Young Avengers #1 is here and with it, duly, coverage. Of some sort. Don’t say we’re not up-to-the-minute. This is one of two ENORMOUS CLUNKING WORD-VOMITS I’m going to retch up about specific panels from Issue #1. And you’re in luck, because if the metaphor hasn’t already become wholly unpalatable, this bellyful has mystic sausages.
By now you may well know some of the facts about the reaction to Young Avengers #1: it’s got words and pictures in and the words and the pictures and the way that the words go with the pictures has been widely and rightly praised. It’s witty, it’s dramatic, it’s a little bit sad in places and it’s romantic in others. It’s done good, is what I’m saying. Really good.
And the Young Avengers? They’re a nice bunch of kids. Apart from, of course, the maggot in the orchard. Who might be on one of his less berserkedly, cacklingly, taking-over-the-world-with-fire-and-brimstone, bringing-about-Ragnarok, more reservedly scheming swings but neverless, is neither nice nor, appearances aside, a kid.
I speak, of course, of Loki.
Loki! He does what he wants!
Serrure! Except when he doesn’t.
LOKI!!! That fucker destroyed Asgard
THIS GUY! He’s not always a guy.
FOR ALL THE GODS’ SAKES! He destroyed Asgard AGAIN!
It’s a bird! No, literally.
Hel-with-one-’l'! He’s had his name written out of every debtor’s book. And when he found one he couldn’t, he ate himself.
…Wait, what? Yes, it is time to delve into the pits of NORSE CRISIS ANALYSIS, of GUESS WHICH FUCKER DESTROYED ASGARD NO REALLY GUESS YOU HAVE ONE GUESS AND IT’S RIGHT, of why everyone, even and especially Asgard’s golden son can’t resist the trickster because without Loki life isn’t quiet but there’s a risk that when the pain comes, it might be blunter but also never as funny, of what the hel-with-one-’l’ this ten-thousand-year-old dude is doing in a kid’s body, of, most crucially, LOKICEPTION.
WARNING: This will be the last time I do a big discussion of this in the Young Avengers write ups but this is COVERED IN SPOILERS for how Loki came to be where he is in #1, so Thor by J Michael Straczynski, The Mighty Thor by Matt Fraction, Siege by absolutely everyone (including Gillen and McKelvie) and Journey into Mystery 622-645. You don’t need to know all this to think about Young Avengers, in fact, I would be super excited to hear the thoughts of someone who doesn’t and is reading it. But this follows some threads of my own thoughts. And by that I mean ‘three and a half thousand words about Loki.’
A long time ago in an understanding of the Norse pantheon far, far away from the Prose Edda, some creatives wanted to write a comic about Thor. He’s huge, he’s got a hammer! He speaks like he’s in Shakespeare despite this probably not being how the Vikings spoke! Who cares when you get an opportunity to use this lettering?
Even when he’s a frog-
Anyway, the wonders of typography aside, Thor is the big, kind, phenomenally powerful, future king of Asgard (and thus, everywhere) and it turns out he’s not always that interesting on his own. I mean, he’s a god. It’s hard to work out why he’s humouring the other Avengers by letting them join in, right?
But wait! For ArchEnemies.com found a perfect match based on his profile. Yes, for all of every age, Thor could pitch his princely bullishness against his brother, Loki. Who is not his brother in any biological sense but who, despite his attempts to deny their affiliation, has spent his entire life defined by his brother-ness to Thor.
Not that the relationship isn’t reciprocal; Loki is cold where Thor is heat, cunning where Thor is honour, ambitious where Thor would rather be adventurous, utterly obsessed with Sif where -oh, hang on. We’ll get back to that bit.* But anyway, if Thor and Loki were candidates on The Apprentice: Asgard then Odin would despair of both of them, Heimdall would dryly observe that although Loki had given an excellent pitch, Thor had won the day by twocking their opponents with an uru hammer but that unless the brothers could find a way to work together, eventually Balder’s lack of otherwise objectionable activity was going to muddle his way into this gods-damn job. ‘For even Mjolnir could not smell what sells and thus, Thor Odinson, yer exiled.’
Anyway, my more surreal crossover ideas aside; here we are with two brothers-who-are-not-brothers, tied to each other through the ages with only brief stop offs at Balder’s fat period or to make jokes about Tyr’s missing hand. Loki hates Thor in the way that Richard Dawkins hates religion; that symbiotic, ‘but if you could destroy it, could you do it?’ Because what is aetheism without theism and what is Loki without Thor? He wants desperately to kill his brother, destroy him utterly but he also wants Thor to watch it alongside him; as for Dawkins, if religious belief was eradicated tomorrow and everyone simply agreed then where would be the moment where religious leaders were forced to bend to his view? Thus, true nemeses.***
Yes, through all the ages and ever has Loki hated Thor. But not with so much burning intensity has Loki ever hated anyone but himself. Kieron and Jamie have actually had control of the lord of chaos for quite some time- since the Siege event in 2010- and their mission, which Marvel chose to accept, was to bring Sexy Loki back. Wait, hold on come back, this was before the kid stuff.
Star like Ringo
war like a green beret
You crazy? Bring your whole set
Loki in the range, crazy and deranged
They can’t figure him out, they like ‘hey is he insane?’
Yes sir, he’s cut from a different cloth
the texture is the best fur of chincilla
Got me lookin’ so crazy, my baby
I’m not myself
I’m foolish, I don’t do this
I’ve been playing myself and baby I don’t care
But me getting carried away aside, no one’s love’s got the best of Loki. Until Thor.
ANTI-FANFIC ZONE: calm yo’ tits. I’m not about to break out the NC-17 slash but you see, after all the hell of Siege, after Loki had worn his beloved’s body like a stole, after Loki had proved again and again that he would do everything to occasion every disaster possible upon Asgard, Thor and himself, Thor had a different memory-
[Now, something it's probably important to know here is that somewhere in this whole shebang it was discovered that the person who killed the Frost Giant Laufey and caused Loki to be adopted by the All-Father, brought to Asgard and raised as an Aesir rather than a Jotun, as per his heritage, was in fact Siege-era Loki, experimenting with timey-wimey psychiatry:
Loki HATES Asgard. He hates Odin. But he wants to be King of Asgard, so as much as he wants to destroy it utterly he also wants to rule the nine realms from it, shining and bright. His very goals are self-defeating and so after a long, long lifetime of raging at Odin for stealing him, for only taking him to bring the good out in Thor, for not acknowledging Loki’s worth, for crucially, not letting him be King because of the way he keeps doing moderately-to-severely evil shit, he goes back and makes sure that happens.
And it turns out that horsing around in the time stream is one of the many things that Loki does for reasons no one, least of all he, can adequately explain. But to have this revelation, that Older Loki occasioned Young Loki to be brought to Thor, is important because Older Loki remembers things wrong a lot and Young Loki wanted to go to Asgard.
Which is just one but a significant one in the many-layered beast that is LOKICEPTION]
Back with Thor and his crazy love for his brother. I don’t know, maybe it’s being stuck with Balder otherwise but Thor can’t seem to let go of this homicidal maniac who regularly fucks everything he loves up, even and especially where one of the things Thor loves is Loki. And so Thor brought that fucker back, from his memory of them as children, the brother who he missed and loved from millenia ago.
And that’s why Loki was a kid. Reborn, he couldn’t really remember his past life except in fits and echoes and although he had a sense of who he was, that Thor was his brother and that he had a great instinct and propensity for something wily and chaotic and impish and tricksy, he didn’t want to turn evil. There’s essays and essays and essays to be written about the ways that Kid Loki worked within the conventional moral framework of comics and indeed, any heroic narrative and where he stood in his own fears and where worse, Old Loki stood, if he was not confined solely to memory. And oh, he wasn’t. And now he’s back, from netherspace, Thor just walked in to find him here with bits of bird smeared all over his face-
Oh dear me.
Anyway, that was all a very, very long way of getting to the fact that the panel I’ve seen bandied around the most is this-
Correctly- it’s a great panel! It’s funny and it shows Loki’s slyness and a bit of what you’d recognise from Kid Loki.
[INTERLUDE: The thing occupying Kid Loki's physical form currently is actually a back up version of Old Loki that Old Loki dumped into a magpie in a book and which, ultimately, Kid Loki was forced to replace his consciousness with, even knowing that Ikol (as the backup was called) was evil, in order to prevent the whole nine realms burning in Surtur's fire. Kid Loki made some bad deals in hard times and the debtors called. And one of them, although he'd signed no contract, was Loki himself.
So Ikol the magpie called in Kid Loki the Restored Soul's debt of character to him, since wasn't it Old Loki who'd destroyed himself to allow Kid Loki to live, in the same way that Old Loki had orchestrated his own kidnap by Odin and that Loki had mortgaged himself to various deals all eventually coming down to his erasure from the books of Hel-with-one-'l', allowing him to be called forth from Thor's memory and thus more epistemologically dependent on Thor than most Lokis would be comfortable with until Kid Loki restored Old Loki's backed up Loki files to a metaphysical magpie and the metaphysical magpie managed to advise him into a circumstance where he got to erase this flicker of Thor-memory being entirely? Err, probably.]
Which is why, in this context, I feel like we missed a line. You see, Loki is setting himself up here and his first bubble is great fun-
Please, sir. I’m the actual God of Mischief! Asgard variation! Haven’t you heard of me? My brother’s terribly famous. Big strapping blond fellow, fond of his hammer.
But that’s just so much association. The operative line, which I haven’t seen quoted as much beneath photo sets on Tumblr, is-
If you knew me even slightly, you’d know I never pay for what I’ve done.
Because Loki never pays for what he’s done. He just dives deeper into the Lokiception, wraps another layer of lies around a false address and then goes and kicks his own door down to take his own television. He does what he wants, for some value of whichever ‘he’ is in control at that point.
And that is why he’s messing about with breakfast, sausages acting as his mystic sentry to alert him to when a human teenager will be ripping apart the very fabric of reality because he wants to get his boyfriend a present.
Thing is, tho- we don’t actually know what Loki’s intentions are, here. He’s homicidal, we know- he originally teamed up with Miss America (well, got beaten up by) in Marvel Now because he wanted to get her to help him kill Billy. Maybe he thought that, as she’s more fight-y and less arcane, she might approve of eliminating hideous magical anomalies? Or perhaps he just missed Leah’s fierce pummelling sessions and was looking for a new frightening lady to hang out with.
So yes: we know he wants to stop Billy and the solution he’s come up with for that thus far is murder but is that because he’s evil or because he’s out of better ideas?
Clearly, what Billy accidentally pulled through is Kree and not the mother that Teddy remembers. And if that’s happened, during a Skrull invasion (or what looks like a Skrull invasion, on Noh-varr’s ship) then that’s bad news. And Wiccan does have an awful lot of power to pave an awfully wide motorway to hell-with-both-’l's through his well-intentioned impulsiveness. And Teddy might not be able to save him from it.
So Loki’s homicidal; we know that. We know his solution to Wiccan ripping apart the fabric of space and time to try and get his boyfriend’s mum back is to try and put a magical bolt through the unaware teenager’s head but then, why not do it before Billy started casting the spell? While Teddy was out? Why wait in a cafe drawing sigils in ketchup if it’s an assassination trip?
No. Loki is up to something more complicated than that- or at least, very likely more desperate than that. He’s very not-powerful, even less powerful than when he was Kid Loki, in a lot of ways because this is Old Loki in Kid Loki’s world- Old Loki had got used to being able to use his master swordsmanship to take down the D*s*r, his mastery of magic to control his whereabouts, his projection of himself, his very being and image. But Balder isn’t going to take a child as an advisor to his kingship and Kid Loki’s face can’t convince any of Asgard’s warriors to run through with a sword a teenager who, the last time they saw him, was fighting for Asgard during the siege.
No, he has a conundrum. Wiccan is dangerous and doesn’t know it, he may be most dangerous to Loki himself but clearly he’s done something with potentially untold amounts of horror as a consequence, exactly the sort of thing they were stopping being Young Avengers over. But how the hel-with-one-’l’ is Loki going to stop him if he needs breakfast food just to keep an eye on him? This is the dude who, in a previous form, turned the father of all the gods, Bor, into snow, who resurrected him and distorted his mind with enchantments. He doesn’t mess about with eggs when he wants something done. Until now, anyway.
Translated, the word that Loki’s saying every time he teleports-
is ‘elsewhere.’ Not a very powerful spell, a spell of desperation. This is Loki down on his luck- he doesn’t know how to win as Kid Loki and if the house always wins, it’s dealt itself a bad hand right now. Loki is used to playing with loaded dice and instead he’s discovered he’s criminally underpowered and can hardly show up to his erstwhile allies’ door and say ‘sorry, I seem to be a weak child. Any chance you could give us a hand, Victor?’ without someone taking the opportunity to finally take his head off.
So Loki has to appeal to a sense of right. Now, the Avengers did almost agree to kill the Scarlet Witch over this power- they know how dangerous this level of reality-warping can be. Loki isn’t alone in that- why Loki has an interest in it at all is a different question. Does he want to take Wiccan’s power, to redress his issue of being in an alien form of his own body? The other thing he says when spellcasting, translated, is ‘too many cooks in the’ -it doesn’t make much sense unless he thinks that he can’t get his magic back without Wiccan losing his, that there’s a finite amount that can be accessed and Wiccan has massively upscaled his by taking Loki’s share?
Or does he need Wiccan? Is Wiccan his pathway back into his old body, his old magic? Loki was very fond of his Siege-era body, once he exited his female form (which, in actuality, belonged to Sif; let’s hope he wasn’t doing anything too gross with it****) he announced he was ‘now truly beautiful’ -a vain creature, he wants to be in his own form as he sees his own form. Not to mention, the parental, loving reaction that Thor has towards Kid Loki will be really driving him up the wall.
So. Maybe he wants his body back and thinks Wiccan can get it for him. But then why’s he trying to kill Wiccan? This isn’t random chaos, this is surgical and boring and he’s having to put quite a lot of work in to try to do it himself. Unless he’s only pretending to want to kill Wiccan to get the Young Avengers together. But that doesn’t seem all that likely, either.
Panels from issue #2 show a formidable line up of people probably both angry and disappointed with what’s gone down thus far. Told off by Captain America and the Scarlet Witch? Bad enough but Thor, Rogue, Black Bolt and bloody Wolverine in the bargain and that’s something I’d be desperately attempting my own form of Lokiception- Mogception, if you will, to avoid.
So, Loki’s (presumably) in trouble. Or at least, he’s caused trouble about Wiccan causing trouble and the trouble Wiccan has caused is collectively bigger than either previous trouble-causing incidents’ potential. There’s a whole lot of trouble. Wiccan is emotionally and tactically immature but very powerful, Loki is emotionally and tactically immature and can’t work out how this new-fangled kid thing he’s been put into works and isn’t very powerful but for all that, he’s got an old head full of millenia of ancient, arcane knowledge. They both have big weak points, they both totally worship Thor (one in a more closeted and self-hating way than the other) but one might be trying to end the world and the other one possibly has.
I suspect, although it’s unlikely, that Loki is (for all his bravado to diner staff) increasingly aware that there is a small chance he might have to pay for some micro-elements of what he’s done. Even if it’s the good stuff that Kid Loki did, so he has to look at Thor’s trusting, gormless face and endure these so-called ~emotions~ about whether or not he should kill him and even if it’s just that he’s too powerless to defend himself right now, there is a chance that anything more substantial than an unpaid bill could ruin him. He’s weak and flighty- when America says she’ll take his head off, he’s genuinely scared;
Yes. Loki doesn’t pay, he never pays. But he doesn’t have a solid plan as to how he’s going to skip his mounting bills right now, either. And where Wiccan fits into that, I don’t know except that Loki was right, things are terribad and reality itself might unravel, one suspects. And which way Loki wants it to might be governing him but he’s as screwed as everyone else, especially since he carelessly wrote his own name out of the books of Hel and might not have anywhere to go in case of Ragnarok II: Reality Destruction Boogaloo.
He’s a murderous snake in the nest. He’s chaotic, he’s as likely to harm himself as others and his likelihood of harming things is very, very high but Loki isn’t playing at mischief here, he’s too scared. And if Loki isn’t making mischief, then what is he doing? He remains Loki, as always but a few quips won’t make his career as an assassin successful, he is too bound to his own very nature, as all the gods. No more than Thor could give up the lightning and storm could Loki detach himself from chaos.
And chaos, indutibly, that bad friend who you shouldn’t really hang out with but who gets you out of as many scrapes as they get you into, that mate you don’t totally trust but does always seem to be able to get hold of a bottle of vodka, that little cosplay psychopath you found on your boyfriend’s parents’ roof? That is very much a part of being 18.
EDITORIAL NOTE: Norns alive, how did this get so long?
EDITORIAL NOTE 2: Don’t expect anything shorter.
EDITORIAL NOTE 3: Hey, Journey into Mystery-ers! Do you remember those happier bacon times?
*lies on the floor sobbing*
*The Lady Sif, born a goddess and forged a warrior, is the most fearsome and beautiful thing in all the nine realms and no one understands Thor more than she nor she more than Thor. Which really winds Loki up so he cut all her hair off in a jealous bitchfit like the Heathers character he doesn’t quite have the full homicidal propensity to be.**
**Of course, Loki is 100% homicidal, genocidal, patricidal, etc. However, he has an issue with fratricide where he can’t quite do it and Sif gets a bit tied up in that. So Loki retreats to Latveria and sits around dissecting people for his and Dr Doom’s Burn Cabinet Of Really Disturbing Things In Bottles and to agree with Victor about how stupid Sue Storm’s hair is and catch up on what that skank Namor is up to these days.
***For canon stuff about this, see Thor & Loki: Blood Brothers and the comic Loki, which are both unreliably narrated by the prince of lies himself and show a more in-depth view into his frustrations and extreme (and increasing) difficulties with perception of reality, so masterful a liesmith that he has spun himself into them. (WARNING: gross sobbing will ensue)
****I want to write separately about Sif apropos the current Journey into Mystery run but YES THIS IS AND WAS EXACTLY AS WEIRD AS YOU THINK.