“Your Life Is A Story Already Written,” Loki: Agent of Asgard, Issue #3. Written by Al Ewing, illustrated by Lee Garbett, colored by Nolan Woodard, letters by VC’s Clayton Cowles, cover art by Jenny Frison, and a variant cover by Coipel & Garcia.
You like Dungeons and Dragons? You like ret-cons that enrich a story rather than destroy it? You like bazookas? Then I think you’re going to like Issue #3 of Agent of Asgard!
There has been an extended break between podcasts, so future episodes will be blog posts until I can find some assistance with editing. If you are interested in editing together audio, please email me.
Speaking of podcasts, I want to thank the Misty Knight’s Uninformed Afro Podcast. The staff was kind enough to give me a free month of Marvel Unlimited, a monthly subscription service featuring past issues for digital viewing, with thousands of back-issues–and all the more incentive for me to get out a podcast more frequently looking at the Norse god of lies and stories. So thank you to everyone at Misty Knight’s Uninformed Afro Podcast–you have helped me at a really necessary time in my work schedule! Please subscribe to this podcast with the awesome name: they are online at MKUAPodcast.com, Misty Knight’s Uninformed Afro Podcast on iTunes and SoundCloud, and on Twitter @mistysafro. Thanks also to Ellak Roach for introducing me to the podcast.
Now, onto the review!
That title, “Your Life Is a Story Already Written,” is yet another in the long list of story-related references that are going to pop up throughout Agent of Asgard until its final issue. New Loki, as they have been presented since Issue #1, is a character looking to change history: by doing good deeds, the All Mother will wipe out one bad deed from history books, and people’s minds. The story of New Loki will change.
But Issue #3 is not about New Loki. It’s about their alternate self, Old Loki, the Loki from the Future, who has been able to defy time, travel to the past, and strike up a deal with the All Mother. We’ll learn more about this deal, but it does involve the missions the All Mother has assigned to New Loki–a bit of a wild goose chase for them. So, how does Old Loki travel to the past?
Well, they’re going to show us in the first two issues, as Old Loki literally walks off the page–
I didn’t crop this image: Old Loki, word balloon and all, goes off-page.
Now he’s on the path of the World Tree, and ends up even further into the past, where he meets Odin–like, young Odin, pre-eye-gouging Odin. This is Odin before he becomes king, before he fathers Thor, before he adopts Loki. So of course when Old Loki pops up, introduces himself as Loki, this is the first time Odin is meeting Loki–and hence we get the ret-con. See, in this issue, Old Loki sets up why Odin comes to adopt infant Loki, creates Gram the sword of truth (which New Loki receives from the All Mother to wield in combat), and sets up future wars between Odin and other parties in the Nine Realms.
Oh, and Old Loki gets to fire a bazooka at a giant monster fish. It’s like some out of SyFy Channel original movie–only this story doesn’t suck.
Anyway, to recap: Old Loki goes to the past, sees Young Odin walking a path home, and walks along with him, striking up a conversation. Loki knows where Odin is heading, knows the locations around them, so deliberately causes Odin to wander by the river, where an otter as large as a human is swimming for fish.
An otter…as large as a human. You can see where this is going, and the reason this otter is as large as a human will repeat again later.
While Odin is impressed by the otter, Old Loki bashes it in the head with a rock, saying that such a large creature can offer good meat and fine cloaks. Odin is shocked by Loki’s mischief but too young to stand up to the old man, and too easily plied by the food and coat. They put on the otter’s coats and continue on their way.
They come upon the inn of Hriedmar and his three sons–except only two of the sons are there, and those two sons, Fafnir and Regin, are wondering what is keeping the third son, Otr, from taking so long to return home.
Otr. O-T-R. Otr. Otter. Human-sized otter.
Young Odin and Old Loki are wearing the skins of a shape-shifting human–after eating the meat of a shape-shifting human, who took on the form of an otter and was murdered by Old Loki.
Odin, you fucked up. And you’re kind of a cannibal now.
It doesn’t take long for Odin to realize what he did–but just a bit longer for Regin to notice, as he threatens to kill Odin and Loki. Loki intervenes, identifying Odin as the prince of Asgard and Aesheim–because he knows that fact will convince the son, Fafnir the Greedy, to suggest holding Odin for ransom. The other son, Regin the Vengeful, suggests just killing Odin. Their father, Hriedmar, is disgusted by both suggestions, yet he compromises: Odin will stay here while Loki procures the ransom, that being enough gold to cover the otter skins of his dead son. Odin is shamed, saying this opportunity is more than he deserves, while Loki, smirking, departs, promising to return with the gold.
Let’s pause here for a pop quiz. Loki has just departed the inn, leaving Odin behind. Does he:
(A) Leave Odin to be killed
(B) Go to Odin’s father Bor to get the money
Or (C) kill a giant fish with a bazooka to get the gold?
Of course the answer is C–that one is just hilariously dark! Oh, and if he left Odin to be killed, Thor would never be born, Loki would never be adopted, and the story would be over on Page 6.
Okay, Loki with a bazooka…Why does this happen?
This joke is hilarious, and I can’t help but overread into it. As an aside, there is a writer, Greg Weisman–writer on Star Wars Rebels, writing some of the Star Wars comics for Marvel, writer of the animated series Spectacular Spider-Man, and of course creator of the 1990s Disney action animated series Gargoyles. And in that show, Weisman had an episode all about a man seeking vengeance on the gargoyles, Goliath and Hudson, hunting Goliath with just a bazooka…and when he finally fires the bazooka at Goliath, it just fires a banana cream pie in his face. It is such a cartoony moment in the middle of a serious, albeit Disney-fied, action show…and it is itself a more complicated allusion to another Disney cartoon, but I’m already being long-winded in this digression.
In any case, the fact is, bazookas are funny, just in terms of the shock of Old Loki, in the middle of this medieval-esque setting, firing it, as well as the visual opportunity it provides to the illustrator to draw the explosion. And of course “bazooka” is such a comical word, given its odd vowel sounds and the little used “z” sound. It’s not a celebration of this violence so much as the comedy emerging out of contrast.
So, why does Loki fire a bazooka? Well, he needs gold, and it happens the inn is near the gold hoard of Andvari the Dwarf, who of course keeps his gold by a waterfall and guards it while he’s in the shape of a giant pike–obviously. Andvari is in this form because he can prevent any attack from any weapon he knows at this time–and he brags that he cannot imagine a net or hook big enough to capture a giant fish like him. Loki agrees–which is why he points out that, so long as Andvari can’t imagine a weapon, he can’t win against it–which is why Loki, being able to travel through time, brought with him, and I quote, “a M20 recoilless rocket launcher.” I think “bazooka” is funnier, but that kind of overly technical description is amusing, too.
With Andvari hit, reverting to human form, and dying because a bazooka tore up his body, Loki lowers the otter pelts to collect gold into them. But as he dies, Andvari curses the gold, so that it forces the truth to come out of someone.
Gold. Forcing the truth out of someone.
Hmm…What else have we seen that is gold and forces people to tell the truth?
Oh, right–New Loki’s sword, Gram!
So Loki knew Andvari would curse that gold, and knows this gold will be used to create Gram. This leads to more questions, such as why Old Loki would want to set up the very process by which New Loki will come to claim a truth-telling sword. Well, there’s a good reason for that, and it’s so that Old Loki can ruin New Loki’s life in the future. See, New Loki wields that sword, and it makes people tell the truth. And New Loki has been hiding from people that he killed Kid Loki and took over his body. And Old Loki is obviously a villain and wants New Loki to become a villain again. Ergo, Old Loki is setting up his own origin story.
But, wait, Loki already promised this gold to Hriedmar–so, how will that gold become the sword Gram? Let’s get to that:
Loki returns with the two otter pelts of gold, and Hriedmar lets Loki leave with Odin, despite vengeful Regin’s desire to still kill Odin. Loki and Odin leave while Hriedmar and vengeful Regin argue. The reason they are so argumentative is because of that damn gold–it is cursed to compel the truth come out of people. And Regin is vengeful, just as his brother Fafnir is greedy–so Fafnir gives into his true nature, stabs Hriedmar and vengeful Regin, and leaves with one pile of gold. Hriedmar dies, but vengeful Regin survives, and one pile of that gold remains–which he forges into a sword of vengeance, which he names…Gram.
And thus New Loki’s sword is created. Yay!
Oh, and Fafnir over time clutches to his gold and, by the curse of the gold, is transformed into his true nature, that of a greedy dragon named Smog…I mean, the dragon in Miss Kobayachi’s Dragon Maid–I mean, Fafnir! Fafnir.
Meanwhile, there is a wandering Asgardian hero named Siguard, who visits Regin’s inn. Regin brags of his sword Gram, but as he is too injured to hunt down Fafnir himself, he tells Sigurd about the dragon Fafnir, asking him to kill the dragon, take the cold, and bring back its heart, which he will cook for Sigard so he may be immortal. Siguard likes this idea and agrees to the mission. Sigard easily kills Fafnir, cuts out the heart, and brings it to Fafnir’s inn. But as the heart cooks, Sigard overhears a magpie giving him a warning that Fafnir, still angry with Odin, intends to kill Sigard and any other Asgardian. The magpie, as it was in the previous series Journey into Mystery, is Old Loki in disguise. The magpie warns Sigard, Sigard kills Fafnir before he can kill him, and with Old Loki Magpie’s advice, eats the heart. Before the magpie leaves, it warns Sigard to make the sword Gram famous–again, so that New Loki will wield it–and departs.
Sigard makes a name for himself, which is covered in Journey into Mystery–and, jeez, I’ll have more to say about Sigard next week, because what a waste of a character this schmuck is.
Anyway, Sigard makes Gram famous, he does something that causes him to run away from Asgard and Bor, leaving Gram behind. Bor then dies, Young Odin finds Gram–and that magpie returns, revealing itself to be Old Loki. As Old Loki saved Young Odin’s life, now he wants to collect his payment: he wants Young Odin to lock away Gram for centuries so that New Loki may find it. (And, it’s not stated directly, but now he has set up a reason for Odin to later adopt Loki in the future. Again, Old Loki has created his own origin story.)
Before getting to the last pages of this issue, let’s talk about how everything worked in this issue up to this point. With this being Issue #3, I am so happy the story finally gets to take place firmly in Asgard, firmly in this Norse setting. And it’s kind of disappointing that this is the only really good Asgard story in the run of Agent of Asgard. This is an idealized image of what this realm looks like: the colors in this issue shift from warm and nostalgic–and gold, of course–to dark and dreary, actually suiting the tone set out. This is in contrast to how the Asgardian gods exist at this point in Marvel’s universe, where they are on their ninth or twelfth Ragnarok, hanging out on Earth or on some moon, and everything gets far too goofy and dark and miserable for my tastes. This is a fun issue that builds up the mystery to Old Loki and shows how complex his plan is. Dude’s ready to mess with New Loki’s life, and his time traveling allows him to set up his own superhero origin story–just so he can screw it up.
Now, there are a few pages to this issue that I’m not going to discuss in this post–they are a cliffhanger, it sets up Issue #4, it’s not interesting, and, really, it introduces a nothing character who is just a one-note joke character. So, next time, I’ll be discussing the arrival of Sigard the Douche-Bro, in the tedious fight-intensive issue titled “Lets You & Him Fight!”