Friday, 7 February 2014

New Beginnings - Loki, Agent of Asgard #1

by Matt Puddy

As revealed a few weeks ago in the Marvel Point One review, one of the new titles entering the fray in 2014 is Loki, Agent of Asgard. The teaser we got was full of the typical mischief and misdirection we expect from Loki, all in the service of recovering a sword. In this first issue we get to find out exactly why.

Al Ewing, a well known British 2000AD writer, has penned the story for us. We learn that the real reason that Loki was sent to retrieve the sword was not for its killing potential as a weapon, but for another ability that can be used to save someone, although this too is not without risk. Loki is being guided on a quest for the benefit of Asgard by the All-Mother (still reigning in Odin's place after the events of Fear Itself). Under their guidance Loki sets off for Avengers Tower. Using a few magical items to assist him, he climbs the tower only to be sniffed out by his brother Thor.

Now given the past that Loki has with Thor and the Avengers as a whole, the negative reaction and treatment he is given is no surprise. Before not too long though he is up to his normal tricks of twisting words, using subtle – and some not so subtle – misdirection and mirage to accomplish what he needed to do and also serve his own needs. For the Sword of Sigur was intended to be driven through Thor as we saw in the opening page, in what appeared to be a visceral attack. However it is the other ability of the sword that was desired - to make the individual struck by it face the truths that they deny themselves. In Thor’s case it was the evil that has resided within him.

It’s not an easy thing to stab the God of Thunder through the back in front of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, but an illuminated Thor speaks on Loki's behalf and it isn't long before the newly minted Agent of Asgard is back in front of the All-Mother, complete with the evil that he stripped from Thor. This where the biggest twists come in though. Loki claims to be acting as said agent in the spirit of redemption, but is he really? This young Loki is most certainly trying to clean the slate, but upon opening the jar the All-Mother reveals the true character behind this. Loki’s former self.

Now I have to be honest, after the Point One issue I had high hopes for this title. The newest incarnation of Loki was interesting and I can understand his motivation (even though it’s still Loki and I wouldn’t trust him at all!), but this first issue didn’t excite me as much as I wanted. What it did do was open a lot of ideas in my head though, with the duality of the Trickster being showcased, along with a lingering feeling that this is a character who isn’t easily played, so there must be more to this and more to come. This is a title that may well become indispensable over the course of the coming arcs, despite a slightly lacklustre debut.

Lee Garbett’s artwork is similarly conflicting for me. Although I wasn’t taken aback by the overall artistry, I really liked the emotive faces and body language that you are given all the way through the issue, such as the comical moment just before Loki is punched by Hulk. Garbett demonstrates time and time again how he can skilfully convey the feelings throughout. He’s also done it in such a fashion that - when combined with my thoughts on Loki’s acumen - I really couldn’t entirely trust the All-Mother. I don’t believe Loki is that naive! The depiction of the former Loki is also strikingly different from his newer self, complete with a craven pose that demonstrates an entirely different body language and hints at devious actions ahead. A great piece of work.

This first issue has some fantastic elements to it which impressed me, but also others which dulled the impact a little and made it not quite live up to my expectations. I will be interested to see which way this goes. It’s perhaps not one for Tom Hiddleston lovers, but still worth a peek.

Matt Puddy is ready for a trip into the unknown...

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