Scott: The world is built on lies. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that anyone who’s achieved great success wouldn’t have gotten there without at least a little bit of dishonesty. We’re encouraged to lie on our resumes. It’s practically a requirement during job interviews. Can you imagine if politicians couldn’t make any false promises while campaigning? They wouldn’t be able to say anything. And it’s not always such a bad thing. We lie to be polite. We tell our waiters that everything tastes great even though we’ve only taken one bite. They smile and life goes on. It’s harmless. In Loki: Agent of Asgard 2, writer Al Ewing and artist Lee Garbett point out just how common lying really is. It may not be possibly for two people to converse for ten minutes without one of them lying. Now what if Loki, the God of Mischief, is put in a situation where he can’t lie? The outcome might surprise you…
The end of Loki: Agent of Asgard 1 promised “Next time: Loki goes speed dating”, and believe it or not, this issue delivers exactly that. Loki sits down for his 10-minute date across from Verity Willis, a woman who can see through any lie — including Loki’s everyman-disguise — prompting Loki to tell her the true story of his latest mission. The All-Mother has tasked him with tracking down Lorelei and bringing her home to Asgard. He finds that Lorelei has taken to masterminding a huge, annual heist, and he uses his powers of disguise to infiltrate her operation. Loki foils the heist but Lorelei gets away, and she resorts to other methods of making money — like stealing wallets from men at speed dating events. So, Loki has tracked her down yet again, only this time he isn’t trying to return her to Asgard; he’s recruiting her for a heist of his own.
Normally, I’d say introducing a character who can detect lies as a means to get Loki to truthfully recount a story feels rather contrived. Why go through the extra trouble of having Loki tell the story when the issue could easily be presented chronologically? Unless it’s absolutely necessary, using flashbacks to tell a story really irks me. But honestly, I didn’t mind it in this case. I don’t trust Loki farther than I can throw him — fooling anyone and everyone into letting him do whatever he wants is pretty much his M.O. So, putting him around someone who can see right through his bullshit presents an interesting new challenge. And Verity is hardly an afterthought or a device created for one issue; by the end of the issue she’s a well-established character. Her mini autobiography pretty much runs the gamut of emotions.
The idea of a child yanking at a mall Santa’s beard because she knows it’s a lie is a riot. I’m impressed by how quickly Ewing and Garbett transition from that note of comedy into a sense of pervasive sadness. We like to think the world would be a better place without any lies, but we depend on illusions and imagination for our comfort and sanity. Not being able to believe anything that isn’t 100 percent true would make for many sobering experiences, and likely a very lonely existence. It’s not clear what that boy says to Verity to make her sad, but there’s just enough context to paint it as a particularly awful kind of heartbreak. I doubt anyone thinks they would want to hear “I love you, too” from someone who doesn’t mean it, but maybe we take for granted the comfort of being able to believe what we want to believe for at least a little while. Verity is already a great character; her very nature provokes difficult questions we all could ask ourselves.
OK, that’s enough serious stuff. This issue is all about the humor. In what is really a simple story about Loki tracking Lorelei, Ewing and Garbett keep things interesting with a relentless barrage of wit, visual gags, and abrupt and absurd interjections. If this were a film, it would be full of smash cuts and Edgar Wright-style editing flourishes. I didn’t know it was possible for a comic book to get so much humor out of it’s editing! It’ll just be in the middle of a normal conversation when someone mentions something about Loki being a newer iteration, when suddenly, out of nowhere…
That cutaway also underlines the genius of this entire title. While Loki is ostensibly working to gain the trust of those around him, including us readers, let’s not forget he’s in the midst of his greatest ploy yet. Even privy to that information, I still don’t know what to make of him. At the end of the issue, when he tells Lorelei about his big caper, I don’t know if he’s serious or if he’s setting her up. If I had to bet, I’d say it’s both.
Spencer, what’s your take? So far, this series is a big winner with me. I was laughing at every page, and though I’m not usually a fan of stories told primarily via flashback, I thought it was a smart way to introduce Verity, who I really hope sticks around. We need someone who can help us understand what Loki is really thinking, right?
Spencer: While I think Verity will be invaluable in cutting through Loki’s crap, I highly doubt she’ll ever be able to completely understand what Loki’s thinking. Sure, she can always tell when she’s being lied to, but can she tell when secrets are being kept from her? Loki’s tricks go beyond simple lies; what he doesn’t say can often be just as dangerous as what he does say.
That’s not to say Verity won’t be an entertaining foil to Loki, though, and I too look forward to seeing her stick around for a long time. I’m curious to know just exactly where Loki’s interest in her falls. Are his thoughts for Verity romantic, or does he simply want to use her abilities for himself, perhaps in this upcoming heist? The truth likely falls somewhere in-between, but either way, Loki is taking a great risk by ingratiating himself to someone who is immune to his greatest weapon.
Come to think of it, this is par for the course for Loki lately, who seems to have taken to surrounding himself with those most likely to catch him in the act. It’s not just Verity; Loki personally recruited Miss America onto the Young Avengers, yet America was consistently the one member of the team who not only called Loki out, but whom Loki was legitimately afraid of. I’m starting to get the impression that Loki enjoys having someone around who could uncover his plans at any moment. I think he likes the challenge of it.
Anyway Scott, to answer the rest of your question, yeah, I’m really digging this book. You were right to praise Ewing and Garbett’s senses of humor as well as their pacing, because both are on point and absolutely sell every joke.
I love what they do on this opening spread, for example. Garbett shows the scene from Verity’s point of view, leaving the camera static as her dates drift in and out of the panels. The first guy gets to ramble on for a while before she dismisses him, but each encounter gets shorter until the final guy gets chased away in one quick panel. After that we get a moment to rest, then, BAM there’s Loki. Each joke lasts just long enough for maximum humor, and it still fulfills a narrative function by not only introducing Loki, but by creating intrigue about just who this unseen character is.
I think this was my favorite moment in the issue, though. I know Hawkeye used this idea last year, but it was the last thing I was expecting from this issue, and I love how much work the team put into recreating the feel of those old-timey romance book covers; even color artist Nolan Woodward gets to have some fun by recreating the dot effects of old coloring methods. It’s a lot of work for one joke, but all that work paid off, cause I busted a gut over this one.
Even outside the context of jokes or pacing, Garbett’s artwork shines. I’m floored at how expressive his character’s faces are; Garbett must have drawn Loki smirking smugly two dozen times throughout the issue, yet each time it’s the perfect smug smirk for the situation, not the same generic smirk over and over. I also appreciated his character designs. Verity and Lorelei basically have identical faces, but you’re never going to mistake the two characters; it’s not just the tattoos and glasses, but both characters carry themselves completely differently.
Another thing that stands out to me about this title is just how…Midgardian it is, for lack of a better term. I’m used to Thor or Loki stories revolving around magic or mythology, and even when they don’t — like in the most recent Thor: God of Thunder arc — they tend to play up how out of place the characters seem on Earth, yet not so in Loki. Despite the presence of the All-Mother (in Loki’s punch bowl, no less), the conflicts and characters and even the heists remain very grounded in common Earth tropes, and Loki has certainly acclimated to Earth life. I mean, it seems strange to see Loki swiping cash and living in an apartment and worrying about his rug and inviting the neighbors over for lunch, right? It’s certainly amusing to see the more domestic side of Loki, but — since this is the trickster god we’re talking about here — I have to wonder if there’s ulterior motives to this behavior. But who knows, maybe he’s just having a Martha Stewart phase?
Anyway, Ewing and Garbett have given us a book as effortlessly complicated and absolutely charming as its title character, and that’s no small feat. I can’t wait to see what they do with it next month.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?