The Marvel’s The Avengers film series may have turned Thor’s half-brother Loki into a sinister household name (beyond those households who knew a thing or two about preexisting Norse myths, anyway), but in my book the eminently watchable Tom Hiddleston takes a back seat to my favorite Loki of the moment, the young reincarnated star of Marvel’s Journey into Mystery.
After the events of the 2010 major crossover event Siege, Loki was dead and gone after one final, uncharacteristically heroic act. As one would expect from Norse gods and their closest family, this condition was temporary. Through machinations of his own, Loki was quickly reincarnated. Through machinations not of his own, his new form is a younger, more naive version of himself with no magic power and no memory of the pain and suffering that his past self’s countless treacheries have inflicted upon others over the years. Kid Loki has spent his new life in a series of misadventures, saving lives, worlds, and entire Marvel crossovers through his uncanny knack for duplicity and shrewd deal-brokering for the greater good, despite the fact that no one trusts him and too many would love an excuse to kill him again.
In the current status quo, Kid Loki is now in the service of the triumvirate of All-Mothers who rule earthbound Asgard while Odin is occupied elsewhere. Along with him for his escapades is Leah, servant of Hela, who’s close to li’l Loki’s age, has magic power a-plenty, and pretends to hate his guts even while she reluctantly ensures his continued survival. Watching over his shoulder is an Asgardian blackbird named Ikol, who acts as an enigmatic, disturbing sort of Jiminy Cricket. Occasionally there’s also Loki’s li’l puppy Thori, a mixed-breed hellhound/Hel Wolf who breathes fire, speaks entirely in Grand Guignol death threats, and is as cute as a button.
The latest arc, which just began this month, tasks Loki with a trip to England to assist its current pantheon against an invasion from a new would-be pantheon called the Manchester Gods, who exist as enormous walking cities (think Howl’s Moving Castle) that draw believers to them and away from their previous beliefs. What seems by my crude American understanding to be a fun riff on intense soccer fandom begins with Loki and Leah journeying at the All-Mothers’ request as a godly covert-ops team to assist the elder British powers behind the scenes while Asgard’s public rulers pretend to follow the Prime Directive and abstain from direct meddling.
Their arrival is England happens like so:
I’m a big fan of Kid Loki’s merry sense of adventure and unbridled optimism, staples of the series under the guidance of writer Kieron Gillen (whose creator-owned Phonogram was epic and whose first Marvel series S.W.O.R.D. was unfairly kneecapped) and artist Rich Elson (with the occasional guest artist). With mythic grandeur undercut by frequent bouts of sharp wit, Loki’s crew traipses across dimensions, infiltrates the realms of dreams in a respectable homage to Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, and even makes Marvel events like 2011’s Fear Itself more enjoyable by filling in their much-appreciated backstory. (If you wanted to know why Odin’s brother the Serpent was subjugating superhumans and laying waste to Earth, nowhere but in Journey into Mystery were we offered keen insight as to just why.)
For certifiable proof of how attached I am to this series, I can add only this: “Exiled”, the recently completed multi-part crossover that JiM shared with New Mutants, will be the only crossover I read in full this year. I bought and enjoyed every chapter even though I’ve avoided X-Men titles for years. I’ve dropped some Big Two titles as a result of crossovers, and intentionally skipped chapters of other crossovers on similar fussbudget principle. Only “Exiled” earned a pass from me as I grow weary of such needless marketing complications, because I suspected it would raise the bar. When it instilled new relevance into the lost myth of Sigurd and wrapped up the tragic arc of the man-hating undead Disir, I loved seeing my hunch pay off.
In the wake of Siege, all throughout Fear Itself, and on into “Exiled”, Journey into Mystery proved itself so exceptional at what it does, its magic touch makes any other comic next to it even better.