LokiCast 4: Sigurd ruins everything in “Agents of Asgard #4”

“Lets You & Him Fight!” Loki Agent of Asgard Issue #4. Written by Al Ewing. Art by Lee Garbett. Colors by Nolan Woodard. Lettering by VC’s Clayton Cowles. Cover art by Jenny Frison.

Spoilers for Issue #3 are not marked; spoilers for future issues of Agent of Asgard are covered. There are also spoilers for The Avengers and comics preceding Agent of Asgard.

Oh, and there is language below. Sorry, Cap.

Take a character. Sap from them anything that gives them dimension, depth, or anything entertaining. Now put them in a story by Marvel.

No, I’m not talking about Danny Rand–I’m talking about Sigurd, the Ever Boring! This is the fourth installment of the LokiCast, where my repetition of the word “anyway” can become its own drinking game. (No, seriously–count them up in this review. You’ll get at least a buzz.)

Last time, I mentioned I was going to cover the cliffhanger from Issue #3 of Agent of Asgard until I talked about its fourth issue. See, in Issue #3, as we get a flashback to Old Loki manipulating their adoptive father Odin to ensure their adoption, they also were ensuring the creation of Gram, which New Loki would wield. And the person who helped create Gram was Sigurd, the Ever Glorious.

So, if Sigurd made Gram, why doesn’t he have it? I am not as familiar with Sigurd as a character, although Agent of Asgard #3 says he did appear in Journey into Mystery 638 (thank you, Misty Knight’s Uninformed Podcast for the Marvel Unlimited subscription!). When Kid Loki encountered Sigurd in that series, he spoke with the typical Asgardian speak so as to persuade someone to have sex with him, only to escape the rampaging husband Bor, who proceeded to transform his wife into a deformed creature pursuing Sigurd. Now, Sigurd returns, with a personality for once–but which is best summarized as frat boy.

Super…

The previous issue concludes with a cliffhanger, as Sigurd the Ever Glorious, the Asgardian who created Gram the Truth Sword with the help of Old Loki and Regin, is shown to still be alive since abandoning the sword due to his litigiousness–and as he is Asgardian, he still is quite young in appearance, and now sporting hipster glasses.

See, that’s the joke: Sigurd is a frat boy. That’s it. That’s the range of his character. He shows up, makes corny double entendres, acts hipsterish–that’s his entire shtick in this entire run of Loki: Agent of Asgard–and it is boring as fuck.

Is it too late to skip this issue?

Even the title doesn’t take this issue as seriously as it could: “Lets You & Him Fight!” lowers expectations that this will only be a drag-out battle. But the good news is that, given the complex (albeit needlessly confusing) narrative structure, there are decent twists.

And I have to read into that title some snark by Al Ewing regarding the content, which helps get through this issue, unintentionally alluding to another story in which Loki appears. In his commentary to The Avengers (2012), director and writer Joss Whedon complained about the studio dictate that Thor and Iron Man fight some time around Act 2. Whedon himself said he did not want a “lets you and him fight” scenario, so he did the Edgar Allan Poe thing: he started with the effect (get the two to fight) and built the context to justify that fight (Iron Man has taken Loki into custody, Thor says Loki should be tried in Asgard and not Earth, so the two are battling over law enforcement jurisdiction).

But here, all that’s happening are two masculine characters battling over a sword, which I’m sure has some Freudian implications, especially when Sigurd mocks Loki’s tiny “butter knife,” but otherwise, it’s pretty dull, especially as the set up to the Loki vs Sigurd fight is 9 to 10 pages. And the whole damn thing gets dragged out into the next issue with yet another twist about how Loki could be stabbed in the dumpster yet survive [SPOILERS] to rescue Sigurd from Asgardian jail[/SPOILER].

Okay, enough of all of that: let’s summarize the issue’s plot.

Issue #3 ended with Sigurd discovering New Loki already claimed Gram, so Issue #4 is his fight to reclaim his sword. You get to watch to persons assuming male identities battling over a sword–and yes, it gets that homoerotic.

Issue #4 at least starts with a decent joke. The previous issue ended with Sigurd on a mountain searching for Gram; this issue begins “on a different mountain,” in Tibet, where black magic master and sarcasm expert Kaluu meditates. Sigurd can be heard struggling to breathe coming up the hill–because that’s his schtick, that he is a braggart who really sucks at everything. And we get to sit through an issue with him. Yay.

Sigurd reveals Gram, but Kaluu, who despite meditating in Tibet, knows enough about also being snide, arrogant, and seeking to “mak[e himself]” comfortable. When Kaluu is more interesting than Gram, there is a problem. Given the revelation about Kaluu in this issue, however, and that he practices dark magic, I shouldn’t be surprised. A house plant with hipster glasses is about the same as Sigurd.

Kaluu then asks how Sigurd didn’t have the sword at the end of Issue #3 but now has it–leading to a flashback. Look, this is not Issue #1, nor is this Fraction’s Hawkeye: you need to earn that privilege to do a complicated flashback, and even with the revelation about Kaluu, the framing here just is not worth the payoff. There’s a twist that is going to come, the flashback is to distract you from that twist–and it’s not worth it.

Anyway, onto the flashback–as Loki finally shows up!

We are outside New Loki’s apartment building, where Sigurd is, again, struggling to climb and unable to catch his breath–because this is the gag, that he sucks.

Inside the apartment, New Loki has quickly made friends with Verity Willis since Issue #2, even making her dinner that they can share in his living room, all hipster style. Loki even has jeans, a hoodie, and sneakers on, while Gram lies next to his couch. While the integration of casual wear for Loki reflects his attempts to fit into human society, a small detail barely incorporated into the disappointing Vote Loki miniseries, I am annoyed that there is so little Norse about Loki’s style. At least keep the horned crown, Loki.

Sigurd sneaks in through Loki’s bedroom–with surprisingly no sex joke, because he’s saving those for later. As he lacks Asgardian weaponry, he depends on a catsuit, a stolen AIM invisibility belt and…non-prescription glasses? Okay, the list of his attire is amusing, but man, this guy is going to be a pain in the ass: a hipster wearing glasses he doesn’t need. And we’re stuck with him for more issues of this series. Damn it.

As Sigurd activates invisibility and enters the living room, he overhears Loki discussing names of certain Asgardians and a “heist.” Verity recognizes Loki is trying to persuade her to join, as she can see through lies. Speaking of which, since wearing an invisibility outfit is a type of deception and hence a lie, Verity sees Sigurd trying to pilfer Gram from the living room. By the way, if you think Verity is over-powered: congratulations, you figured the end of this series and why you don’t see Verity in the comics anymore. More on that when we reach the series’ finale, with a long discussion about how problematic is this friendship between her and Loki.

Sigurd decloaks and admits this all looks bad but offers to make up for it with dinner and dancing–because, again, Sigurd is this annoying of a character. Verity thinks Sigurd is referring to her, but Loki says it may be referring to them, a decent bit of showing rather than telling with regard to Sigurd’s sexuality. I appreciate having a character like Sigurd who is bisexual or omnisexual; I do not appreciate associating that sexuality with a character like Sigurd who is trying so hard to fit in with the latest fashions and so desperate, as an ancient Asgardian, to stay relevant in the 2010s that it seems like he or the writer is associating his sexuality with a trend rather than an identity. It’s really uncomfortable, but then again, sexuality being fluid, and coming from Asgard as he does, I may be absolutely misreading this content and taking offense needlessly.

Anyway, Sigurd promises he is only borrowing Gram and will return it. Seeing as he and Loki are practically immortal, I don’t know whether there is a joke here as to how long the “borrowing” may be. Before Loki can respond to Sigurd’s offer, we are interrupted by another flashback.

Hold up.

We just had a flashback, now we have a flashback within it in which the All-Mother accesses Loki’s video game to assume a 16-bit avatar to tell them to bring back all Asgardians to them, including Sigurd.

This is just some bad plotting.

I get that the flashback within a flashback is filling in information only as we need it. But it is a cheap magic trick: Ewing distracts us about what Kaluu is really up to by giving us a flashback of Verity and Loki planning a heist to set up the next narrative arc in the comic, and to give us a flashback within a flashback to set up the All-Mother’s ethically dubious plan to have Loki retrieve all erstwhile Asgardians. It’s dense writing that, knowing the full series, gives a lot of information in a few pages. But it also avoids a clearer, linear narrative path that tests readers’ patience.

Anyway, Loki resists the All-Mother’s request, thinking it inappropriate to force Asgardians to go back to Asgard. The All-Mother threatens to bring Loki back as well to Asgard if they do not agree, so they relent.

And we come back to Loki and Sigurd–and it turns out Loki narrated all of that backstory just now to Sigurd, with Verity overhearing. Again, this strains credulity, too clever for its own good to have Loki serve as narrator to their own backstory. Then again, given the final issue and all the focus on narratives and storytelling in this series, maybe Loki narrating that extended flashback is supposed to keep foreshadowing Loki’s role as a storyteller. We’ll see.

LokiCast - Agent of Asgard, tiny sword.png

Loki refuses to part with Gram, so they summons his ancestral sword, Laevateinn–and again, we get dense writing, as Sigurd mocks Loki for wielding a sword whose name means “Damage Twig.” And Loki puts on a face as if they just went flaccid. (The Kirby Thor artwork hanging in Loki’s apartment is a fun Easter egg.)

We get some banter as Loki asks whether Sigurd intends to talk or battle, followed by Princess Bride references about actually being “left-handed.” Loki thinks they can out-fight Sigurd, only to be surprised Sigurd manages to slice off a bit of their hair with one swing, before kicking them out the window.

Verity is shocked Sigurd killed Loki, with Sigurd saying it’s Loki’s own fault for carrying a weak sword. Again, this is all Sigurd offers: nostalgic allusions, hipster pretense, and blaming everyone but himself. This guy is insufferable–and we’re stuck with him in this series. Please, if you are writing for Marvel Comics: have a boulder squish Sigurd.

But Loki is not quite dead, as they used Seven-League Boots to balance themselves on laundry lines outside his apartment. I feel like this is some parody of roleplay one-up-manship, but I’m too distracted by laundry lines, which I didn’t think were still a thing in New York City. This seems like an odd moment of multiple instances of nostalgia for a certain type of New York and a certain type of pop culture milieu.

LokiCast - Agent of Asgard 4, Sigurd and dumpster.png

Sigurd joins Loki on the clothesline when he spots the dumpster below. I do like the panel structure here, as the angle on Sigurd stays the same, as his expression changes to show him realizing the next step in his plan: he slices the clothesline, knocking them both into the dumpster.

Then Luke Cage shows up, crushing the top so they can’t escape–

Oh, wait. That was in a better story. Albeit one with still a really dull antagonist and a disappointing conclusion–but still better than Iron Fist. (Topical!)

Some slicing and thumping happens in the dumpster before some red oozes out the top, with Sigurd claiming Gram and leaving Loki supposedly dead. Right–Loki gets killed off in Issue #4, even though they’re a trickster and almost immortal. I’m so believing this.

Now that this way-too-long flashback is over, Kaluu, the dark magician meditating guy, is surprised Sigurd could kill a god like Loki. Sigurd then explains his purpose for meeting Kaluu: as the All-Mother wants to retrieve all Asgardians, Sigurd wants a change in religion–he wants to be put on the Wheel of Kharma so he’s not trapped in Valhalla upon his death, especially as Valkyries there want revenge on him and his “Little Sigurd.” Okay, that’s kind of funny, but it’s trading on way too much Barney Stinson humor for this issue to age well.

Kaluu agrees to Sigurd’s wish, even holding Gram to prove he tells the truth about putting Sigurd “on the wheel of reincarnations.” But once the two complete the blood pact, dripping their blood onto the meditation mat, Kaluu reveals he’s actually been Mephisto all this time, here to annul Sigurd’s marriage–I mean, watch Rin Okumura fight the Impure King–I mean, take Sigurd’s soul. Sigurd protests, saying Mephisto held the sword and would be compelled to tell only the truth. Mephisto counters that he never said he was Kaluu, only that Sigurd assumed so by his appearance. (But if Verity saw through Sigurd’s disguise because she can see lies…Oh, nevermind, this entire issue has been a mind-screw.)

And Mephisto is going to put Sigurd onto a wheel of reincarnations, in this case “a device [that] as it rotates, it whips you with flowers made of horse bridles,” a “wheel of rein carnations.”

…Boo.

Mephisto reviews his contract–the meditation map–that their blood made into a signed pact, only to realize the mat is not his contract. That’s when Loki appears, using Sigurd’s invisibility belt from earlier, along with their vanishing-coat and the Amulet of Invisibility from Issue #2, to be tripled-cloaked against Mephisto’s detection…because somehow that works. The contract also shows Loki’s blood, up to that point invisible, compromising the agreement. Granted, I don’t know how Loki’s blood compromises the contract, but then again, I’m not a lawyer or the Devil–unless that’s redundant.

That’s when Mephisto rips into Loki for what they did to Kid Loki. See, in the earlier series Journey into Mystery, Loki died and was reborn as a child. Kid Loki then learned parts of their older self took on the part of a magpie, named Ikol, who went on to advise Kid Loki. But Ikol seized on an opportunity to take over Kid Loki’s body, killing their soul–and thus New Loki, Ikol’s soul in Kid Loki’s body, was created. Mephisto knows this sin and needles Loki about it. Loki tells Mephisto the three-fold signature ends their agreement and commands he leave, which the Devil is all too happy to do.

And Loki completes his mission for the All-Mother, turning over Sigurd. But at least some members of this triumvirate are displeased, claiming they imprison Sigurd to assure “the future of Asgardia.” And as we remember, it was Old Loki that promised this future. More on that in the next two issues.

We have a coda, in which New Loki, again in their apartment, again discusses a heist they’re planning, saying they intend to rescue Sigurd. And who makes up Loki’s crew? Verity, Lorelei, and Thor.

Gee, why couldn’t we have had that issue instead?

My final thoughts on this issue: it’s okay, its narrative form hardly as distracting as I make it out to be. On initial reading, it’s comprehensible; on second reading, it is distracting but at least gets the action moving more quickly. The twists with Mephisto are entertaining, especially given his prior history with Kid Loki, as he needles New Loki, aware how this iteration killed their child self’s soul. The ending is a far better hook than last issue’s, not just because of the heist plotline but also because we further establish the tense distrust New Loki has for the All-Mother, the distrust the All-Mother has for Old Loki, and Old Loki, although not shown in this issue, having been in DGAF mode.

While Sigurd is annoying, at least Ewing has fun mocking the character. Issue #3 ended with the caption referring to him as “the Sometimes-Glorious,” and a lot of humor comes at his expense. But the problem I have with Sigurd is the problem I have with many annoying characters: when my level of annoyance exceeds how entertained I am, I tend to think such inclusion is not worthwhile. There is little significant about Sigurd’s personality, as the hipster shtick is outdated even in 2017. Having an Asgardian character who happens to be black and will continue to interact with New Loki in New York City at least increases visible diversity.

In the next issue, Loki’s Avengers break Sigurd out of Asgardian jail. Thank you so much for your time with this review! Check back here next week, and please leave a message here or on Twitter about what you thought of this issue, this review, or all things Loki-related.

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