Wednesday, June 20, 2012

That's Not an Archvillain, It's a Sassy Tween!

So I've spent the past week or so ignoring DC's sad texts and getting caught up on Marvel Comics' Journey Into Mystery. Well, not entirely caught up - it started in 1952 - but caught up on Kieron Gillen's current storyline, in which longtime villain Loki, after confusingly sacrificing himself to save Asgard (he was the one who put it in danger in the first place, as usual) is reincarnated as a precocious, gambling child with no memory of his former self. Oh, and Asgard's in Oklahoma now, long story.

Kids these days.

Loki's still very much chaos-loving god of mischief Loki, but without all the family baggage and world domination goals he's pretty much the happiest, liveliest little teen one could hope for (if only he'd stop with the damn tights). Like any other kid he loves texting on his phone (produced by Stark Industries, natch), hopes to get his driver's permit (again, Oklahoma), and adores milkshakes and puppies. Alas, no one in, well, the universe is willing to trust this "new" Loki. Except, of course, for Thor, who is more than willing to give Simon Tam a run for the coveted "most insanely devoted big brother" award. Thor is delighted to have his brother back, and is sure that in time the rest of Asgard will be just as taken with Loki as he is. In the meantime, however, assaults ranging from mild bullying to full-on assassination attempts are common, and Thor enlists his friends the Warriors Three to help protect his little brother. They do this very, very grudgingly, although Volstagg, a father himself, seems to be warming up to him.

This certainly doesn't mean that Loki's angelic. He's still crafty and tends to bite off more than he can chew, often solving problems by creating a whole new set of problems. All too often, he keeps his teammates in the dark about what the real plan is. Because of this, the All-Mother (his former? current? adopted mother) has leverage to blackmail him into doing her bidding. Also on the parent front, Odin is MIA at the moment (another long story), but wasn't thrilled about Loki's return. However, he's told Heimdall that despite everything, he always considered "old" Loki  to be his true son and would never harm or exile this newcomer.

Leah and Loki aren't actually this lovey-dovey...yet.

Loki has a few allies besides Thor, although they're a motley crew. There's Ikol, the spirit of his old self in the form of a magpie, who might be helpful or malevolent.  Leah, handmaid of the goddess Hela, has also been sent from the underworld to help Loki. Leah's great - she's got all of Loki's snark but none of his enthusiasm. She's a tough cookie. It's exciting to see a strong female character who isn't, uh, a "strong female character." Loki and Leah also end up with an utterly unadoptable hell-hound puppy. Thori (yes, Loki names it Thori) is red-eyed, fire-breathing, and runs around shouting things like "murder!!!", but Loki loves him and hopes to raise him to be a good dog just as Thor hopes to raise Loki to be a good man.

A boy and his dog.

Journey Into Mystery succeeds so well due to its writing. Kieron Gillen's mixture of humor and heart gives us characters to care about, and his fun, thoughtful plots give these characters plenty to do. Good comic writers probably get tired of being compared to Neil Gaiman, but honestly, Sandman is what Journey Into Mystery feels most similar to (and was that un petit hommage in the Terrorism Myth sequence?). Gillen's an artist and craftsman, and Marvel best keep letting him do what he's doing. 

For fans of the Avengers movie who want to get into the comics but aren't sure where to start (it is pretty overwhelming), I definitely suggest Journey Into Mystery. Issues 622-626 have been collected in the Journey Into Mystery: Fear Itself hardcover, and issues 627-631 are in the Journey Into Mystery: Fear Itself Fallout hardcover. The current story (issue 640 is out today) has Loki (with Leah in tow, of course) on a strictly under-the-table diplomatic mission to England's otherworld to help King Arthur & co. in a battle against industrialization. Publication schedule can be seen here. I'm hoping this story goes on for a long time (kid Loki's a character for the ages!), although Gillen's words here sound ominous. :(

No Sleipnir jokes; he's a kid.

Image Info:
Loki on cellphone: panel from Journey Into Mystery 622, illustrated by Doug Braithwaite 
Loki & Leah cover: Journey Into Mystery 625
Thori & Loki: panel from Journey Into Mystery 632, illustrated by Mitch Breitweiser
Horsie cover: Journey Into Mystery 640

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