Can a villain be so bad he’s good? That’s the question to ask Marvel’s green-clad mischief-maker Loki. Fans have seen Loki turn over a new leaf in both comics and film, but just because he’s no longer a villain doesn’t mean he’s a hero. There’s a grey area in-between, and that’s a dangerous place to be.
In the upcoming new comic series Loki: Agent of Asgard, Mighty Avengers writer Al Ewing and Batgirl artist Lee Garbett are taking the newly reformed (and newly adult) Loki into the employ of Asgard’s All-Mother as his home realm’s secret weapon against all who oppose it. Mixing the superhero and spy genre, Ewing has a lot planned for readers when the series debuts in February; from extra-terrestrial espionage, spy gadgets and a dead Thor in the series’ opening pages. Want to know more? Let’s ask Ewing.
Newsarama: We talked with you back when the book was original announced, but we wanted to go more in-depth. Al, what’ is Loki getting out of being an Agent of Asgard?
Al Ewing: I go into detail on this in issue #1, so I'll try not to get too spoiler-y here, but essentially it's a little bit of quid pro quo. Loki's greatest fear, as I've mentioned before, is sliding back into his old persona, getting trapped again in an endless cycle of fighting superheroes and getting beaten by them - especially after everything he did to escape that cycle. The All-Mother can help him out with that problem, in return for the occasional secret mission.
Nrama: So we have his motivations, but why would Asgard and the All-Mother trust Loki to work for Asgard?
Ewing: They don't, entirely, but at the same time he shouldn't trust them either. They have their own agenda, which will come to the fore as time goes on.
Nrama: Loki has a deep relationship with his adopted mother as evidenced in Thor: The Dark World, but the All-Mother is more than just one woman. Who are they?
Ewing: For those who haven't been following along with Asgardian politics, the All-Mother is a group title for a triumvirate of three mother-goddesses - Freyja, Idunn and Gaea - who are currently joint rulers of Asgard, having taken over from Odin after the events of Fear Itself. So the three of them have a big role in terms of being Loki's 'mission givers', and they have agendas of their own that might not match up with Loki's... or with each other's, for that matter.
Nrama: You taking on Loki is a bit of a hand-off from Kieron Gillen, who’s written Loki near exclusively during his time as a child in both Journey Into Mystery and Young Avengers. You worked with Kieron on Iron Man: Fatal Frontier, so have you had any conversations with him about Loki and doing this series?
Ewing: Being same-generation comic writers who both live in the United Kingdom, we do a lot of talking and drinking at cons and events, as well as over email, so obviously Loki's been discussed a fair bit even before I got the nod. Fans of his work on the character can rest assured that I've been a fan right alongside them, and I'm hopefully not about to wreck it all now.
Nrama: Speaking of Loki, we just saw his transformation back to being an adult in Kieron’s Young Avengers. Is he just Loki in a bigger body, or is there more change than what’s on the surface?
Ewing: Well, he's trying to change - he's definitely not who he was, in the same way that we're all not who we were five years ago. For example, he's on vastly improved terms with his brother Thor, and he's honestly regretful about some of the things he's done in the past. The question is, can he sustain the changes he's made or will he slide back into a more familiar status quo? It could go either way.
Nrama: The subtitle of this, “Agent of Asgard,” gives both the edge of spycraft but also magic because of Asgard and Loki’s background. How do espionage and magic mix in this series?
Ewing: The spy genre is all about secrets, lies and hidden truths. There's always part of the story you're not being told, a double or triple agent you haven't guessed - even the pens aren't what they seem to be. Similarly, magic is all about secret knowledge - or it's about misdirection, fooling the eye into watching one hand while you do the trick with the other. Or both. So there's an overlap there, and obviously if we're talking about lies, tricks and misdirection, it all ties into our protagonist.
Nrama: A good spy is never without some cool gadgets: does Loki have any?
Ewing: Yes! Although they're more magic artifacts. I'm trying to find the mid-point between the hidden-in-plain-sight gadgets from Q-Branch and the seven-league boots and invisibility cloaks of myths and fairytales.
Nrama: On this series you’re working with Lee Garbett. I know it’s still early on, but what’s it like having him with you to create this new book?
Ewing: Lee's fantastic. He's got a real grasp of expression - he's absolutely captured Loki's cheeky charm and the warmth of his relationship with Thor - and his layouts are similarly fantastic. There's a wonderful scene in Loki: Agent of Asgard #1 of Loki scaling a tall building that he's absolutely made his own. You'll know it when you see it. Similarly there's a bit with a grappling hook that he knocked out of the park. I could give dozens of these little moments, but then I'd end up just describing the entire plot.
Nrama: Lee Garbett has said that there’s humor in your scripts – can you talk about that and balancing it in an action book like superheroes are?
Ewing: You need a bit of humor. If you don't have a bit of humor in your story, how are you going to know when things get serious? Similarly, if you're writing an out-and-out comedy you need a little bit of darkness in there, just to leaven things. There's nothing that makes you root for a character like being able to laugh with them, or cry with them. Loki readers will be doing both. Mostly laughing to start with, but the tears will come in their own good time. Lots and lots of tears, don't you worry.
Nrama: A big question mark for me at least in this series is Thor; how will Thor be shown here, and what does Loki think of him these days as he takes a more active role for Asgard?
Ewing: Well, obviously we're going to kill him on page one. Aside from that little detail, though... he's not Loki's enemy anymore. He's Loki's brother - Loki's big, warm, good-hearted brother, who likes a drink and who'd fight to the death for his friends and family. And Loki, for the first time in a very long while, finds himself responding to that warmth. Loki can no longer find it in him to hate Thor, and they're getting along better than they have in centuries. (It's all based on a lie, of course, but it's still nice to see.)
Nrama: In addition to a dead Thor in page one, I’m told the first issue sees Loki squaring off against the superhero team he inadvertently helped found – the Avengers. I thought Loki had reformed, so why is he up against them once more?
Ewing: It's part of the mission! Or a mission, not necessarily the one he was given. Besides, there's reformed and there's reformed - Loki's not a binary sort of person, so while he's trying not to be all bad, that doesn't mean he's that interested in being all good either. He's still got plenty of mischief up his sleeve.