Today, Spencer and Taylor are discussing Loki: Agent of Asgard 11, originally released February 18th, 2015.
Spencer: When reading a new book, it’s easy to feel like the story is malleable. Sure, we know the ending has already been written, and, in fact, is already printed on the upcoming pages, but until we’ve actually read those pages, there’s always a feeling of freedom, like maybe, if we wish hard enough, we can push the story in the direction we want it to go. Once we’ve finished the book, though, that feeling goes away; the ending was always concrete, but now that we’ve seen it with our own eyes, the idea that maybe we can influence its outcome essentially vanishes. Al Ewing and Lee Garbett make that idea literal in Loki: Agent of Asgard 11. The series has always been about Loki’s attempt to reform, but the arrival of his evil future self — “King Loki” — essentially makes that impossible. If King Loki represents the end of Loki’s story, as plain is if it’s written on the page, then what chance could Loki possibly have to escape that fate?
That’s what makes this issue’s cliffhanger so chilling. King Loki has his younger self strapped to a chair, ready to tell him exactly how he comes to be. Earlier, King Loki makes sure to point out that the gods of Asgard are stories, creatures of pure symbol and metaphor; thus, the more Loki knows about his own future, the less of a chance he has to change those events. Trapping Loki in the role of the villain has always been King Loki’s endgame, and he’s dangerously close to achieving his goal.
As far as I’m concerned, that would be very bad; the last thing the Marvel Universe needs is another horrifically evil incarnation of Loki running around causing havoc. Still, up to this point All-Mother Freyja has felt justified helping King Loki because of his promise that his existence ensures a perfect, prosperous future for Asgardia. King Loki’s disappearance seems to insinuate that this was a lie from the start (what did Freyja expect?), but even before she realizes this, “our” Loki calls her out on her hypocrisy.
Freyja has every right to be angry and hurt over the death of Kid Loki, but Loki’s just as justified when he points out how her partnership with King Loki would leave him little choice but to become a villain again anyway. It’s certainly not her finest moment.
In many ways, this kind of back-and-forth is what Loki: Agent of Asgard 11 is all about. While last month’s issue left us wondering whether Loki was even worthy of forgiveness, this one places more emphasis on his role as a victim and tool, an echo who was designed solely to kill Kid Loki and had no choice in the matter. Still, Ewing makes sure to show the toll this murder takes on everyone who loved Kid Loki, a consequence Loki cannot escape no matter how little agency he had in the act.
I love the choice Garbett and Ewing make here with Volstagg; his face has been hidden in shadow throughout the entire scene, which at first paints him as a fearsome presence, but ultimately serves more to obscure his pain, a pain he can no longer hide by the last panel.
King Loki also makes sure to remind both Verity and the audience of Loki’s other sins.
There’s nobody else Loki can blame for what he did to the Young Avengers; that’s all on him. When dealing with any incarnation of Loki — even a more relatively tame incarnation like this one — it’s always important to remain skeptical and remember everything he’s done in the past, but what I find interesting about this scene is that King Loki brings the Young Avengers up, not to help Verity, but to further damn Loki. Loki as a character has always found strength in tricks, manipulation and lies, which is why being forced to tell the truth has essentially neutered “our” Loki, but King Loki seems to be almost solely telling the truth. He knows how dangerous and hurtful the truth can be and has found a way to mercilessly wield it as a weapon, and that may just make him the most dangerous version of Loki yet.
I suppose that’s why, as screwed up and flawed as he is, I’m still rooting for our Loki to find a way to survive and redeem himself. If nothing else, he’s by far the lesser of two evils.
Surprisingly, the only character who seems to see through both these Lokis is Odin himself. Unlike Jason Aaron’s take on the character as the oppressive, clueless patriarchy personified, Ewing portrays him as the master of all stories, a man who understands exactly who Loki is, loves him regardless, but still understands that Loki must be allowed to face the consequences of his actions (perhaps making him a stand-in for Loki’s savviest fans?). This seems to imply that trying to have his evil deeds erased was never the best path to redemption; if Loki wants to be forgiven, he first has to prove himself worthy of it by owning up to his actions. I suppose that’s a powerful lesson for anyone, trickster god or not.
Taylor, what do you think: can Loki find a way to escape the perverse narrative King Loki has constructed for him, and if so, is he worthy of forgiveness? What do you make of the crow’s omen and Odin’s somewhat cryptic advice? Do you think there’s any meaning behind the imagery of Loki’s broken horn?
Taylor: If anything, I feel like the broken horn Loki is sporting is a sign of the potential for him to change the preordained narrative of his life. King Loki is always drawn wearing a helmet with two horns. The difference between the two is striking and hardly seems incidental.
The reason this stands out is that the point where Loki begins wearing a one-horned helmet, also happens to be a climax of sorts to his story. From this point onward, Loki is either going to fulfill the prophecy of becoming King Loki, or he’ll become something entirely new and different. Given the different in how he looks, my bet is on him forging his own path in the future. The one horned helmet is a statement of sorts, showing us that he is become someone different from the evil Loki we are familiar with. Sure, he may still be kind of a jerk, but he may also be kind of nice at the same time.
Of course the idea of Loki making his own story is one that inhabits the very fabric of this issue. At the heart of the exploration of narrative lies Odin, who whether truthfully or no, claims to be the progenitor of all stories.
He claims to speak for the “The Tree” which is basically the universe, and also claims that he is the “King of All Stories.” Being King, we can assume Odin has knowledge of the the stories he is king of. With this in mind, we can only assume he knows how the story of Loki ends, even if it ends in Loki becoming truly evil. However, Odin speaks to Loki with nothing short of unguarded love and affection, which would seem to make us think he at least believes this version of his son is or will be lovable. Now, while most parents love their children unconditionally, Odin is not most parents, and Loki is not most children. That is to say, I don’t think Odin’s love is unconditional. Considering that, doesn’t it seem like Odin, knowing Loki turns out well, finds him a child worth loving?
The family dynamics of Asgard are confusing even to those close to the breast of the All-Mother and while Odin may indeed love Loki, that doesn’t guarantee his goodness. Freyja, who, similarly to Odin, seems to harbor some sort of fondness for Loki, banishes the trickster from Asgardia.
I really appreciate the way Lee Garbett and colorist Antonio Fabela portrays this scene. First, the orange of the fireball against the white backdrop is a striking color choice that immediately catches the eye. It’s a simple color scheme but one that finds balance in the small amount of orange compared to the expansive white. Moreover — and what really wins me over with this page — is how it mirrors what is happening in the narrative. Loki is being exiled, which means he is being separated from his friends and family. He is alone. That thought is mirrored in this page because we see Loki isolated in his fireball, with words “BEGONE!” scrawled across the page. It doesn’t win points for subtlety, but it does well to get the point across.
So is Loki’s story writ in stone? I think the answer is almost certainly yes. But that does’t necessarily mean he’s doomed to a life of good or evil. The only one who knows that might just be Odin, and aside from occasionally being loving, he’s not one to divulge information freely. The only way we mortals get the story is to read on.
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