In the Marvel Universe, truth can cut you metaphorically and literally, especially if you run afoul of the title character of the new "Loki: Agent of Asgard" ongoing series by writer Al Ewing and artist Lee Garbett. In his solo title Loki employs both his wits and a number of magical weapons including a sword made out of truth to carry out espionage missions for the All-Mother, a triumvirate of goddesses that rule Asgardia.
In the months ahead Loki will need to keep his wits about him and arm himself with all the magical weapons he can find because he's about to become embroiled in some dangerous situations involving the immortal Asgardian hero Sigurd the Ever Glorious and the specter of his old and malevolent self. CBR News spoke with Ewing about his plans for "Loki: Agent of Asgard" and some of the larger themes of the book.
CBR News: Al, after reading the first three issues of Loki: Agent of Asgard" it feels like one of the main themes you're exploring in this book is the concept of truth and lies and the comfort and harm that can come from both. Is that sort of the overall theme of your work on this series?
Al Ewing: I can't say I planned on that particular theme from the outset, but it's in the mix now and I've learned to play the hands I unconsciously deal myself. How the truth can hurt -- and how it can be used as a weapon -- is a theme that seems so obvious now that I can't believe I didn't intend to have it in there from the start. I mean, In "Loki: AoA" the truth is literally a sword, for goodness' sake. I have no idea where my mind was. But I always like it when a theme bubbles up to the surface, unforced, through just writing the book -- it feels organic.
Another idea that you seem interested in exploring is the concept of identity, especially in terms of how it's related to gods. It can be a difficult quest for a human being to change who they are, but based on what I've read so far in "Loki: Agent of Asgard" and Kieron Gillen's Loki stories that preceded this in books like "Journey Into Mystery" and "Young Avengers," it seems like it's even harder for the gods of Asgard to change who they are. Is that correct? Is young Loki's ultimate goal in this book the freedom to decide what and who he wants to be?
That's one I did have in mind from the start, or almost from the start, and obviously it's something that's been floating around since he first came back to life. It's something fairly important to me on a personal level -- the idea of learning how to be yourself, to accept yourself, to not let other people's ideas of you define who you are. I think that's something that's important to a lot of our readers as well. Unfortunately, it's a more difficult proposition for a fictional character, especially in a medium that trends so strongly towards nostalgia. There's a lot of forward momentum in comics, but it's always hard-won and you never quite know what'll stick, so the stakes for Loki are real and fairly high.
In issue #3 we saw that young Loki isn't the only one trying to control and shape the destiny of Loki's younger self. Are you able to comment at all on the agenda of this older aspect of Loki's that doesn't seem to want to die? Is it as clearcut as the older Loki wanting to preserve his nefarious reputation? Is he literally at war with himself? Or is there something more complex going on that will become clearer as the series move forward?
It's a little more complicated than you're making it sound, but it's also a little more simple than that so it evens out. Beyond that, I can't comment much -- except that for the first year, we wanted to give Loki a real challenge -- and he's always been his own worst enemy. I can say that very few people have managed to guess the truth behind Old Loki so far, but there have been one or two.
In that same issue the older Loki observed the younger Loki's conversation with Verity Willis, a woman who can detect and see through all manner of lies, so much so that she can't even distract herself with fiction. Verity is a new character, correct? What inspired her creation? And how would you describer her mental state after meeting Loki in issue #2? What was it like for her to meet a trickster god?
Verity is new. The hard thing about picking a supporting cast for Loki is that he can theoretically snow anybody, which kind of gets a little creepy. So I figured it'd be good to give him a friend who'd see through any crap he tried to pull, forcing him to be totally honest around her at all times. He said in #2 that he would eventually lie to her, but he hasn't so far and I imagine it'll be a bit of a moment when he finally does. She'll see it, of course.
As for Verity's mental state -- fairly upbeat, considering. All her life she's been unable to suspend her disbelief enough to really enjoy a good fantasy story. And now she's met one.
Verity isn't the only character in "Agent of Asgard" that has a pained relationship with the truth. Issue #3 brought the immortal Asgardian hero Sigurd, the Ever Glorious into the book. It seems like he functions as Loki's opposite number these days in that legends depict him heroically but he's often craven and self absorbed, while Loki's legends depict him in a nefarious light and he's struggling to be something more. Is that an apt comparison? What can you tell us about Sigurd's role in the book moving forward?
That's an excellent comparison! I hadn't thought of Sigurd as the reverse Loki, but that does fit really well. Sigurd's kind of sleazy, he's been kind of sleazy for thousands of years, and he sees absolutely no reason to change now. His only real problem is that after millennia of running away from any kind of consequences for his actions, he's now got some very pissed-off Valkyries waiting for him after he dies, which is apparently sooner than he'd like. So that'll be a fun drama to explore over time.
Let's talk a little more about the plot and themes of issues #4 and #5. In terms of genre is this a mash up of elements from heist stories, and modern day fantasy tales? What else can you tell us about what's going on in this arc?
Well, #4 is where Sigurd comes back for his sword, for reasons that will become apparent and involve a special guest star from my other book, "Mighty Avengers." Who says this isn't the Marvel Age of cross-promotional synergy, true believer? Anyway, if this issue was a "Community" episode it'd be called "Swashbuckling And Comparative Religion," so make of that what you will.
As for #5 -- that's the end of the first trade and it's where a lot of the pieces come together. Loki finally does an actual mission -- some would say a mission impossible -- but it wouldn't be an issue of "Loki" if there weren't some twists and turns coming from both Lokis. Questions will be answered, ulterior motives will be revealed. You don't want to miss this.
What details and teases can you give us about the antagonists Loki is up against in issues #4-5?
In issue #4 -- Sigurd! And an old enemy who wants a little payback. And we have a guest villain making a cameo in issue #5 as well, in one of the most visually stunning spreads I've ever seen from Lee. So even laying aside the incredible events that I'm not going to spoil, you should still buy it.
Artist Lee Garbett continues his work on the series with issues #4 and #5. You just mentioned the spread from #5, but which of his artistic strengths will be on display in upcoming issues and what do you feel he brings to the story you're telling together?
When you see issue #5, you'll know exactly what he brings, if you don't already. After three issues of greatness, you may feel you've seen everything, but I proposed something he could do for a particular scene in #5, he went for it big-time and it's turned out incredibly well. You'll see what I mean when we get there.
Finally, Loki's missions so far as an "Agent of Asgard" have pretty much dealt with matters of internal security and recently we saw some interesting political situations with regard to Asgard and the other realms pop up in Jason Aaron's "Thor: God of Thunder." Are you interested in exploring those situations? Will we see some political espionage stories in future installments of "Loki: Agent of Asgard?" Or, to put it in terms of Britain's security services, is Loki more of an MI5-type agent than an MI6 one?
We will be exploring the political landscape of Asgard, and introducing a few hills and valleys of our own. Issues #4 and #5 take place before the shinola really hits the fan over in "Thor," but once things really start happening we're going to be right on board, so you can expect Loki to get involved with the politics of it all sooner or later. Whose side he'll be on -- well, your guess is as good as mine at this point.
I want to say a big thank you to our readers for picking up the book! Some people are making this their first comic in a long time, which is nice, and some people are making it their first comic at all, which is frankly mind-blowing. But I treasure everyone who loves and supports the book and this feels like a good opportunity to thank everyone for doing that and assure them -- and anyone else happening upon this interview -- that it's only going to get better.
"Loki: Agent of Asgard" #4 is on sale May 7.