It’s Loki – but not as you knew him. Or maybe it is.
While Mjolnir may not have changed hands yet again, there’s no denial that this issue is Loki Laufeyson’s story – making his All-New, All-Different Marvel debut in a tale that writer Jason Aaron claims is a natural evolution of the character, yet somehow feel inconsistent? Maybe it’s the goatee.
Jumping off from the conclusion of Agent of Asgard – which saw Loki re-identify as the God of Stories in a more mischevious, yet heroic role alongside his best friend Verity Willis – here we follow Loki in a more conventionally duplicitous role. But while it remains entirely unclear whether he aims to aid or attack Jane Foster, it begs the question – isn’t Loki past this kind of thing?
Loki has perhaps received more nuanced, fascinating character development in the last five years than just about any other hero or villain I can think of. Young Avengers and Loki: Agent of Asgard writers, Kieron Gillen and Al Ewing, took the trickster demigod and forged a character of Shakespearean proportions – conflicted, heartbroken, incredibly guilty, constantly aspiring and mercilessly witty. (And – when Marvel will allow it – briefly gender fluid.)
Between accepting responsibility for killing his childhood innocence personified, developing his first real friendships and taking on his twisted future self before choosing his own path, Loki isn’t the same character he used to be and while that’s really interesting, it also means he doesn’t fit the same old narrative tropes that he used to. I think Aaron even understands that – ‘A Loki writes his own story. And since you’ve been dead for so very long, father, I’ll forgive you not knowing… but my story has been rather fan-****-tastically good for quite a long damn while now.’
That determination is frankly inspiring to witness but is it reflected in Loki’s role in this story? Playing villains and heroes against one another as he employs yet grander trickery? None of it feels consistent with Loki’s aspiration to become the God of Stories as Aaron attempts to return Loki to a more simplistically antagonistic perspective in a way that doesn’t feel genuine anymore.
As queer readers, self-understanding and re-identification aren’t just the frippery of resetting a character status quo – they’re integral to how we see ourselves and the world around us. To follow Loki on such a turbulent but meaningful path toward a new stability, a new self over the course of years was an incredibly rewarding experience and even the suggestion that Aaron could be winding that back gives me an incredibly uneasy feeling in my gut.
Loki’s personal journey is so intensely queer coded that such a casual roll back in this fashion offers undeniable cause for concern. The dynamic between Loki and his father (Frost Giant King Laufey, natch) lampshades that dimension even more clearly – as the traditional paternal figure brutally rejects his own child for not conforming to expected cultural behaviour. But why should Loki even try and develop that relationship? Is it merely double cross? Opening oneself up to that kind of personal pain is, again, a very real and potentially traumatic experience that needs real motivation and logic behind it – elements not quite yet established in this story.
On the whole, this is a good issue of Thor – Aaron and artist Russell Dautermann continue to build a visually and politically charged world for Jane Foster where the stakes feel real and the characters emotionally complex. Nevertheless, Loki is a special case at a superhero publisher and deserves particular focus when being utilised by any creative team. At a time when Marvel’s queer representation is so abysmal, any LGBTQ character with the sheer luck to have been nurtured in the past should be moving forward, not returning to old tricks.
Writer – Jason Aaron
Artist – Russell Dauterman
Colour Artist – Matthew Wilson
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Adam Sorice is a literate graduate turned grown-up who writes about comics when he’s not describing himself in the third person. He wrote his dissertation on Lady Gaga; he’s quite proud of this.