God of Comics – Loki, Agent of Asgard
The title was what drew me in.
Loki – Agent of Asgard. There was something appealing about that, the idea that every other power in the Marvel universe has entire agencies set up to spy on everyone else, to feed the, misinformation and carry out covert operations, and the Asgardians turned to Loki and said “this is what we want you to do.”
The mythos is what kept me. I’ve been calling this title part of the Mythic Marvelline, along with Angela and Thor, and this trinity has been among the best comics Marvel has ever published. The art in all three of them has been radically different and from everything else and one another and the stories, ye gods. This is what happens when three different writers of quality decide they have stories to tell.
Angela is about honor and obligation, about nature versus nurture, about faith and discovery. Thor is about heroism in a world that is more than black and white, and what a god owes his people. And Loki? Loki is about identity, about belonging, about change and how difficult it can be to change, and to explain the full impact of this comic you need to understand what came before it.
Loki is, traditionally, the God of Mischief in the Norse pantheon. He’s an agent of chaos that serves order, blood brother to Odin, and he solves more problems than he causes. He calls out the gods on their hypocrisy, and in this last aspect he came to the Marvel Universe to tweak Thor around a bit. Thor had become a hero, and so Loki became a villain.
It was supposed to be a roll, but it was one he became trapped in. He became the God of Lies, but he was also savvy enough to know that he was a comic book character and that he was trapped. Over the past decade, he’s done everything possible to escape that: kicked off Ragnarok, helped with the resurrection of the Asgardians, sacrificed himself to save everyone, and was reborn as an innocent child.
And then the child was caught and butchered by his past self – only not really. He thought this happened, but it didn’t, and good people that think they’ve become evil will often indulge in evils that leave villains terrified. Still, Loki rejected the evil definition set for him, and that brings us to the start of this series.
Odin has gone off into self-exile because he’s a prat, really. The All-Mothers of Asgard hire Loki to be their agent, and pay him with stories. Notably, they will erase one story of Loki’s villainy for every mission he carries out. With every erased story, he believes he can escape the definition that he was trapped in.
And this is amazing. We get Loki messing with the Avengers, Loki going on speed dates, Loki being generally awesome. We see Loki make friends with a woman named Verity Wells, we see Loki trying to make a life for himself. And we also see that the All-Mothers are secretly unwilling to let Loki be anything other than a villain.
See, people like known quantities. Even if you’re a toxic person and you change for the better, there are people that will prefer that you stay toxic simply because it means that they don’t have to adjust their thinking. So, when an Evil Loki appears, they work with him, too. Loki knows something is up and discovers what’s going on and is shocked by it, horrified.
“Why would you work with him?” Loki demands of the All-Mothers.
“You’re the only one who wants to change,” the All-Mothers reply. “The rest of us are comfortable.”
We learn that Evil Loki is our version, but from the future. See, he did it. He got rid of all the old stories, became a hero, and found acceptance – but the other Asgardians kept calling him the God of Lies. It didn’t matter who he had become, known of them would accept him for who he was. It poisoned him, drove him mad.
A friend of mine once told me, “If you do a thing for a thank you, you do it for the wrong reason. Act because you could not live with yourself if you did less.” It took me a long time to understand what he meant.
If you’re going to change you have to do it for yourself. If you change for others and they don’t acknowledge it – and there is always the chance that they won’t – then you’re going to crumble.
Evil Loki changed for the acknowledgment of others and when they didn’t give him what he wanted from them, he crumbled and became a villain. He came back in time to hurry the process of his becoming evil, but in the process he saved both himself and the him that was not that thing.
Like the Loki of old, he exposed the hypocrisies of everyone around him, unveiling the lies of the Asgardians as a whole before nearly destroying himself. He knew Secret Wars was coming because he knows he is a comic book character, and he nearly side-stepped the whole mess to continue his own narrative and became involved in one of the most heartfelt and interesting battles of self that has ever been committed to page.
Those of us that have been broken will understand. Those of that have been left alone know exactly what that one page means. It the hands of a lesser writer this would have been a physical fight, and the writer is even able to make a mockery of that concept. This is the perfect place to end this title and to show that Loki has evolved – not a God of Lies, or even a God of Mischief, Loki has become the God of Stories.
As good as this comic is, it wouldn’t have been possible without Kieron Gillan’s Journey into Mystery and Young Avengers. That was the fertile ground that this story grew from and you should check those comics out, too, but you don’t have to.
The writer of this series has been Al Ewing. He writes a host of Marvel comics right now and is one of the best writers they have right now, which is saying something: this is a company that employs Warren Ellis, Kelly Sue DeConnick, Kieron Gillen, Jason Aaron, Mark Waid, Marguerite Bennett, and Brian Michael Bendis, among others.
Ewing stands among them due to an incredible ability to draw upon continuity and character, weaving different aspects of the absurdly rich history of comics and ending up with something new, insightful, and fresh. His work elsewhere has been amazing, but this? Loki Agent of Asgard is a masterpiece, an opus of the storytelling craft, and it firmly places him among the greats.
Comics are a visual medium, though, and a comic with this sort of concept needs an incredible art team to capture the moments that matter. Lee Garbett captured every beat, broken or heartfelt or funny. His work with design, body language, and facial expression made this comic feel real, and the coloring of Antonio Fabela captured light and dark and those colors that Loki himself moves between. Even the lettering, by Clayton Cowles, goes towards furthering the story. Read the comic and you’ll understand.
And read this comic. Hunt down the trades and pass it on, because this is a story that needs telling and sharing, an epic worthy of the sagas and the bards of the ancient world. This is a story complex and tragic and triumphant, a story that will move the heart, warm it and chill it and warm it again. It is a story that will make you laugh and cry and think.
It’s a story that will haunt you, and it should. A story that you can talk about, and share with friends.
Thank you, Al Ewing, Lee Garbett, Anotnio Fabela, and Clayton Cowles, for telling it, and thank you, Marvel Comics, for letting them.
We can’t wait to see what’s next.