I’m sure someone somewhere has already tallied how many full-scale apocalypses the Marvel universe has been through. The number is sure to be dwarfed only by the number of apocalypses it has avoided. Well, we were less lucky than average this time, because the gods are dead (along with everyone else) and reality has been destroyed. Way to jazz up a Wednesday afternoon. As I mentioned before, this latest disaster is part of a larger Marvel event called Secret Wars that has something to do with all the Nine Realms all smashing into each other, but the immediate problem in Loki: Agent of Asgard is that Evil Old Man Loki has aligned himself with Hela and freed Jormungandr to attack Asgard. Meanwhile, back on Earth, Loki Nouveau (ie “The God(dess) of Stories”) remembers only one clear thing from eir prior life, and it’s that Verity Willis was eir only real friend.
As Loki wages war on Asgard, killing gods and cracking terrible jokes, Loki Nouveau houses Verity Willis’s soul in a pretty glowing bracelet to protect her from being annihilated along with her physical form when the world comes to an end. Just as it seems certain that Evil Old Man Loki will win, Odin blows a magical horn to resurrect all the dead gods, and Loki Nouveau turns up to join the legion of newly-zombified gods in Asgard’s defense. It turns out that Loki’s temporary amnesia severed the sort of psychic link between emself and Evil Old Man Loki, leading Old Man to believe ey was dead. Upon being faced with Loki Nouveau and all the resurrected gods, Evil Old Man Loki loses his nerve and flees into the ether.
Loki Nouveau is hailed by all as a hero. This is exactly what all previous iterations of Loki would have wanted most: attention, adoration, praise. Odin even proudly compares Loki to Thor and calls em “son”, but Loki Nouveau shakes off the All-Father’s promises, insisting that ey is done taking “sides”. It seems that the “God(dess) of Stories” shtick is more than a casual new naming scheme: Loki has managed to separate emself from the cycle of loving and hating Asgard and all its denizens.
As the Nine Realms dissolve into nothingness, Loki captures the “stories” of every deity present, and since it has been previously established that gods’ physical presence is shaped by their stories, it is implied that they will, in a non-metaphorical way, live on in legend. Verity, as she’s caught up in the business of gods these days, will presumably be allowed to exploit the same loophole.
In addition to the dramatic end-of-the world nonsense, we get a little bit of Verity’s backstory in these issues as well. Evidently her grandfatherfather had some connection to Asgard, and was given a magical ring that allowed the wearer to see through lies. It was passed on to Verity’s father, and accidentally eaten by Verity as a baby. It is strongly implied that Verity is also aromantic, but whether this is due to her general distrust of people or simply a personal inclination is unclear. Her mother apparently pushed her to try speed dating in spite of her general disinterest, which is how she met Loki.
Loki’s development in these issues is interesting, because it stands in such stark contrast to eir prior motives. In #9, Loki is briefly able to lift Thor’s hammer, and it is framed as one of the greatest moments—if not the single most momentous moment—in Loki’s life, because ey has always lived eir life in Thor’s shadow, comparing emself to Thor, trying either to emulate or destroy him out of blind, desperate obsession. The only comparably massive obsession Loki has is to be accepted and/or feared by Odin. Yet when Odin says “My son Thor is lost—but Loki has risen to become his equal at last” Loki responds immediately “You don’t get it, do you? I’m not playing anymore. The answer’s no.” Not only has Loki dismissed the comparison to Thor, he has rejected Odin’s acceptance entirely.
On the one hand, this is a welcome change from the decades-old obsess/destroy/obsess/destroy cycle that defines Loki’s character, on the other hand, it almost makes Loki not Loki anymore. Ey has taken on new forms before, but some form of this singular motive has always remained constant, for better or worse. Frustrated though I have been lately with the tie-ins and the crossovers and the story stagnation, I am compelled to see if this change sticks or if it will all be retconned in a few months or years so the Marvel universe can return to Loki as ey has always been. Personally, I would prefer to see the traditional, predictable Loki abandoned. We’ve had enough almost-comical caricatures of villainy, that angle has long since worn thin, and much like with Kieron Gillen’s (highly successful) run on Journey Into Mystery, we now have a unique opportunity to see nuances of Loki’s character explored. Keep a weather eye open, true believers.