This past week saw the release of Loki: Agent of Asgard #17, the last issue of Al Ewing and Lee Garbett’s book about Loki, God (and sometimes Goddess) of Lies. The last issue, like many of the issues before it, dealt deeply with the power and magic of stories and, like the previous Loki-centric book Journey Into Mystery, provided a meta-commentary on comics themselves.
Warning: There Will Be Spoilers for Journey Into Mystery, Young Avengers, and Loki: Agent of Asgard.
In some ways, the story of Loki across Journey Into Mystery, Young Avengers, and now Loki: Agent of Asgard has reminded me of The Sandman. The essential breakdown of what The Sandman is about is: “The King of Dreams learns he must change or die.” In Journey Into Mystery, Loki states, “Change or die? I would rather die than not change.”
And that was how the story ended in Journey Into Mystery: Old Loki, having arranged his own death and resurrection into a child form, had tricked Kid Loki into an impossible situation and forced him to overwrite his own mind with a copy of Old Loki’s. This was a meta-commentary on the unchanging nature of comics themselves — after all, if a story never ends, it will eventually revert back to what it was. Marriages are undone, character growth erased. “We all know how this story ends.”
But a copy is not the original and, in Young Avengers, Loki found himself feeling guilty over his part in the death of Kid Loki. So, in the end (and after turning into Teen Loki), he confessed and left the Young Avengers in peace. Which brings us to Loki: Agent of Asgard, where he had an agreement with the All-Mother, leaders of Asgardia, to work for them in exchange for erasing stories about his evil self.
The series was initially about the fun adventures and heists that Loki pulls off, especially with a crew he assembles, including Lorelei (Amora the Enchantress’s sister), Sigurd the Sometimes Glorious, his own brother Thor, and Verity Willis, a human lie detector and Loki’s new best friend. But then, as more was revealed, the series became about the power and magic stories, as well as going back to being a meta-commentary on the unchanging nature of comics themselves.
The main part of this was the antagonist of the book: King Loki, an older, evil version of Loki who came back in time to make sure his younger self became him. It was King Loki who was the “true” Agent of Asgard, since a villainous Loki meant a return to normalcy and a promise of safety. After all, everyone knows that Loki is the God of Lies, right? If Loki is evil, then all’s right with Asgard.
Add into this the fact that Loki is still feeling guilt about killing Kid Loki (“I am the crime that cannot be forgiven”) and you’re left with a comic that’s also about identity and self-worth. Loki is faced with a future they do not want and a past they want to escape from. So how do they handle it?
Not well at first. Like I said above, this series reminded me a lot of The Sandman, especially how Morpheus would, intentionally or not, put himself in situations that would force him to change. Loki finds themselves doing the same thing, first finding Gram, a sword made of truth, and then befriending Verity Willis, who can see all lies (including fiction), and finally culminating in an issue where, after a series of events, Loki can’t tell a lie and is forced to confess to Thor that they killed Kid Loki. It does not end well.
In Loki: Agent of Asgard #13, Loki is then faced with another chance to change or die, but this time the situation is worse: they can either choose to change into King Loki, God of Evil, or go with oblivion, like Kid Loki.
But, it turns out, there is a third option: they change instead into the God of Stories, realizing that stories are nothing by lies. The issue, titled “The Magic Theater,” begins and ends with people huddled in huts three thousand years ago, frightened of a storm, until their fears are soothed by a storyteller. “The storm is dead now. But none heard its passing. For in their ears, they have the magic-words of Skald — spells passed down from teller to teller, to conjure the gods themselves, to make them dance and play in the mind and heard — to steal away fear.”
It’s interesting to note here that Loki becoming the God of Stories is played quite a bit like the Doctor’s regeneration on Doctor Who, complete with memory problems.
Them becoming the God/Goddess of Stories also comes with an eight-month time skip, which means it’s right in time for Secret Wars and the final battle, the last story, Ragnarok.
I won’t say what happens in the last issue, because it’s so very great and you should all read it for yourselves, but it continues the theme that stories have power, a magic of their own. And we all get to decide what our story will be about.