By Al Ewing, Lee Garbett, and Nolan Woodard
Loki: Agent of Asgard is part of a complex situation, one amidst a symbiosis between fandom and character. If you’ve spent any amount of time on Tumblr, the volume, variety, and passion around Loki fandom is absolutely incredible. Fans have taken the character and run with him in ways which any smart production would pay close attention to. Countless entries of artwork, fanfiction, custom clothing, and just about any creative form of expression imaginable posted on the blogging site are influenced by, or dedicated to Loki. Now, anybody worth their salt should be able to recognize this realm of fandom as a colossal built in audience, one craving official content to add to and validate existing or developing headcanon. The challenge Ewing, Garbett, and Woodard face is one balancing between attention to the fandom and telling a creative, different Loki story.
Let’s get one thing out of the way immediately: Agent of Asgard is a fun read. It’s willing to have fun with the characters, establishing a cool, new direction for the god of trickery (now god of white lie-telling?). The setup for Loki’s mystical covert ops activities is particularly engaging, with just the right amount of intrigue and corruption typical of a secret agent story. He is depicted with a characteristics true to both classical Loki, and to a character like James Bond; he is witty, charming, cunning, with just a hint of deviousness. In other words, this iteration of Loki is an extremely likable character.
The presentation of Agent of Asgard is highly engaging. Garbett and Woodard’s art hits on every page, with the right amount of dynamism and subtle gestural expressiveness. Action sequences are succinct, feeling particularly outstanding in a much more expository issue. Page layouts consistently drag the reader’s eye from panel to panel, creating a constant sense of anticipation and suspense. And, the nod to Kirby (and Land if you’re really paying attention) is just the right nod of homage and inspiration, the transition between art styles not jarring or out of place in the slightest.
With all of these positives, and such a breadth of creativity, why does reading this comic feel like a Loki tag search on Tumblr?
Where Agent of Asgard runs into trouble comes from an overwhelming degree of stylistic and aesthetic choices which feel all too familiar. Jokes and puns are certainly well crafted, but there was always this sense of appropriation, or a lack of originality. There was an inescapable feeling of seeing this joke or that interaction somewhere before. That underneath a fun and unique exterior, there was a tired, unoriginal center.
Yet, each time this dilemma came up it was tempered by the notion that Ewing, Garbett, and Woodard are attempting to capture an audience generally overlooked by mainstream comics. They recognize Agent of Asgard as an opportunity to include a group of readers most superhero comics willfully, often blatantly ignore. And through this recognition they’ve put their ear to the ground, listened to Loki fandom, and have embraced it for their story.
This acceptance is absolutely a good thing, it’s a step in a direction of addressing a massive disparaging imbalance within comic readership, and is proving that separation of readers need not exist. But Agent of Asgard approaches the situation in the form of a tightrope act: it walks a line between adding its own voice to the fandom, and appropriating existing voices within the fandom. Issue one is a fantastic start, showing a lot of promise for a bright future, it really comes down to a matter of treading carefully. All in all, Loki: Agent of Asgard is a book to keep your eye on.