Friday Feature: Loki: Agent of Asgard

So when this title was first announced, it was met with equal numbers of excited claps and derisive sneers. I’m a big fan of sneering derisively at those who sneer derisively at new ideas, so I made it a point to check this book out last month when it debuted.

Recently in Marvel’s Loki stories, the original (evil, old, scheming) Loki was “killed” and a new Loki was born. The past couple of years of the title Journey Into Mystery have been about this new kid-Loki and his adventures.

Loki: Agent of Asgard seems to be a spiritual successor to that storyline, if not a direct continuation. It’s about a young-adult Loki, still a trickster god, but now working with Freya and the leadership of Asgard as their covert operative. It’s unclear as of yet whether he is trying to clear his name with the Asgardians, or if this is simply a convenient way to live for a while. Either way, it’s a good read!

Loki in this story is handsome, charming, funny, and generally more lovable than he is evil. From thence the fanboy sneers came. When the title was first announced, much was made about this “new” Loki’s likability.

(Aside: Much was also made about his sexuality. The authors announced that Loki would be bisexual in the new story, and would change genders at different points. Fanboys puffed out their chests and said, “That’s just fanservice to all the fangirls that want to see Tom Hiddleston make out with Chris Evans!” I have two responses to this: 1. If that’s really true, GREAT BUSINESS DECISION, MARVEL! Appealing to fans is how you sell books! I’m sure that’s why a new book with Wolverine in it comes out every year… 2. Let’s put our thinking caps on for a moment and remember the character comic-book-Loki is based on, Mythology Loki. Mythology Loki is a shapeshifting pansexual schemer who once turned into a female horse, was impregnated by a male horse and gave birth to the horse that Odin rode. The fact that comic-book-Loki hasn’t already expressed some bisexuality or gender-fluidity is frankly quite a surprise.)

It’s easy for a story to go wrong when writers try to make a character that was previously villainous into a sympathetic, loveable, “hero.” Loki: Agent of Asgard does it well though. The book is well-paced (so far), legitimately funny when it tries to be, and interesting. It also doesn’t require any previous knowledge of kid-Loki’s story – which is good because I didn’t really have any.

So far it’s been a kind of “grift-of-the-month” book, but with enough characterization in each issue to keep me reading, and with only two issues under its belt, it has a lot of room to grow. I do have one minor complaint with the first issue, and that is that in a few pages is portrays Thor as a drunken bully. There’s a lot of good reasons to do this: the story is told from Loki’s point of view so naturally his view of Thor will be more negative than others, it has a good basis in other stories (including mythology), and the author wanted to. It’s a matter of taste, of course, but in the recent cultural meta-narrative (through other comics and movies) we’ve seen Thor grow out of his bully-ish nature and more into a loving brother and leader. It was a shame to see him revert like that.

Bully-Thor notices Loki through a window.

Even with that small complaint, if you’re at all interested in a charming-scoundrel archetype character, comedy comics, or Loki, I would give this book a try.

And hey, if nothing else comes of this book, it will give skinny dudes another cosplay option for the next few years! (+1 p0int, skinny dudes)

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Coulson Lives! (Sort Of)

A god

A genius

A monster

A frozen warrior

 

…..and this guy….

Say what you will about all the miscellaneous Marvel movies, but if there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s the fact that Phil Coulson was the best thing to come out of all it. Starting all the way back in the original Iron Man film, and continuing still, Agent Coulson became a fan favorite that is still a big part of what makes those movies fun.

The question is: why?

We’re watching these movies because they’re about superheroes. We’re in the theater because we want to see Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk, or Thor smash through villains and save the day. Yet, by the time most of us walk out, it is the non-powered character that sticks with us. I think the answer is simpler than we all believe.

It’s because he IS human.

It’s because Coulson IS us.

Agent Coulson is a mere man among gods and monsters. He has no power, there is nothing special about him, and he is always out of his league. He walks in the shadow of giants, BUT he loves the shade. He’s the character none of us knew we wanted; until he showed up and we realized we couldn’t live without him.

He is a fan, like us. He collects Captain America trading cards. He fawns, with some control, over his heroes that he gets to stand next to when the world is at the brink. He is our window into that world. A perfect contrast to the madness and power that circulates around.

He is who we are, and where we wish to be.

An everyday guy, living in a world of heroes.

Coulson, as a character, is at his best when he is that contrast between us and the heroes. In those moments he becomes incredibly relatable. His victories become all the more sweeter, because we all know the odds are stacked against him, and we hope to believe that we could do the same.

As Joss Whedon puts it, he’s “the little guy”.

“The idea of the Little Guy is something that I am very fierce about, and there has never been a better Little Guy than Clark Gregg. That intrigued me, this world around the superhero community. It’s the people whose shop windows get blown up when the Destroyer shows up.”

So, when someone tells me they’re going to center a show around this beloved character, it’s hard to not get excited…

….then be all the more let down with the result.

Agents of Shield has a fantastic premise, and a lot going for it; mainly Coulson’s inclusion and direct ties to the Marvel movie universe. Yet so far, the ratings haven’t been Avengers-esque and Coulson… well… he hasn’t been either.

Agents of Shield has a lot of problems; though five episodes in things are getting better. Characterization is minimal, it feels very “monster of the week,” and, if I could editorialize for brief moment, their hacker, Skye, is a terrible character. Yet, despite those issues, that’s not the show’s biggest problem.

Coulson doesn’t resonate the way he used to.

I know many of you are screaming out at the monitor, saying that it is because it isn’t the same Coulson, but a LMD or Vision, or something else; but I am not talking about that. I talking about the fact that he doesn’t seem as relatable any longer.

It’s because he’s no longer “the little guy.”

In Agents of Shield, Coulson is the star, the hero; and that in and of itself is not the problem. Having a character in that sort of position doesn’t make him unrelatable; the problem is he is no longer in the shadows of giants.

We all loved him because he was the underdog, because he was surrounded by powered beings beyond anything and still soldiered on. Yet in Shield, there are no gods and monsters, only men; and when that happens Coulson just seems like another generic action hero. [Albeit, with some funny one liners.]

Like stated previously, his character works best when he is contrasted against the personas around him. Yet, whether due to constrained budgets or poor scriptwriting, that isn’t happening in the television series. That amazing relatable spark is gone when all you have is another Alias.

Agents of Shield gives us Coulson, but an Agent Coulson who is not the quiet hero, rather the man of action. One could argue that this is simply another side to the same character, which I could agree with. Yet, the problem lay in the fact that the audience has fallen in love with a very specific side, and to show otherwise may steer them away from the show.

I want Agents of Shield to be great, but more importantly, I want the character that I didn’t know I needed until he was there to come back. He let me experience the Marvel universe in a way that I don’t think will be replicated for years. Like a drug, I desperately want that experience on a weekly basis.

Coulson lived, but my adoration is waning. He’s not the character we all fell in love with, but maybe he can be again. Here’s hoping it doesn’t take multiple seasons or a looming cancellation to bring him back to form.