Take a step back everyone, it’s time for a bombshell: I am finally reasonably convinced that Al Ewing is genuinely and deliberately making an effort to portray Loki as genderfluid (or at least, something other than cisgender). Regular readers will recall that I had some issues with Ewing’s semantics regarding Loki’s gender and sexuality, but this concern and many others have been assuaged by Loki: Agent of Asgard #5, wherein Lorelei utilizes her other talents, Verity saves everyone’s butts, and Loki finally catches up with… Loki.
This issue opens with Loki swan-diving off the wing of a plane as Lorelei mocks him, partly to get himself into Asgardia at a velocity that will prevent Heimdall from identifying him, but mostly because it makes him feel like a shorter, skinnier, more annoying James Bond. While Thor provides some distraction by fighting a robot in the sky, Lorelei uses some clever wall-melting magic to dump herself and Loki into Asgardia’s dungeons. She does not seduce a single man along the way, to which I say bravo. Back at the ranch, Verity sits at a computer screen, watching the live feed from Loki’s cell phone and alerting him to which of the dungeon’s traps are real and which are illusions.
To Lorelei’s surprise, Sigurd has rescued himself by the time they arrive. As it turns out, retrieving Sigurd was never really Loki’s plan. While the two Asgardians sat stewing in a Dumpster last issue, Loki proposed a deal: he would let Sigurd borrow Gram, the sword of truth, if Sigurd would allow himself to be captured and work as Loki’s inside man on “the Asgardia job.” Having already escaped from his cell, Sigurd was able to open the final, enchanted dungeon door from the inside and let Loki at his true goal.
Loki’s suspicions were roused after his very first mission—rescuing Thor from an evil spirit—when the All-Mother began asking him to remove all wandering Asgardians from Earth. He is convinced that they are hiding something (or someone) terrible and are perhaps hoping to limit collateral damage when it is unleashed. What he finds in the deepest, darkest dungeons of Asgardia, however, is himself: his aged, wicked, gleeful self, who is very pleased to see him. Thinking that this is the same Loki who was supposedly killed at Ragnarok, Loki runs him through with Gram, but a sword of truth will not destroy something that is entirely true to itself. Instead, Old Loki reveals that he is not the Loki of the past, but rather the Loki of the future, who can walk through time at will. Young Loki, who desperately believed in changing himself, is inescapably fated to fall back into his old ways and become the villain all over again.
Devastated, Loki then learns that the All-Mother knew this all along, and actually worked to place young Loki on a path that would lead him to his villainous future self. By their logic, as long as Loki remained the same, they would always be able to outsmart and overpower him, but young Loki’s uncertain motives and fast-growing power was a gamble.
Though a bit emotionally compromised, I am deeply satisfied by the fact that Loki is now being put face-to-face with his dark past and—apparently—his less-than-promising future. Future Loki even points out the irony inherent in the fact that young Loki was only set upon this path of supposed reform by killing a child and taking his place. While I can’t say I want Loki to become his old self again, there is a certain justice in the way that evil begets evil, and that Loki is his own punishment.
“But wait, Pan”—I imagine you, the abstract reader, interjecting, because I assume that you care—“what about Loki being genderfluid? You made such a big deal of it, surely it must be significant to the plot of this issue!”
First of all, reader, don’t call me Shirley. Second, you would be wrong: Loki’s gender was not even remotely a plot point in this issue, which is precisely what makes it noteworthy. As Loki and Lorelei stand outside the impenetrable dungeon door, Lorelei’s solution is “change into a fly and buzz through the keyhole.” At this point, Loki could simply have stated the facts: a) “I can’t,” and b) “the magic field will zap me anyway.” He doesn’t. What he does do is ignore the door for a moment and go on about shape-shifting, explaining that he can only change into forms that are reflective of his true self. Immediately, for the sake of demonstration, he takes on female form.
Of course, Loki has done this before (he spent several weeks in a female body) but on all previous occasions he has done it for the sake of disguise, as a means to an end. Here, that is not the case. He isn’t going to get through a magically protected door just because he suddenly has a vagina. He is actually stopping the narrative flow and going off on a tangent to explain that—on a fundamental level—part of him is female, and that’s why he can take on a female body so easily and for so long. Future Loki even reinforces this in his own cruel, derisive way, by referring to current Loki as a “precious girl-child” and a “good little girl” on two separate occasions. On neither occasion is Loki in a female body or even doing anything especially feminine.
Ewing promptly undermines this revelation somewhat by having Loki turn into a sort of anthropomorphic fox, but the joke there, I assume, is that Loki is metaphorically a fox, whereas one can’t really be metaphorically a woman. At any rate, Loki’s femininity has made far more than a passing appearance in this run, much to my delight. Unfortunately, his crush on Sigurd remains unrequited.
The next issue of Agent of Asgard converges with the Marvel event Original Sin (how appropriate), leaving me with high hopes that Loki’s path will grow even darker and more convoluted. His relationship with Thor has grown strained, and his big secret remains a secret to everyone but himself and the All-Mother. More heart-crushing reveals are imminent.