By Chris Arrant
With the events of Fear Itself shuddering across the Marvel Universe, a familiar threat lurks in the shadows of Asgard, but he doesn’t remember his past at all.
The trickster Loki took center stage this week as the THOR series becomes JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY with issue #622. Spinning out of previous events, this new ongoing saga shows a teenage Loki putting his talents to good use working in the shadows of Asgard and the Nine Worlds beyond to try to save his people and his brother from the threats shown in Fear Itself.
|JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #622 cover by Stephanie Hans|
“In terms of the action we see, JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY works as the shadow book to THE MIGHTY THOR,” explains series writer Kieron Gillen. “As in, it lives in the shadow and shows what's done in the dark, behind closed doors. I described it as SECRET AVENGERS to Thor's AVENGERS. The primary agent for now is Loki, putting together his team and going to perform a mission that'll shape [Fear Itself]—but bar the people on the team, the chances are no one will ever know.”
Staying true with the title itself, Gillen states that “mysteries are our things; both exploring them and creating them. After reading this alongside FEAR ITSELF, you'll have a completely different perspective on it all.”
According to Gillen, the series focuses on the Asgardian side of Fear Itself and what impact the return of The Serpent means for Thor’s people. But given how Loki has long acted a thorn in the side of the Marvel Universe at-large, how can anyone trust him?
“Good question, and an opinion which almost everyone in Asgard—bar Thor himself—shares,” Gillen points out. “How can they even risk having Loki here? And that's the opinion of the cooler heads. If Thor wasn't around, you can guarantee that someone would try to end Loki before any of his inevitable schemes get under way. So what if he's a boy now? It's not worth the risk. Best break his neck in his sleep.”
Although he’s long been known as an evil counterpart to his heroic half-brother, after his death in SIEGE, Loki underwent a resurrection thanks to the Thunder God that placed him in the form of a young boy without the memories of his sinister past.
“Thor certainly thinks that Loki is a reincarnated version of his younger self,” Gillen says. “And he's praying that this time it can be different.”
But Loki’s evil past casts a long shadow on even this incarnation, both for the characters and also the writer himself.
“Loki's the God of Mischief,” remarks Gillen. “However, in practice, he tends to be used as something more akin to the God of Evil. But there [are] all sorts of approaches to Loki which don't have to be so openly diabolic. I'm trying to explore Loki as the trickster figure. Physically and magically he's bereft of his full power, but he's got all the cunning of a God of Mischief and aims to put it to a different task for once. Loki discovering the truth about himself becomes the first step to, well, to whatever comes next.”
|JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #623 cover by Stephanie Hans|
When asked about his approach to writing a character with such an evil track record, Gillen says it’s a question he asks himself.
“I'm embracing the question you're posing,” he admits. “All the characters wonder that. The reader will be wondering that. Hell, even Loki will be wondering it. A question mark should hang over Loki, and the contrast between what we know about him and what he appears to be now is key. For me, there's something wonderful about having a character having to deal with everyone hating him, and still doing whatever he's going to do anyway. It's like the X-Men in that way. It’s easy defending people who love you. Still defending people who hate you? Now, there's something else.
“Not that Loki is ever going to be a totally pure figure, but I think the sheer joy he takes in being alive adds much to him even when he's being the most Machiavellian under-14 in the whole of existence.”
In recent years Gillen has spent significant time in the realm of Asgard, writing THOR as well as several other projects including SIEGE: LOKI. But JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY offers him a chance to step into the shadows of Thor, Loki and their brethren.
“This title allows me to focus on things we haven't seen before,” claims the writer. “We've seen how Thor would deal with a problem with Hel. Now how does a character with a fraction of the Thunder God's resources [handle it]? It all logically grew from my experiences on my THOR run. If you want to see [the origin of] JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY, you just need to look at my and Jamie McKelvie's SIEGE: LOKI one-shot. That felt like discovering something strange and wonderful, and I knew that given enough space, I could do something really compelling. I don't think Marvel's ever done a mythological book like JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY before. I can't wait to see what people make of it.”
Although the series focuses on young Loki’s adventures, his big brother Thor won’t be far behind.
“Actually, Thor's use in the book's something else worth mentioning,” Gillen says. “Having this different perspective on the Thunder God allows us to bring out his other qualities which don't often get shown in his own book or in AVENGERS. His relationship with Loki is one of my favorite things in JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY.”
|JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #624 cover by Stephanie Hans|
With his history on THOR and related titles, Gillen looks to those story arcs and those characters to work their way into JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY.
“The Fear Itself arc draws deeply from all the characters I played with in Thor,” he promises. “The first problem that we deal with involves the aftermath of the ‘Fine Print’ arc of THOR, so we'll see Hela and Mephisto not exactly being on talking terms. The recently departed Tyr is key, and we expand on where Matt [Fraction] left Balder and him at the end of ‘The World Eaters.’ I'm using a character Matt created recently too. Also, there's one really big Asgard-related character that I'm going to play with. And I've invented some new people too. It's an unusual group shot, to say the least.”
Loki’s reach doesn’t end at the gates of Asgard for this covert ops squad, and neither does Gillen’s imagination for what the series can be:“The first arc is Asgard-centric, but as we look to the future there's no-one in the mythic or cosmic side who I would rule out being dragged in. I've got an enormous list of characters who I'd like to work in, depending on the story. Long term, I see JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY as the book which consumes everything from that side of the Marvel Universe. Loki will use whatever tool it takes to get the job done and there [are] a whole lot of tools available. I find myself reaching for metaphors like ‘Imagine the West Wing in Heaven’ or ‘‘I, Claudius’ with Gods’ or ‘Sandman meets Queen & Country.’ I want to try and create this enormous, coherent, tapestry.”