Friday, May 11, 2012

Loki, Journey Into Mystery

For a long time I've been a fan of Viking Mythology. Not just from reading the comic Thor - but I learned a lot about the actual Viking Mythology from a Viking Longships class in highschool. They did all sorts of different Viking related projects, from making armor, re-creating an actual viking boat ...I think I also heard something about a catapult at one point. For me, I gravitated to the mythology - and it's use in comic and comic strips. (Thor and Haggar the Horrible being a main focus) I loved getting into the mythology so much that I even began writing short stories and whatnot. While I by no means became an expert on the subject, that class had a lot of meaning for me -- and what I learned from it today still informs me whenever the Viking Gods are of subject.

Awhile ago I tried getting into Thor again, but Matt Fraction and the $4 price tag of each issue really soured me on the series. The lack-luster "Fear Itself", also written by Fraction, didn't help either. So I stopped reading the series. Now the blockbuster Avengers movie comes out - and Loki is in a starring role. Loki has always been one of my favorite characters from the mythology. He's complex and interesting, and had something akin to a character arch as the years went on - as, with the encroachment of Christianity, Loki went from being a god of Mischief, to being a god of evil. Such complexity has always been central to the character - and has been well represented over the years in Marvel Comics. The mini-series "Loki" - by Robert Rodi and Esad Ribic, probably gave us the purest example of Loki's ultimate failing: he's meant to be the villain. At the end of that mini-series he attempts to break the cycle of rivalry with his brother, but is unable to breakout of his alloted role in life. It's basically an argument of nature vs nurture - but with fictional characters somewhat being aware they are fictional, and have pre-determined roles already written. That's an instantly fascinating character concept - and fits very well in the modern day Viking Myths, as portrayed in Marvel Comics.

Anyway -- when at the comic store recently I ran into Journey into Mystery #621.1 - one of Marvel's introductory issues to new readers. It had Pascal Ferry doing art - who I'm always impressed by with his stunning water-color like drawings. I had always been hearing good things about Journey into Mystery. The series, starring a Young Loki, had taken over the numbering of the Thor title, while Thor went off and began a new title with a new #1. The art I saw from it was stunning, and I even heard it being compared to DC's Sandman - high praise indeed! I decided to give the issue a chance, and see what it was like.

The issue shows Loki summoning a powerful entity, called a Teller. We're introduced and shown Loki's current status. Loki died a few years back in the mini-series "Reign" - which saw the Trickster god's schemes catch up with him - and dying to help save Asgard. (Which he put in danger in the first place, naturally.)

Loki's death would not last long - in Matt Fraction's first few issues of Thor, we saw Loki reincarnated as a young boy - and brought back into the fold by his now elder brother.

I really loved this idea - of making Loki a child. It helps to redeem him, makes him easier to root for, and gives him the chance to forge a new and possibly more honorable path than what he ended up with previously. He's still a mischief maker, to be sure -- be he's once again the naive young boy who still loves his brother Thor. Thor, likewise, enjoys having the brother he thought lost back in his life again.

As issue #621.1 shows, the rest of Asgard does not agree with Thor's decision. Loki has been a menace to Asgard all his adult life - and his swan-song machinations leading to an assault on Asgard itself seemed like the last straw - for which Loki paid for with his life. Even though Thor trusts him, the rest do not.

The obvious reason to not trust him, of course, is that everyone assumes this is another elaborate trick on Loki's part. Since picking up issue #621.1, I've found that what the others assume is correct. Before he died, Loki was able to have Hela, the Goddess of Death, write his name out of the Book of Death - allowing for Loki to instead be reincarnated.

This was indeed Loki's scheme - but the reasoning behind it isn't as sinister as the citizens of Asgard would think. Loki, essentially, wanted to break out of his role. He knew he was going too far - and even worse was becoming predictable. Loki wanted a new start - a new personality - one not weighed down by his past mistakes. This new young Loki is legitimately a blank slate -- he can be as good or as evil as he wants, as time will tell.

Loki, though, does keep a part of his old self along with him - putting his old personality into a raven called Ikol. (The Reverse of Loki) I hope this doesn't eventually lead to a restoration into an adult Loki, at least not anytime soon -- I like this new version a lot more.

After the Teller concluded showing Loki the thoughts of the others in Asgard, Loki find himself in a pickle when the Teller says he requires payment for the information he told. Beginning to suck Loki dry - the Teller exclaims that the price for the Telling of the here and now is that of his future. Luckily Thor comes in at the last second and rescues his younger brother. The Teller relents and gives up trying to get payment from Loki. He warns, however, that Thor may someday curse the decision save Loki.

I think I'll get the TPBs of the previous issues so far at a later date; this  Point 1 issue suitably catches you up to speed. Right now Journey Into Mystery is involved in a mini-cross over with the title New Mutants. This Exiled storyline seems like a good enough place to start.

The New Mutants might at first sound like a strange group to crossover with the mystical "Journey Into Mystery" -- but there actually is a fair amount of history between the New Mutants and Asgard. They had a well loved adventure lost in Asgard many years ago - which changed some of them forever. Danielle Moonstar, for instance, became a Valkyrie - which has been a part of her character ever since then. I don't know exactly what they have planned for this mini-series, or what will happen in it - but I'm looking forward to reading it. It starts with a One-Shot, Exiled #1 - and then carries over to Journey Into Mystery #637, #638, and New Mutants #42 and #43. Exiled and Journey into Mystery #637 have already come out - with the other three issues coming out each week for the rest of this month.

I hope jumping into the series here will work out. The stories I've only seen glimpses of so far show a wonderfully detailed, complex, and charming world. Written by Kieron Gillen, the series has frequently been described as being better than the regular Thor book. A wide range of characters are utilized in the series thus far, pitting Young Loki up against the likes of Hela, Mephisto, Surtur, and Nightmare.

Loki does have help, though, on his new adventures. A servant of Hela's - a young girl of death named Leah has become a partner of sorts with Loki. I haven't read that much about her yet - but it looks like these two little kids have a sweet, but immature, romance brewing.

Loki at one point even gets a dog. I'm not positive, but I think it may be the wolf Fenris - but shrunken down to a manageable size.

I really like it when books I read truly get me excited and spark my imagination. This seems like a series that does more than just fills in as a second Thor title - but rather is trying to weave a wonderful, mature, and innovative series. I like what I've seen so far - and if that comparison to Neil Gaiman's Sandman is even a little bit true - I think I'll be pleased with this series.

I look forward to reading the series further - and will definitely catch up on the issues I missed later. If you want to give the series a try, the Exiled Crossover seems like a good starting point -- or the first TPB, which you can find here on Amazon.


  1. Reading this makes even sadder about the fact I have been short of money for two years, living far from comic books all that time...

    I wish I can someday get at least some of the stories I am missing (this one I would definitely get, since I love Loki).

  2. Aww, I'm sorry to hear that. Well, the TPBs will still be around when thing pick up for you. And as for not being near a comic shop -- you can order TPBs (the HC are even ranging from $12 to $15), or buy issues online through the Marvel Comixology app. (I think they reduce older issues to $2 after a while. So the earlier Journey into Mystery might be more affordable.) Although I know ipads, or iphones and such cost money too!

    I didn't mean for my article to depress anyone. I hope things get better for you soon!

    1. Thanks. There would be no problems getting them if I had money (old-time customer of my comic book shop and also Amazon).

      I will have to go slow with the catching up... With the cosmic Marvel and Ms. Marvel titles perhaps taking priority, since I love them and they would be easier to complete.