After opening with a bang, Al Ewing and Lee Garbett's "Loki: Agent of Asgard" drops to a pretty average second issue. The plot is still good fun, but "Loki and Lorelei, Sitting in a Tree" lacks the vigor and visuals of its predecessor.
Both issues do share a few excellent elements. Ewing's text is still funny in understated ways; the jokes are not so much subtle as small and unexpected. His Loki is clever not only in big schemes, but in little turns of phrase, and even the captions are winking at the reader. With playfulness at every level, this series already feels happily settled in its tone.
The creative team also makes great use of their source material. Though it's ostensibly about Loki making a fresh start, "Agent of Asgard" is more about getting Loki to the point where he's capable of a fresh start. His aim in working for the All-Mother is quite literally the erasure of the past so that it cannot control him in the present. It's smart that Ewing therefore draws heavily on that past, mining Loki's rich history for material and problems to face. For instance, this issue brings in the usually underused Lorelei (as well as a reference to Gillen's "Journey Into Mystery" that's just about tailor-made for Tumblr grief-rage). Whenever Marvel's had a second Asgard title, they've used it to explore the Nine Realms in greater depth, and it's great to see "Agent of Asgard" continue that tradition.
Ewing also uses complex, non-linear structures to create a story you have to concentrate to follow but never struggle to believe. It's impressive how breezily the creative team nests stories within stories -- in the abstract. This time around, though, the structure doesn't read very well dramatically, both from a flow perspective and a visual perspective. The speed dating frame necessitates a whole host of talking head panels which break up otherwise interesting pages. It would be a struggle for any artist to engage the reader's eye with so many of those, and even Garbett, whose work is always so full of character, can't quite rise to the challenge.
That doesn't affect the rest of the panels, though, which are lively and lovely. In every issue, Garbett draws one or two facial expressions that make me want to laugh out loud and/or save them for internet reaction images. Woodard's colors add a lot of slickness to the art, which heightened the heist atmosphere and only left two or three pages feeling uninspired. Cowles is, per usual, about perfect on the letters.
Last and least, this issue introduces a romantic subplot that I didn't find particularly compelling or necessary. I'm fully aware that this series is geared younger, so a romantic subplot wasn't exactly unexpected. It's par for the course, and at least this one has a cutesy pitch behind it. I still found it uninteresting, though.
With the speed dating done and the newest scheme hatched, "Loki: Agent of Asgard" #2 can only fairly be considered disappointing in light of the debut issue. After a less brilliant opening, this fun but flat issue would be simply that -- fun but flat.