So if you’re a fan of shapely ladies in skimpy armor, it turns out that Heaven (or Heven, as it’s spelled in-universe) really is all it’s cracked up to be. This realm—the long-forgotten “tenth realm”—is where Thor and Loki find themselves in Thor & Loki: The Tenth Realm Volumes 2 and 3, on their search for Thor’s supposedly long-dead sister. Unfortunately, the locals seem to be hostile toward Asgardians in particular, and Thor and Loki each have to use their own skills to avoid being eviscerated.
As you may have noticed, this review covers two issues. Because of scheduling changes, the Original Sin arc releases every two weeks, whereas Agent of Asgard released only one issue per month. I’ll be damned if Marvel is going to tell me how to live my life, so my schedule is going to stay the same until Marvel gets with the program and goes back to one release per month. Getting back to the task at hand, though, our hero and anti-hero have now opened the gateway between the tenth realm and the other nine realms, and at the beginning of Issue 2, they make first contact with the natives, all of whom are beautiful women with wings. Being the tactful chap that he is, Thor immediately announces that he is an Asgardian, and the angelic beings descend upon him most grumpily over what seem to be ancient grudges.
Loki, of course, skedaddles as fast as his seven-league boots can take him, choosing to get at the source of the problem rather than be beaten bloody. He creeps into the audience hall of the queen, and though their first encounter is blade-first, he finds her to be surprisingly cordial, especially once she learns that Loki is not Asgardian by birth. The two sit down to have a cup of tea while Thor pummels angels in a berserker rage outside.
The queen explains that she and her people are not so much evil as they are intensely pragmatic. The angels are effectively a whole race of ultra-efficient, ultra-logical mercenaries, who live only by what is most profitable and most practical. She claims that Odin hired her and her deadly ladies early on in mankind’s history to protect the still-young human race from being killed off by errant Asgardians. The problem they had with Odin is that he never paid them. He claimed that their task was a righteous one and that they should do it for the sake of honor, a concept that the angels did not take kindly to. They sold their services to a more business-minded party with both money and a common grudge against Odin, and the war between Asgard and the angels led to Odin sealing off the tenth realm.
It’s clear to the queen that Loki—especially in light of the All-Mother’s recent betrayal—finds the angels’ brand of ethics highly appealing. The queen praises his cunning and his intelligence, and encourages the notion that Asgardians have only ever punished him for the good he has tried to do. Meanwhile, outside, Angela/Aldrif has taken over the fight with Thor, neither realizing their true relationship. She soundly beats him and is preparing to strike the killing blow when a messenger from the queen insists that he be captured alive. When Thor regains consciousness as the queen’s prisoner, he finds that Loki, in female form, has been declared the queen’s Mistress of Strategy, apparently betraying Asgard once again.
I have my suspicions that Loki’s involvement with the angels is some kind of long con, but it’s difficult to tell for sure. His mind is somewhat more mercurial than angelic ethics, but honor has never been his favorite virtue, and he is certainly emotionally compromised by the way the All-Mother has manipulated him and shunned his attempts at redemption. The queen clearly knows how to play him. Loki jokingly says “shall I be mother?” as they sit down together—common English slang for “I’ll pour the tea”—and after she spends a while leading the conversation and prompting Loki to dwell on how the All-Mother had wronged him, she casually mimics the phrase.
I imagine that Loki’s choice, if he hasn’t made it already, will come down to his feelings for Thor. Loki’s relationship with Asgard on the whole is shaky at best, so it’s unlikely he will make any life-changing decisions solely for the sake of his adopted homeland, but Thor is now Angela’s prisoner, and though Loki is professedly reformed, his relationship with Thor is actually becoming much less clear than it was when Loki was a villain through and through.
In the past, Loki’s obsessive hatred of Thor actually kept Thor relatively safe. Because Loki’s bitterness was such a defining part of his character, without Thor he was directionless, isolated, and generally ineffective. It was very much a “nobody is allowed to kill Thor except me” situation. Now, however, Loki claims to want a positive relationship with Thor, but he isn’t maintaining it very well. He pushed Thor into the “Asgardian Caper,” which Thor was vocally uncomfortable about, and seems to spend more time asking for favors than really bonding. It’s unclear whether his new brotherly love will prove as strong as his old obsessive hatred, and whether the offer of acceptance from a new “family” will prove tempting enough to abandon his loyalty to Thor.
To my surprise, I have found the angels to be quite likable, in spite of the armor bikinis that I’ve harped on quite enough by now. Their cold, efficient logic is an unexpected cultural trait for a race of beings that has traditionally been kindness incarnate. I happen to be a sucker for any character with a chaotic neutral alignment, and Heven is apparently full to bursting with them. I’m still not sure how I feel about Angela/Aldrif; she certainly seems more hot-blooded than her angelic counterparts, and the others seem to tolerate her unusual behavior only because she is physically the strongest. I prefer the pragmatists.
Will Loki assimilate into angel culture? Are there elaborate cons at play? Will there be angel-boys in skimpy armor underpants? I don’t know, I read the comics the same time everyone else does—but regardless of the answers, you can be sure I’ll be talking about them next month!