Wednesday, October 25, 2017

COMIC REVIEW: Loki: Agent of Asgard

The Road to Ragnarok!
Loki: Agent of Asgard
Writer: Al Ewing
Illustrator: Lee Garbett

4/5 stars
PG-13 for some violence, some language, sexual references/innuendos
Recommend to fans of Loki, whether of the classic or new, comic or MCU variety; lovers of anti-heroes, character development and characters who just can't seem to get it right.

Kid Loki's all grown up - and the God of Mischief is stronger, smarter, sexier and just plain sneakier than ever before. As Asgardia's one-man secret service, he's ready to lie, cheat, steal, bluff and snog his way through the twistiest, turniest and most treacherous missions the All-Mother can throw at him...starting with a heart-stopping heist on Avengers Tower! And that's just the beginning, as Loki takes on Lorelei in Monte Carlo's casinos, and heads back to the dawn of Asgard to join its greatest heroes on a quest for a certain magical sword! But when Loki puts together a crew to crack the deepest dungeons of Asgardia itself, there may be one plot twist too many for even Loki to handle! (from Vol !: Trust Me, via Goodreads)



It's simple, really. I'm a character development kind of girl with a thing for antiheroes and major character flaws. Some of my favorite fictional characters are Artemis Fowl, John Cleaver, Raymond Reddington, Han Solo, Zuko, OUAT's Rumpelstiltskin and, of course, Loki. What I love about these characters is their conflicting desires and their struggle in weighing them out. That idea of wanting something you can't have, wanting it so bad you can taste it, so bad that you'll do anything to get it. In these moments, people become their best or their worst selves; here, they can commit atrocities they never would have imagined or show a bravery even they didn't know they possessed and watching this unfold fascinates me. The more painful and conflicted the desires, the better!

Is it any surprise then I fell hard for this 17-issue series chronicling the former supervillain's fight to obtain the impossible -redemption?

Even desperate to turn over a new leaf, Loki doesn't step into the role of your typical hero. He is, after all, still the God of Mischief, still the Trickster, still the God of Lies and he lives up to those expectations while (mostly) staying clear of Supervillain territory, whether he's completing some decidedly shady missions for the All-Mother or sneaking off to complete an agenda of his own.

This version of Loki is a delicious combination of loneliness, love, desire, justified anger, hurt, and guilt. This is a haunted Loki, plagued by demons of his past self -metaphorically and literally. (This is the Marvel Universe, after all. You can't just have one Loki running around, can you?)

Loki isn't just fighting to redeem himself from his past sins. He is fighting against his very nature. His destiny. Loki IS the God of Lies and all the while he is fighting for his freedom and redemption -with every heist, cloak-and-dagger mission, and epic showdown- Loki: Agent of Asgard continually poses the question: "How can the God of Lies be redeemed? How can the God of Lies ever be trustworthy?"

In my initial review of Vol 1, Trust Me, I said:
It's the kind of tale I've always dreamed of reading, one where I root for the character so hard, I'm almost afraid to get to the end, in case they disappoint me. (Don't you dare disappoint me, Loki; don't you dare make this Dark World all over again.)
Standing now at the end of the tale, I have to admit it did not end the way I expected or necessarily the way I wanted. I think it's actually better. The answers Loki finds to these questions -how can I redeem myself? how can I become trusted and worthy?- are as beautiful as they are unexpected.

This story works because -despite the high-flying adventures- Ewing is decidedly focused on Loki's character and development, concentrating as much as he can on Loki's relationships, even in the chaos of three major crossover events. (Three!) The most important relationship is not actually the complicated one with Thor, but an unexpected friendship with a mortal named Verity Williams. A mortal who can see through any lie. Needless to say, she doesn't take any of Loki's crap.

I find Verity a particularly interesting character and companion for Loki. Verity could have served as an interesting foil to Loki in a nemesis situation, given her unique ability to spot lies and deception, but instead serves as his best, truest, maybe only friend. While by no means perfect, this is one of my favorite friendships I've seen in comics. Verity and Loki both test and push each other -out of their comfort zones, into confronting their worst selves, and ultimately toward better versions of themselves.

Unfortunately, I don't think that Verity and Loki had quite enough adventures or time together on the page. They really are a huge part of why I love this comic and, while Verity is a constant in the series, there was so much story to cover in these 17-issues that I do feel Verity sometimes got the short end of the stick.

A big reason for this -and a major failing of the series, I think- was the number of crossover events it got dragged into over its short life. On the one hand, I totally get everyone wanting a chance to play with this new Loki, but it was a little ridiculous.
  • At issue #5, just when the story's getting into its rhythym, it offshoots not only into the major Original Sin event, but into a 5-issue Thor & Loki offshoot of the Original Sin offshoot called The Tenth Realm.
  • Then issue #6, THROWS US INTO ANOTHER CROSSOVER without giving us a chance to recover from Original Sin. Issues 6-9 are re-labeled "Agent of Axis" to take part in the AXIS event. Unless you actually sit down and read the AXIS event, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense.
  • Issues 10-13 are purely Agent of Asgard and I have to admit they're pretty epic.
  • Issue #14 tosses us into the Secret Wars event. This, admittedly, wasn't quite as jarring as the first two. I haven't actually read any other aspect of Secret Wars than this, but I didn't feel I had to. Unlike the other two offshoots, Secret Wars felt more a part of Agent of Asgard than the other way around.
Despite the story bouncing through so many other Marvel tales, I've got to give Ewing credit, because he always makes the most of it, and Loki achieves some new truth or development inside the crossover that makes them overall worthwhile for Agent of Asgard readers.

The story can be initially confusing with its time travel and references to multiple different Loki incarnations, but by the end these threads are all tied up together for a satisfying tale, one that I predict will be even better the second time because of the foreshadowing at work so early in the tale. And it is so worth re-reading.

Not completely perfect, Loki: Agent of Asgard has plenty of fun, adventure, humor, and a whole lot of heart. I can't wait to see what Loki does next.

What's your favorite Loki story?
How are you prepping for Thor: Ragnarok?

The Road to Ragnarok
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Rewatching Thor

Monday, October 23, 2017

Back in Black + The Road to Ragnarok

Welcome to the new and improved blogging grounds! I hope you love the new look as much as I do. I've got to admit, it feels so much more comfortable. As opposed to my last slap-something-on-to-look-presentable design, I feel at home here. And the best part? It totally matches the style I've been using on my YouTube channel for ages!

Never again will I belittle the effect of a good design!

I'm sorry I haven't been around the last couple of weeks. Getting back into the saddle has been harder than I thought it would be, and talking about these things I love has been harder, too. I've been distracting myself away from them with 'worthy' tasks -like rebranding the blog and designing a fancy logo. But that's just another form of procrastination. I don't need a fancy logo -my new blogger banner will work just fine- and I don't need to create an elaborate, stop-motion intro before I start reviewing books again, either. (Though, admittedly, the elaborate stop-motion thing is definitely something I'll be playing with.)

I just need to blog. I just need to review the books I read, fangirl over the things I love, and anticipate upcoming releases in the most entertaining way I can.

Like Thor: Ragnarok.

So let's talk Thor: Ragnarok.

The Top 5 Things I'm Looking Forward To

1. Loki
Obviously, Loki. What has he been up to since Thor: Dark World? I mean,  WE STILL DON'T KNOW WHAT HE DID IN ASGARD AND WHAT HE DID WITH ODIN. Why is he here now? Why is he helping Thor? Is he running from something, trying to set things right, or setting up a new scheme? But as much as I love Loki and love to fantasize about a Loki turned good, I'm most looking forward to the day when Loki actually figures out what he wants. He's been the bad guy, he's been the almost good guy, he's done a lot of things and played a lot of roles, but when it comes right down to it, I don't think Loki has figured out what it is that he wants yet. Revenge? Acceptance?

2. Thor and Loki's Relationship and Dynamic*
I'm sorry, but the total big brother/little brother interaction between Thor and Loki in Dark World is still one of my favorite things in the MCU to date. Wait, why am I sorry about that?

3. Hela
I'm very, very intrigued by this villain. In the comics and mythology, Hela is the daughter of Loki, so I am interested to see how exactly the MCU uses her and whether or not she will have a part to play in future Thanos story lines, a la Infinity Gauntlet. Plus, CATE BLANCHETT. I cannot wait to see her in this role. <3

4. Story
How? Seriously, how? How long has the Hulk been a gladiator god on this planet? How has Ragnarok come to Asgard? And -my favorite, which I found in a Facebook discussion- how does Asgard come under attack by Hela? Is it Loki's fault or somehow caused by his playing Odin and sitting on the throne?

5. Kirby Krackle
The first comics I ever read were some of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's original stuff, like Spider-Man back from Amazing Fantasy. Kirby Krackle, as explained in this great post by Dollar Bin, is basically how Jack Kirby drew unexplained energy in comics. While I've definitely noticed this in comics I've read, I would not have been able to peg it down, much less called it by name! Thor: Ragnarok is apparently the first movie to use if as an effect. ^_^

Admittedly, I've been staying away from more recent trailers, as watching too many spoils the story for me, but I have gotten over my initial "WHAT THE CRUMB WITH THE NEON?!" reaction from that teaser trailer way back when. Knowing now where the story takes place, I'm not miffed anymore that they're suddenly redesigning the Thor franchise. I'm actually pretty excited to see what's coming. Now I just need to find someone to go see it with me! (Seriously, it shouldn't be this hard...)

Consider this the official kickoff to the spur of the moment THE ROAD TO RAGNAROK, a collection of Thor, Loki, or Marvel related posts leading up to the release, culminating with my thoughts on the third Thor installment. (I will go see it all alone if I have to!)

Come back Wednesday for our next stop on The Road to Ragnarok, my review of the full run of Loki: Agent of Asgard.

*Recently I've been informed of my apparent misuse of the term 'bromance'. Guess this will have to do instead.

The Road to Ragnarok
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Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Chauvinism vs. Chivalry: A Harry Dresden Case Study

This post contains some spoilers for Fool Moon by Jim Butcher. You've been warned!

When posting my own review for Fool Moon by Jim Butcher, I came across someone else’s, accusing Harry of not being chivalrous (as he considers himself), but a chauvinist. In all caps. With an exclamation point.
This...irked me. Around these here parts, you might have noticed that I don't delve too much into controversial topics, but considering the amount of time I’ve spent thinking on this and forming mental ripostes, I really can’t let this one slide. I’m about to drop some opinions down.

First off, let's put these definitions up here:

Chauvinist: a person displaying excessive or prejudiced loyalty or support for a particular cause, group, or gender. “what a male chauvinist that man is” (Google Dictionary)

Yes. Buuut. We also know that when someone shouts “CHAUVINIST” they have something a little more specific in mind. I mean, look at the example they added to that definition. Male chauvinist. It’s got it’s very own subset definition! So let’s go a step farther.

Male Chauvinism: the beliefs, attitudes, or behavior of male chauvinists (men who patronize, disparage, or otherwise denigrate females in the belief that they are inferior to males and thus deserving of less than equal treatment or benefit). (

And on the other side of the board...

Chivalry: courteous behavior, especially that of a man toward women. (Google Dictionary)
Chivalry: the sum of the ideal qualifications of a knight, including courtesy, generosity, valor, and dexterity in arms. (

Now let’s talk about Harry Dresden, as he is in Fool Moon. By his own definition, he’s stubbornly chivalrous. Throughout the story he is preoccupied with keeping the three women in his life safe:

1. Kim Delaney -a female magic practitioner and former apprentice of Harry’s. The book opens with Kim asking Harry for info about a terrifying, dark, complicated kind of magic, info Harry refuses to give her. Despite her promise that she’s only interested in theory, not practice, Harry tells her it’s scary stuff; something she’s not ready for and something she shouldn’t even want to know.

2. Karrin Murphy -a Chicago police lieutenant who heads up the Special Investigations division. She deals with the weird cases, the ones that oftentimes have ties to Harry’s magical community. He works as her consultant on these cases. In an effort to keep her safe from the dark side of said magic community, Harry tends not to ‘consult’ Murphy on these cases so much as run out to try and solve them himself, thus keeping her out of harm’s way.

3. Susan Rodriguez -Harry’s girlfriend? She’s also a journalist determined to prove to the world the existence of the magical community. She likes to bribe or bully info out of Harry, who tries not to tell her anything that could land her into too much trouble.

There’s a trend here. Harry takes it on himself to keep these three women out of danger and, because they’re women and he’s a man, obviously this means he’s a chauvinist -

Oh wait.

What about Tera West? She’s the female shapeshifter who hires Harry to help her fiance. Harry also suspects she’s an amoral and immortal creature of the Nevernever, so he has no worries about keeping her safe and out of harm’s way. He doesn’t particularly trust her, either. But he does trust her to carry out parts of the plan on her own and he does trust her with his own life -and the lives of others- on more than one occasion, because he knows that she is capable and resourceful. Even though she’s female.

That’s not very chauvinistic of him.

But wait. There’s more.

Let us not forget the Alphas. Harry finds himself teaming up with a group of college-aged werewolves -focusing specifically on the MALE werewolf Billy- and he tries to protect them just as much as Murphy, Kim, and Susan. Because they’re young. Because he doesn’t want to get them killed. Because he feels responsible -as a skilled and experienced wizard- for their safety.

Chivalry. Right there. That’s chivalry.

Generally speaking, chivalry is a courteous act while male chauvinism is a patronizing one. I see many people today -in books, TV, movies, and real life- who can’t or won’t recognize that there is a distinction between the two, who will see all attempts from a man to assist a woman as a sign that he believes her weak and incapable, and for many that is a woeful misrepresentation of their actions. Just like poor Harry here.

Just because a man protects a woman doesn’t mean he believes her incapable of protecting herself. Most of the time, it only means he wants to do it for her. It’s a kindness, but it seems to be more often met with a resounding chorus of ‘chauvinist’ rather than a ‘thank you’.

Now, I’m not going to argue that Harry’s reasoning and actions in this book aren’t flawed. They’re totally flawed.

What they aren’t is chauvinistic. If Harry refused to share the information because he believed Kim, Murphy, and Susan -on the basis of their gender- were incapable of handling it -that would be chauvinism. If Harry refused to share the information because he didn’t believe, on the basis of their gender, they deserved to be involved in it -that would also be chauvinism.

As it is, Harry refuses to share the information these ladies want out of a desire to keep them out of harm’s way -that’s chivalry. But it’s more than that, too. Like Murphy, Harry has set himself a dangerous task of protecting innocents from a very dark and specific kind of harm -unfortunately for him, the innocents under his watch are bound and determined to go meddling with it anyway. He might not have a police badge, but Harry possesses skills and knowledge far and above anyone else’s experience, and so it falls to him to protect them from what they don’t understand.

There is, however, a line that Harry is crossing, from protective to misguided over-protectiveness. In Fool Moon it even points out that, by withholding information from Murphy, Harry is actually crippling her ability to protect herself and others -which is her job. In trying to protect people himself, instead of equipping those willing with the means to protect themselves, he’s actually putting them in more danger -and Butcher uses this excellently as a character flaw.

There’s one more thing Fool Moon reveals about Harry, which I think is the root cause of it all -flaws and strengths- and that is someone from his past named Elaine. Someone who Harry cared about. Someone who Harry failed to protect from the darkness within the magic community. Which explains his stubborn chivalry, but explains even better how that chivalry manifests itself into over-protectiveness and trust issues, especially concerning magic.

Throughout the story, Harry is continually faced with hurdles of his own making because of these misguided acts of over-protectiveness -but he comes to recognize it. He knows his refusal to help Kim contributed to her death; he realizes that Murphy doesn’t trust him because he doesn’t update her on magical dangers and threats, instead trying to handle them on his own.

Harry hasn’t acted yet on this revelation to improve his relationships with Susan and Murphy, but I’m looking forward to see how it develops him in book three.

Harry’s FLAW is being OVERPROTECTIVE, not chauvinistic.
His STRENGTH is his DESIRE TO PROTECT OTHERS, aka gallantry, aka chivalry.

In Full Moon, Harry’s flaw and his strength continually butt heads, and that is a great way to force Harry to recognize them as such and to give him an opportunity to overcome the flaw and hone the strength. It’s a great way to make Harry feel like an actual human being.

And for that I say bravo, Mr. Butcher; bravo.

What are your thoughts on the matter?
Please join in the discussion!