With the comics industry continuing to battle the effects of the pandemic, Scott Redmond and I are continuing to talk about comics that the other might not have read. I’m more of a capes, laser guns and swords guy, while Scott loves dark magic, criminals and things that go bump in the night. This week, we take a look at one of Marvel’s villains turned anti-hero turned TV stars.
Wait a second. Something’s off in that introduction. It’s like a god of stories has re-written the last 18 months of columns or something. Weird.
Just kidding! Welcome back to Scott Redmond, who’s stepping in for a vacationing Brendan this week!
In 2014, MCU fever was heating up, and one of the key players in that was Tom Hiddleston’s Loki. The long-time antagonist and supporting character was suddenly a phenomenon, thanks to Hiddleston’s depiction of the character. Enter Loki: Agent of Asgard. Coming off a massively successful run with a younger version of the character in Journey Into Mystery and Young Avengers, the series picked up with a reborn version of the character who was seeking to start a blank slate out of his villainous past.
Created by Al Ewing, Lee Garbett, Nolan Woodard, and Clayton Cowles, this volume sees Loki participating in missions for the All-Mother ruling council of Asgard. He quickly begins to serve his own goals, however, as Loki would be expected to. At the same time, a grave danger is waiting in the shadows, a specter that could pose a danger to the entire Marvel Universe.
Tony Thornley: Hey Scott, welcome back! So our little bit of multimedia synergy this week turned into a way better read than I think either of us ever anticipated, didn’t it? I mean, you and I have both become fans of Al Ewing’s work over the last few years. This was one of his earlier Marvel ongoings, after making a name for himself in the Brit comics scene.
Holy cow though, this was a lot of fun. Ewing just kinda burst onto the American comics scene fully formed, didn’t he?
Scott Redmond: Glad to be back and to be diving into this timely Loki content! Agreed on all fronts. I almost wish I could pull off a Loki right now and break all barriers of time and space to go back and kick myself in 2014 for not reading this title when it first came out. Then again, I would not have been able to read it first for this, which might be the right way for the timeline to be. When Ewing’s name is on the cover, you know you’re getting quality that’s for sure.
Tony: So this is a tough series to button down into an elevator pitch. It’s too modern to be fantasy. It’s too superhero to be spy-fi. It’s an interesting mix of tropes and genres, resulting in a story that’s uniquely Marvel. I really liked that. The first issue was a bit of a superhero spy story. Then we get a magic heist with a huge dose of character spotlight. And so on, and so on. Each issue is something different, but it’s not disparate in tone or direction. Ewing is building to a specific thing, and it’s a blast to watch him get there through this volume.
Scott: Ewing has that undeniable skill to put things out there that under a lot of other creators would just either not work or would be mocked. Instead of serving you up what one thinks of as a cohesive meal he’s just plopping a diverse buffet in front of and loading that plate up with a variety of foods and it tastes pretty darn good.
Tony: I also really liked how Ewing organically built a supporting cast for Loki. He doesn’t just take the easy way out of just saying “Okay, Amora, Balder and Volstagg are Thor supporting characters. I’ll use them.” He takes Thor, then Lorelei (an old obscure supporting character), and a wholly new character named Verity. They all truly feel like a unique part of the cast, not just Ewing taking pieces and throwing them together into a pot.
Scott: It’s a really great move, and it seems like it’s something that fits with Loki cause each of his modern runs comes with at least a character or two similar to this. The issue that introduced Verity was probably hands down my favorite, such a brilliant way to introduce the character and to introduce more of the plot concepts.
Tony: Oh yeah, me too. Verity jumped out immediately, and that issue built her up in a way that when it delivered the twist of her identity, it knocked me back for a second. It was very cool.
Scott: Books like this are fun in that way to me, they can try things and not be weighed down by the usual trappings. I enjoy lots of Thor and Spider-Man and such runs, but often they have the anchor of a lot of the same plotlines and cast plots behind them because of audience expectations. Not with Loki.
Tony: Yeah, I agree. Prior to this, Loki’s only solo story had been Kieron Gillen and company’s Journey into Mystery and this series couldn’t be more different than that. So it really provided Ewing a blank slate for what he wanted to do here.
I don’t think I’ve really read anything by Garbett, but I really enjoyed his work here. Now, he’s very much Marvel House style- the slightly softer character lines, evoking the style of Stuart Immonen. However, he really has a great flair for layouts both in the panels and in how he moves the point of view and the characters through a scene. He just has a great eye for storytelling.
Scott: I’m a huge fan of Garbett’s work with the recent Skyward series and the current Shadecraft series, and it’s really neat to see this work because he’s really evolved. This art is really nice, but the stuff that he and Antonio Fabela are doing now is just beyond gorgeous. Very much agree about the layout and panel work, the way he uses the space is just so good. The standard panel layout is classic and works, but I very much enjoy those that are willing to slide them around and use white space and really push beyond the ‘norm’.
There are a few spots where the detail level of his art doesn’t work as well such as the Avengers Towers page for example. The minimized size of things playing against him somewhat in a few spots, but not in a way that really ruins things. Nolan Woodard helps with that with his really bright color palette choices at times, which seems fitting for a colorful character like Loki.
Tony: Woodard is low-key (see what I did there) one of the better color artists in comics, I think. He did some really great things here- using color palettes to create mood, put clues on the page, even act as a distraction. There’s a two page splash late in the story where Thor is distracting Heimdall. The way he colors the machine Thor is battling (with some textured flats) makes it pop off the page. It’s kind of hard to describe without showing the page (see below), but it looks really cool. He’s still doing great work too, like his recent Jimmy Olsen series with Steve Lieber.
In the end, it’s also clear that the Loki series is taking cues from this series, even if they’re not adapting it. The antagonist being Loki himself, the secret spy antics, the unique handlers. I’m glad the series isn’t directly pulling its story from this series, but it’s sure a good move to look here for inspiration.
Scott: Trying to pick things like that out and notice them about coloring is one of my new favorite things to do since starting reviews and deeper looks at books. Woodard is for sure up there as a colorist. I heavily appreciate the little touch of incorporating the colors most associated with Loki into the scenes as much as possible at times. Green or goldish background framing or making the windows look a gold color on Avengers Tower for example. It just works, cause this is Loki’s story and everything about Loki revolves around Loki.
So on the same page (page cause…comics…that one didn’t work as well) about the show and adaptations. I very much prefer this route of a series or film picking out pieces of inspiration to do their own thing. I’ve read these comics, I don’t need to see scene for scene recreations just in moving format.
Tony: Agreed, but it’s a lot of fun to see the shared DNA.
So what’s your verdict?
Scott: I want to rush and read the next two volumes of the series and almost wish Ewing would add Loki to one of his current books. Just a fun and stellar way to kick off a book, and even with the continuity references it fully feels like a book that you can just hand someone if they want to consume more Loki content. That signature Ewing ‘new reader friendly’ like style.
Tony: Yeah, very true! It’s very Ewing to take something, do a wholly new take on it, but still make it feel remarkably accessible.
So normally Brendan plugs what we’re covering next week, but since he isn’t here, I’ve got to look at his list. It appears we’re jumping into another Donny Cates joint and hitting the road with The Ghost Fleet by Cates and Daniel Warren Johnson!
Loki: Agent of Asgard V1: Trust Me is available now from Marvel Comics.