An Exercise in Redundancy: Criticizing the Storyline of Loki in Journey into Mystery & Young Avengers

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HEAVY SPOILERS ABOUND FOR JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY AND YOUNG AVENGERS!

journey-into-mystery1Images from Stephanie Hans’ WebsiteLike many people in the summer of 2011, I came out of Thor heavily enchanted by a certain villain: Loki Odinson/Laufeyson, as portrayed by Tom Hiddleston. Before this, I had very little experience with the Marvel comics – I basically only knew about the Hulk (and Iron Man thanks to the Robert Downey Jr movies) and wasn’t overly interested in the comic universe. What can I say, I was a DC girl back in the day.

But due to Loki and my overwhelming love for the Thor movie, I wound up researching the Marvel universe. When I learned that there was a comic series written by Kieron Gillen focusing solely on Loki’s newest incarnation, a young child, I was excited to try it.

For those not in the know, the original character of Loki was killed when he sacrificed himself to save Asgard. Afterwards, Thor brought Loki back in the form of a child (which is a complaint all on its own: Thor’s reasoning for bringing back one of the worst villains in the entire universe is literally, “I’m lonely and bored.” He had no way of knowing Loki would come back as a child without his memories. To be fair, this is not the fault of Gillen but instead Matt Fraction.)

This Loki was not the previous Loki. He’s a person all in his own right, and while mischievous and cunning, he is disinclined to go down the path of his former self. He wants to be good. He is good.

So naturally he has to die. After a long thirty or so issues, kid Loki’s journey came to an end when it was revealed that the former Loki killed himself intentionally so that he could be brought back and let the child version redeem the name of Loki. Kid Loki’s entire purpose was to redeem the name, then die so that the former Loki could inherit his body.

As a character moment, it’s touching. It’s stated there may be a way to stop the former Loki from doing this, but it would take time and, in the meantime, millions of beings across the universe would die at the hand of a former enemy of kid Loki’s. So, kid Loki chooses the right and moral path: He gives himself up so that millions of beings will live.

As an ending, I thought it failed in what it set out to do. I loved the possibility kid Loki brought to the Marvel universe. Here was a new incarnation of a character that was known only for being evil, determined to do good and be a hero himself, even if his ways were unpopular. He was closer to the mythological Loki than the character had ever been, and I was enamored with Gillen’s writing. Kid Loki represented so many possibilities. Instead of going back into the same old rut of the Marvel universe, things could be shaken up. New relationships could form.

Instead, kid Loki was dead, and this new kid Loki – while not the former Loki himself, either – was not as straight laced as the former child.

I was willing to see where Gillen would go with this. I still trusted him as a writer. Even if I hated the ending and how it reverted things back to the old status quo in the Marvel universe, I was willing to go with it.

Loki next became a member of the Young Avengers, a cute callback to the fact that the original Loki was the reason the Avengers banded together. Young Avengers first saw him operating mainly on the sidelines while watching Billy, the son of Wanda Maximoff and the superhero known as Wiccan. His reasons for doing so weren’t revealed until much later on.

Along the course of the series, kid Loki is magically aged by Billy into his – dare I say it? – hot boy band older self, teen Loki. Near the end of the arc it’s revealed that this Loki isn’t the former Loki either, but a new Loki with the memories of both elder Loki and the kid Loki before him. It’s also revealed that, since the Gods are creatures of stories, kid Loki’s old role and story is stepping into the new teen Loki’s story. In other words, teen Loki isn’t out and out evil as the older Loki was, because kid Loki wasn’t, and he finds he cannot do the evil things he thinks of because the story prevents him from doing it. Else he feels an enormous amount of guilt and shame, something the elder Loki didn’t have an issue with. (It makes about as much sense in the comics, too.)

So, at the end, Loki leaves the Young Avengers and goes his own way to become an agent of Asgard, working for the Allmother which is composed of Freyja, Idunn, and Gaea. There’s a whole universe of possibilities for his character now, since he’s not truly evil nor truly good like both of his predecessors.

Journey into Mystery 645Images from Stephanie Hans’ Website. Where does that leave us?

Exactly where we were in Journey into Mystery.

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed Young Avengers. But if I were honest, I thought Loki’s entire storyline starting from the ending to his Journey into Mystery run all the way to the Young Avengers was convoluted and basically going through the exact same narrative choices as JiM did.

Why was it necessary to kill off the first new Loki? Yes, it makes sense for the old Loki to have planned things that way, and I could almost swallow the ending on that basis alone. But once the new Loki was brought in and revealed to be better than the first incarnation of Loki, the entire storyline falls apart.

It becomes redundant. Journey into Mystery establishes the new Loki as a good boy. He’s killed off and the new Loki is undetermined but definitely not entirely trustworthy. But then – wait, he actually is trustworthy because even though he plotted against the Young Avengers at first, he ended up saving and helping them because the former kid Loki’s story was making him do it!

Why was it necessary? If we end up exactly where we started, with a Loki who could shake things up in the Marvel universe and possibly be a good person, then why go through the entire storyline at all? Why not simply age up the original kid Loki and continue the storyline that way? It’s unfair to make a reader love a character and put up with 30+ comic issues of depth and development, only to have it all taken away at the end. More than that, I believe it’s lazy writing. It’s the Donna Noble Principle.

I think Gillen is an intelligent writer. He clearly loves his craft and puts much of his heart and soul into it. But in this case, I think he made a bad call and ended up with a storyline and a character arc that was an exercise in redundancy and, frankly, futility.

Will I be reading Loki: Agent of Asgard? You bet. Despite my critiques of the storyline, I want to see where things go from here. But maybe I’ll just pretend that the ending of Journey into Mystery never happened, and the Loki we have now didn’t go through all the loops of convoluted writing to get where he is today.

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Miranda works at a library and can often be seen stalking through the shelves. She lives in a house full of cats and books in the suburbanland of Oklahoma.

6 COMMENTS

  1. I haven’t read Gillen’s run on Journey into Mystery, but one of my big disappointments with Young Avengers was Loki. I could not understand why the other characters put up with him and his motivations seemed needlessly complicated.

    My other big disappointment was Miss America. As in I wanted more of her. But that’s a conversation for another day.

    • I got the impression the other characters put up with him because they had to/he was essential to the fight, but you’re right, it wasn’t exactly clear why they had to put up with him.

      Yeah, America was just kind of there for me. She didn’t seem to have much of a personality past “punch things as a way of dealing with everything.” Maybe that’s because I just haven’t read anything else she’s been in, though, I don’t know.

      • America Chavez hasn’t been in much else. I find her to be an intriguing character with potential and I hope she doesn’t languish in the Marvel vault until someone else comes along and brings back Young Avengers.

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