Sunday, January 15, 2012

Thor & Loki: Blood Brothers

Cover by Esad Ribic
Thor & Loki: Blood Brothers (March 2011)
Writer: Robert Rodi
Artist: Esad Ribic
Letterer: Cory Petit, Randy Gentile

I’ve been anxious to read more Thor comics, especially those that focus on Loki and draw from traditional Norse mythology, for a while now.  The graphic novel of Thor & Loki: Blood Brothers is very new (along with the motion comic of the same name that is residing in my Netflix queue, though I heard it wasn’t that good) and I know the repackaging of this series into a graphic novel was timed to correlate to the release of the motion picture Thor. I see what you did there, Marvel. And I’m okay with it.

Let’s be real here. I love Loki. I know that makes me appear even more fangirlish than normal but man, he’s fun. Of course, it doesn’t help that in the film, he looked like this:

Tom Hiddleston, I blame you for all my fangirlishness.

And it definitely doesn’t help that in the original myths, he’s just a delightful, shape shifting, gender-bending, morally ambiguous bringer of the end of the world (I use the term “delightful” loosely – he’s really just a bitchy pain). So of course I really wanted to get a hold of this graphic novel and finally read some Marvel that focuses on his view of things. It turns out, Loki is an unpleasant person and is one of the few genuinely conflicted villains out there. Perhaps that’s why I like him so much; he’s not totally black and white (at least not usually).

Thor & Loki: Blood Brothers opens with Loki’s defeat of Thor and ascension to the throne of Asgard. He seems to have everything he wants: Thor’s humiliation and total control over the people who have always made him feel like an outsider. Of course, however, all is not well for Loki as evidenced by a child’s spiteful defiance of him (which triggers the first of many dark childhood memories of abuse and self-pity) and his attendants’ fear of him. Furthermore, Hela, the ruler of death, keeps harassing Loki for Thor’s soul though Loki never planned to actually execute his stepbrother.

Sif, Balder and Odin are his prisoners and they each manage to needle Loki right where it hurts, causing even more self-doubt and anguish. Also, Loki’s stepmother, Frigga hates him and his real mother repulses him. It hasn’t been a good week for Loki.

My favorite aspect of this graphic novel Rodi’s portrayal of Loki’s conflicted feelings for Thor and his realization of his purpose. He exists merely to be Thor’s counterpoint: the dark to Thor’s light and it must always be that way, even if he attempts to do good. Furthermore, I adored Rodi’s inclusion of the other mythological incarnations of Loki by having Balder descend into Hel and witness the various realms that Loki/Lock/Loge/Lokes/Loder exists within and his various lives (as a woman, as Odin’s brother, as the father of Hela) though they all end the same way: Loki punished and chained to a rock as a snake drips venom into his face for all eternity. Very grim.

I also loved that Rodi did not descend into melodrama by making Loki suddenly good or heroic. He’s not a hero and even when he decides to free Thor rather than execute him, it’s for the megalomaniac purpose of changing destiny and averting his grim fate rather than any change of heart. Of course, he does love Thor but he knows he must exist as the villain for all eternity and within all the realms. I love it.

My least favorite aspects of this graphic novel lie in the artwork. Ribic is clearly talented and I do think his particular work illustrated the atmosphere of this story very well. Nonetheless, it was very dark and rather like paintings than typical comics. It reminded me heavily of Dave McKean’s art in Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth which I genuinely disliked so I know that’s why I’m lukewarm to the art here. I’m just not crazy about that modern, arty illustrations of comics though I can’t fully articulate why. It’s just not fun to look at, I suppose. I also did not care for any of the female characters’ costumes (Hela’s in particularly was over the top and quite laughable) and found most cringe-worthy. Also, on a superficial level, Loki was portrayed as scraggly and missing several teeth.

You're not pretty at all!
Other than that, however, I enjoyed Thor & Loki: Blood Brothers and I enjoyed hearing Loki’s voice so clearly for once. Thor was essentially silent throughout it, giving the impression that he does not comprehend that they all have roles to play in this pre-determined drama, as Loki realizes. That makes the ending all the more tragic and disheartening.

There are other works in this graphic novel that I will have to get to but I don’t want to overpower my Thor and Loki love. I will let you guys know if the motion comic is worth a look if I ever get around to watching it.

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