, I was inspired by this very feature on this very website. So here’s me “trying something new”!
There’s definitely some set up to this premise. Loki, the God of Mischief and Evil and age-old foe of the Mighty Thor, has been reinvented – both in and out of the story. He sports a younger look and a kinder demeanour and is now in the employ of the All-Mother in the service of good. This is no abrupt continuity shift, however, it is Loki’s own doing.
As is explained throughout the story, gods are products of story and one must be careful of the character one chooses to become, lest that mold become impossible to break. In an effort to atone for his past – and all of the stories of woe and tragedy that his actions wrote – he has been granted the opportunity to become an agent for good. With each successful mission, one story of old-Loki will be erased from the ancient memories of Asgard itself.
This issue follows that first mission, which quite simply is to save Thor from himself. Throughout the issue Thor is acting rather strangely – sullen, distrustful, petty, and violent. The story may be about Loki starting over, but Thor is the one who seems to have been rebooted; his behaviour is reminiscent of how he used to be before he was exiled to Midgard. Proof positive of this is the moment Thor loses the ability to wield Mjolnir. And though Loki’s appearance at Avengers Tower initially aggravates the situation (instigating a brawl between Thor and Tony Stark, with an unfortunate accidental appearance by the Hulk; hacking all records of Loki and destroying them), he eventually reveals his true purpose, impaling Thor with Gram, the Sword of Truth. The “corruption” is purged from Thor and captured by Loki and the brothers manage to share a tender moment of reconciliation before Loki returns to Asgard with the “corruption” in tow. A final scene with the All-Mother reinforces the deal Loki has made and leads to a rather intriguing reveal…
Black Widow: Clint.
Hawkeye: I know—
Black Widow: You have the army after you and no health and you’re falling out of a crashing plane.
Hawkeye: I know, Nat—
Black Widow: It’s a bass fishing simulator, Clint.
Hawkeye: I KNOW! It just—It just HAPPENS!
Loki: Once upon a time, Thor was exiled to Midgard, and spent his time playing the role of hero. So his brother Loki—smarting over a few squabbles—decided to play the role of the villain. But the gods are creatures of magic. Creatures of story. We must be careful which roles we step into.
Captain America: Bruce, please—try not to get angry—
Bruce: But… I’m…
Iron Man: Uh-oh.
Thor: I spoke on your behalf, brother, but Midgard’s laws are as they are. And you did create a most terrible slash upon their Internet.
Loki: I hacked the Internet, Thor. It’s different.
Final Verdict: This issue has a lot going for it. I decided to pick it up because, as a lover of mythology, a book centred on ACTUAL MYTHOLOGICAL CHARACTERS just made a lot of sense. I didn’t have to be sold on Loki, or Thor, for that matter – they are already iconic characters and full of great stories. What so impressed me when I actually got around to reading this issue is how self-aware it is. The narration, and indeed the entire premise of the book, revolves around the notion of story: that being mythological, in some sense, means that you occupy a particular place in the literature. The hero. The villain. These are very broad archetypes that are, frankly, atypical of Marvel. But instead of poo-pooing this idea, or even worse rejecting it completely, the creative team have found a way to both honour the legacy of mythology (its archetypes, its literary significance, etc.) while allowing Loki the opportunity to reinvent himself. What remains to be seen is the moral: can mythological archetype be broken? Or can it only ever be set aside for a brief while? How set are our roles and what cost must be paid in order to truly change them, if they can be changed at all? These are questions I find terrifically exciting. Moreover, I think that this book is on to something truly genius and I, for one, intend to follow along. Which is my roundabout way of saying that Loki: Agent of Asgard is now the first-ever Marvel book that I WILL BE ADDING TO MY PULL LIST.
Special thanks to the Gotham Rogue for letting me contribute my opinion to this awesome site!
– By Reid Vanier
And I’d like to give a big thank you back to Reid for sharing his Off The Shelf experience with us. If you want to see more from him I highly recommend checking out his excellent blog at http://modernmythologies.com/. And for anyone else thinking they’d like to join me with a guest post, just let me know in the comments below or send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.