No Really, Trust Me: Pan’s Review of Thor & Loki: The Tenth Realm #4 and #5

If at any point this Wednesday you happened to hear a screech of victory carried on the early autumn air, that was probably me. Sorry if I startled you. As any regular readers will surely know by now, I have been both deeply invested in and deeply dubious of Al Ewing’s claims about Loki’s gender fluidity and the appropriate representation thereof. Over the course of ten issues, I went from cautiously optimistic to staunchly pessimistic to pleasantly surprised, but though the hints and mentions of Loki’s unconventional relationship with gender have been leaning in the right direction, they have heretofore remained simply hints and mentions. Rejoice, happy readers, for the cloud of vagueness has passed, the indistinct hand-waving has coalesced into fact, there shall be no more shrugs and “ehh” noises. As of Thor & Loki: The Tenth Realm #5, Loki is expressly and unambiguously stated to be both male and female in nature. Raise a glass.

Menstruation can't be that ba - oh my god, I changed my mind.

Menstruation can’t be that bad—oh my god, I changed my mind, moving back to dicktown.

I find it necessary to point out that because Loki lately uses both male and female pronouns depending on the form “he” takes, I will hereafter refer to Loki using neutral pronouns “ey” and “eir” to avoid confusion.

Plot? Oh, yeah, there was a plot. As of last issue, Thor and Loki had gone charging off to the previously-inaccessible Tenth Realm, a realm inhabited by angels, to find their presumed-dead sister. Predictably, shortly after arriving Thor took to punching things and got himself imprisoned, and Loki (equally predictably) went creepering off into the angel queen’s chambers, where the two had tea and got quickly to scheming. When Loki and Thor were reunited, Thor was chained up and it appeared that Loki had gone turncoat again and sided with the angels. Also, ey had decided to deliver news of eir untrustworthiness as a lady, apparently just for funsies.

Bueller? Bueller?

Bueller? Bueller?

Just as I thought, Loki’s “betrayal” of Thor was a scheme in itself. Because the Tenth Realm had been cut off from the world tree for so long, the angel queen had no knowledge of the fall of Asgard and its reconstruction as part of Midgard-space. When Loki promised that ey could conquer Asgard for her, the queen gave Loki command of a fleet of battleships and a few battalions of soldiers, but the Asgard that Loki led the angels to was in fact an uninhabited, sealed-off world containing only Odin and eir evil brother, who were eternally vying with one another. Claiming that ey had disabled Asgard’s defenses, Loki tricked the entire fleet of angels into crashing their ships into Asgard’s protective barrier, destroying the ships as well as the force field itself. In a move that was very telling of Loki’s new-found moral fiber, ey even asked before the attack if anyone wanted to back out of the mission for vengeance and spare themselves a terrible, fiery death.

Back in the Tenth Realm, Thor had used the time that the angel queen was distracted to muster up some clouds (a previously unknown phenomenon in that realm) and bring down some stormy, thundery wrath. Angela, being the strongest of the hunters, challenged Thor to single combat in an attempt to stop his godly rampage, but in the midst of their fight, Odin—newly freed from the ruins of Asgard—intervened. In a “revelation” that came as a surprise to precisely no one with a brain, Odin recognized Angela as his daughter Aldrif, and much gasping was done throughout the realm. With the revelation that Angela is actually an Asgardian, she is banished from the Tenth Realm and fated to wander the cosmos without a home. Altruistically, Loki offers her eir sofa. Odin, Thor, and Loki leave the Tenth Realm together, metaphorically arm-in-arm, and in a shocking, uncharacteristic show of emotion, Odin tells all his children that he loves them.

Sudden backpedaling in the "terrible parenting" category.

Sudden backpedaling in the “terrible parenting” category.

This very moment is what I was referring to earlier: the specific, unambiguous contextual evidence that Loki is both male and female. The preface to Odin’s statement of affection is this: “my son, and my daughter, and my child who is both.” I swooned a little just typing that quote, do forgive me. The only way it could have been arguably more perfect is if Loki had commented on eir own identity, but Loki has historically been both a liar and an unreliable narrator, so even that may have left room for debate. In addition to the statement in dialogue, which Loki did not correct or deny, Loki spent the entirety of #4 and #5 as a woman for no specific reason (other than that ey wanted to, presumably).

While it is true that the angels ey pretended to take up with were all female, the queen never told em that ey had to be female to be accepted, and there is no indication that she knew ey was a shapeshifter and therefore had that capacity at all. Furthermore, even after Loki betrayed the angels, ey never resumed male form. Also, throughout eir time spent in female form, Loki’s gender was not called into question once. Everyone, including Thor, referred to em as “she” when in female form and “he” when in male form, with no protest or discussion.

Next month, after the Original Sin event—of which “The Tenth Realm” spinoff is a part—Agent of Asgard will resume its slightly quirky, slice-of-life take on Loki’s new personality and moral struggles, and while some of my other expectations for the series have not played out yet (Loki is a child-murdering body-snatcher and Thor doesn’t know this, remember?) getting past this “maybe-but-maybe-not” stage of Loki’s gender representation is a bit of a relief. It’s a completely necessary but frankly still fairly gutsy move on the part of the writer as far as the mainstream audience is concerned, and it gives me faith in Ewing’s commitment to the character. Now all he has left to do is make good on his claims about Loki being bisexual and we will really have gotten somewhere (or at least, Loki will have gotten somewhere, throw the kid a bone).

The only thing that honestly disappointed me was the lack of male angels in metal speedos to balance the excess of female angels in metal bikinis, but I suppose I can’t have everything. Tune in next month for more flailing, same geek time, same geek website.

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2 thoughts on “No Really, Trust Me: Pan’s Review of Thor & Loki: The Tenth Realm #4 and #5

  1. Pingback: Angela: Asgard’s Assassin #1 Exceeds Expectations | Lady Geek Girl and Friends

  2. Pingback: No Really, Trust Me: Pan’s Review of Loki: Agent of Asgard #11 | Lady Geek Girl and Friends

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