AGENT OF ASGARD #3/ Written by AL EWING/ Art by LEE GARBETT/ Colors by NOLAN WOODARD/ Letters by VC’S CLAYTON COWLES/ Published by MARVEL COMICS
When Agent of Asgard debuted, the most shocking thing about it was its sheer terrificness. Not to sound condescending, but the book had been written off (at least in my circles) almost as soon as it was announced. It is pretty obvious pandering to all sides of the Loki fandom, possibly Marvel’s most lucrative and emotionally-invested demographic. The thing wouldn’t have to be any good to move copies, is what I’m saying. And yet thanks to Al Ewing, Agent of Asgard is nothing short of astoundingly, Kieron-Gillen-on-Journey-into-Mystery-levels of good. Is it too early to say that at three issues? Yeah, probably. But I will anyway. Fittingly, Agent is very much a continuation of Kieron Gillen’s run on Journey into Mystery plus his Young Avengers (as far as Loki is concerned, anyway). Loki journeys to be a good person and atone for his sins, but his past follows him – now quite literally.
This issue focuses on the classic, evil old Loki (having been resurrected in #1), with new, hot teen Loki showing up only briefly at the start. In bringing back old Loki, Ewing brings the reader back to the early ages of Asgard. One of the joys for those of us Thor fans who are also devotees to the Eddic source material is seeing just how Marvel plays with it. This issue is a Marvelized retelling of Otr’s Ransom, which is all sorts of enjoyable and brilliant. But it also introduces a new conflict for young Loki as orchestrated by old Loki, and reintroduces new and old readers to the relevant stories and characters from Journey into Mystery, its premiere arc in Fear Itself, its crossover with New Mutants in Exiled, and that arc’s introduction of Sigurd. It also follows up on Agent #1’s adventure involving the sword Gram, formerly of the aforementioned Sigurd, and the All-Mother’s release of Loki in that same issue.
Old Loki is the star of the show here. Yours truly was and is one of Journey into Mystery’s readers who wanted nothing more than for old Loki to stay dead and let Kid Loki run free. But now that he’s back and in top form – and truly back, since the new Loki is essentially, to borrow another’s comparison, “an A.I. who grew a conscience” – well, I’ll be damned if I don’t admit I missed him. Only Loki could deliver the best moment of the issue, which involves the slaying of Andvari in a way I will not spoil. It’s just so good to have him back and ruining people’s lives. He’s one of Marvel’s best villains, and so thank you MCU Loki fandom for catapulting this guy to the Evil A-List. People may make fun of those teen girls for wanting to kiss Tom Hiddleston (as if none of us do), but they also gave us this title. Good work!
Other, non-Loki characters featured include a young, very ingénue-ish Odin – a depiction that makes sense and is such a great contrast to the callous jerk we know he becomes. We also see the return of Sigurd, hero of Asgard and one of Kieron Gillen’s best twists on Norse myth. Really, a lot of Agent of Asgard is rescuing and reviving Gillen’s Journey into Mystery, from its premise (Loki as a chaotic good atoner/redeemer working for the All-Mother) to its left-behind characters and stories. Will it be as good as Journey into Mystery? Again, at three issues it is too early to say, but I feel in my soul it can be and very possibly will be.
On the art, Lee Garbett and Nolan Woodard do a tremendous job. The scene transition as Loki travels from the present to the distant past is marvelous, and it’s always great to see artists play with the comic book form. Loki is at his most sinister on page four (six if you’re using Comixology), in a picture that is a classically creepy. Garbett is so good with expressions, from Loki’s smug satisfaction to young Odin’s innocence and growing concern of Loki. The mutation of Fafnir the man into Fafnir the dragon is fantastic. Woodard’s colors are excellent – bright and springy when needed, and increasingly dark as Loki progresses in his plot. The two’s combined work on Sigurd vs. Fafnir is stunning, mythologically epic, and I would like prints of it.
All in all, Agent of Asgard is a terrific piece of work on all fronts. Particular kudos are due to Al Ewing for consistently blowing it out of the water with his monthly titles (Hey you! Are you buying Mighty Avengers? No? BUY MIGHTY AVENGERS). If you were a fan of Journey into Mystery and/or if you like smart, sharp comics, Agent of Asgard is your destination.