If Al Ewing and Lee Garbett's Loki: Agent of Asgard #1 doesn't end up being the best single issue of the year, then we've got a great year ahead of us. Why did I love this book so much? How much time do you have?
(Look Ma, I'm writin' a listicle! *sobs*)
1. It's a fantastically constructed done-in-one that tightly packs in everything you could want in a comic book. (This could be a listicle of its own—nested listicles, much structure, wow...)
Let's start with one great attention-getting splash page for an opener and another shocking one to close, with an entire adventure in between—an adventure that stands perfectly well on its own while setting up a larger story to come.
Did I mention that it also recaps Loki's essential history with the Avengers—and features the Avengers too? Yes, all in one comic, I kid you not. If they're not careful, they might attract the mythical New Reader with this book—and actually keep him and her. Wait... do you think that was their plan all along? That's just devious enough to be worthy of Loki himself.
2. Just when you thought Kieron Gillen was the master of Loki-speak, Al Ewing threatens to take that horned crown from him. Under Ewing's pen Loki is just as snappy and clever as we've come to know him, and when interacting with the Avengers you can't help but hear his lines in Tom Hiddleston's voice. (Hey Google, I said Tom Hiddleston! TOM HIDDLESTON! That's three times! Now where's my check?)
3. Lee Garbett brings his clear lines and layouts to a book with a distinctly darker feel than the Stephanie Brown Batgirl series on which he shone so brightly—do I ever miss that book—and makes it his own while at the same time very different from adventures of the wide-eyed Steph and battle-wisened Babs. His characterization is magnificent, not just on Loki but on the other characters as well, especially Thor and... no, I can't give it away. Together wih colorist Nolan Woodard, Garbett makes his book a joy to look at as well as to read. (Hats off to Jamie McKelvie for the new Loki design.)
4. What's that? Did I say "joy"? In a modern comic book?
Verily! This book was fun to read, and will surely be fun on numerous re-readings. I laughed outloud through the book, not just at Loki's dialogue and inner monologue but also at his devious machinations—all the twists you expect from Gillen's writing of him against the background of a simpler and more new-reader-friendly premise.
5. And this passage, from Loki's mind:
Magic is taking a thought and making it real. Taking a lie and making it the truth. Telling a story to the universe so utterly, cosmically perfect that for a single, shining moment... the world believes a man can fly.
Best explanation of magic in comics I've ever seen (when one is given at all)—and also keeping a nice link to Gillen's emphasis on stories through Journey into Mystery and Young Avengers. There's also a distinct Douglas Adams quality to it: I immediately thought of his line from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy about flying being jumping and forgetting to fall. And the subtle Superman reference is just one of the pop culture references strewn through the book—see if you tell what he's singing in the shower—another legacy continued from Gillen's development of the character.
Loki: Agent of Asgard #1 is a success on many levels. Ewing and Garbett have successfully taken over Loki from GIllen's capable hands and put him in a new context that will be familiar to longtime fans and new wanderers from the land of cinema alike. And did I mention it's fun? In the end, that may be the best thing about the new Loki title—I expect lots of pathos, betrayal, and misunderstandings throughout this run, but I hope it never stops being fun.