The villainous Asgardian god Loki is currently the most dangerous being in the Marvel Universe. The trickster god is armed with the advanced physical attributes that come from being a god along with his mastery of the mystic arts, but what makes Loki truly deadly is his ability to expertly manipulate others into doing exactly what he wants. A perfect example of that is Loki’s current machinations, which have resulted in Norman Osborn and an army of supervillains declaring war on Asgard, as currently chronicled in the “Siege” mini-series by writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Olivier Copiel.
The question remains, however – why would Loki arrange for Osborn to attack the Asgardians in the first place? This April, writer Kieron Gillen and artist Jamie McKelvie, the creative team of the acclaimed Image Comic series “Phonogram,” will seek to answer that question and more in the one-shot, “Siege: Loki.” CBR News spoke with Gillen about the book.
As the current writer of “Thor,” Gillen jumped at the chance to tell a story that moved the spotlight off of the titular god and onto his evil half-brother. “‘Siege’ is such a tight four issue storyline that a lot of the character’s motivations are touched on softly. It’s not a book where people sit down and talk about their motivations for pages. This is a chance to explore Siege’s subtleties. So there’s room to take a look and find out what it is that Loki is really up to, and that’s something I totally want to write about,” Gillen told CBR News. “Loki is a character that I haven’t had a chance to write a whole lot of in my ‘Thor’ run, yet. He has quite a bit of involvement in the second half of the ‘Siege’ tie-in issues [which are “Thor” #607-610]. The first part was mainly Balder, Doom, and Thor. Loki was in the story but he wasn’t central. So this was a real interesting opportunity to focus on the guy. As I’ve gone across the series, he just makes more sense to me, and this story is a great way to shine a spotlight onto his motivations.”
“Siege: Loki” isn’t just about the title character’s orchestration of the Siege of Asgard – it’s also a look at what makes the Asgardian God of Mischief tick. “In ‘Thor,’ there is a bit of family drama and jealousy that is represented in Loki, but I don’t think that’s what really motivates him. If you look at things from that family drama angle, Loki is the type of guy who really likes to see everyone miserable. That makes him glad. If he was at a dinner party, he would say the one thing that would upset everybody in the room and then walk off smiling. This is almost sort of that on a large scale,” Gillen said. “Plus, you’ve got a couple of other strains of motivations. Half of it is his relationship to Asgard, and the other is his relationship to himself as the God of Mischief. That kind of latter half is what this special is about.
“He’s a trickster and the trick is partially the point. Mischief is both his weapon and his raison d’etre. He ends up speaking to Mephisto at one point in the special. So it’s interesting to see these two different slants on trickster characters interact and talk to one another,” Gillen said. “It’s like backstage at the show in the green room, and we have what counts as casual conversation between equals. It’s a little pointed, but there is an understanding that they’re both sort of cut from the same scaly cloth.”
Gillen feels that Loki’s divine nature makes it hard to determine if his malevolent actions stem from the fact that he is a trickster god or from a sick enjoyment over the trouble they cause. “Loki has a certain way that he operates, and because gods are kind of personifications of large abstract ideas, that gets exaggerated to a degree. Loki does things partially because he is the God of Mischief and partly because he just is Loki,” the writer explained. “One of the things in this story is that Loki is kind of considering that. What does it really mean to be the God of Mischief? He thinks, ‘I am a creature of chaos. What does that mean?’ The opening scene of the story is him thinking about the contradictions inherent in that. He’s a creature of chaos, but is he doomed to be chaotic? How chaotic can he be when he’s always going to do a certain thing? It’s sort of like when somebody always lies, can you really believe any of their statements? There’s a contradiction there. That’s the kind of philosophical murk that this story hangs off of.
“Loki a complicated character,” Gillen continued. “In some ways, he’s Marvel’s equivalent of the Joker. They’re characters from a similar mold. Loki is the Joker with the ability to remix reality, which is a horrific idea. He’s one of the greatest magicians in the Marvel U, as well as being a top level physical combatant. That’s another thing we look at. Just because Loki doesn’t choose to fight most of the time doesn’t mean that he can’t fight. We’ve got an epic combat scene, and I think people who have read my ‘Thor’ run know how much I enjoy that kind of physicality.”
“Siege: Loki” begins shortly before the titular conflict, with the events of the story running all the way into the most current developments in the “Siege” saga. “There is a scene in issue #606 of ‘Thor.’ We start there and give readers sort of an alternate take on it. That sets him on a course, which we track, for ‘Siege.’ At the same time, though, over half the issue takes place while ‘Siege’ is occurring,” Gillen remarked. “It details what Loki is doing, because as you know from the first issues, Loki isn’t really around. He’s not on the frontlines and he’s not wandering around on the good guy’s side or the bad guy’s side. So he’s somewhere doing other things, and this story shows those things.”
The previously mentioned Mephisto is just one of the supporting cast members in “Siege: Loki.” “There is a scene with Doom. Mephisto is in it and so is Hela. They’re kind of the main characters. There are also some new characters of my own creation who sort of tie in to the background and make a lot of sense. Or, at least, I think they do.”
As for the tone of “Siege: Loki,” Gillen told CBR that it will be fairly dark. “It’s about death. In ‘Siege,’ you’ll potentially see the death of lots of gods, and by arranging that Loki is really hurting Asgard and Asgardians. So why would he do that? What does that mean? How does it profit Loki? So it’s a dark story, but it’s dark in Loki’s way. Loki has a gift for one liners. He’s a joy to write, because he’s serpentine and interesting in that way,” Gillen stated. ” So even though there are some incredibly cruel things that happen in the story, there is a playful twist to them.”
Gillen is very happy to be collaborating on a full length “Thor” story with his “Phonogram” partner artist, Jamie McKelvie. “This isn’t the first time Jamie and I have worked on a Marvel project together. We did an eight page story for the first issue of ‘S.W.O.R.D.’ The fact that it was an eight page thing, though, made it quite intense, and there were definitely places where I wished I could have given Jamie more room to work; to open up the panel space and allow him to express himself a little. This is kind of a chance to do that. It’s a full issue and crafted as kind of an elegant singular object. I’m very pleased with the pages. He’s a really good friend, and it’s always great to work with a really good friend,” Gillen said. “The final issue of ‘Phonogram’ which came out a couple of weeks ago was pretty much a silent script with full on action scenes and a lot of physical movement. So this issue is him applying a lot of the lessons he learned there to a mainstream Marvel work.”
Fans of the way Gillen handles Loki, Thor and Asgard are in for a great spring. In addition to his work on “Siege: Loki” and “Thor” the writer is also penning March’s “New Mutants” #11, which is also a “Siege” tie-in. Additonally, it was recently revealed that Gillen’s run on “Thor” has been extended by an issue, making May’s “Thor” #610 now the writer’s final issue on the book.
“‘Thor’ #609 comes out before the end of ‘Siege.’ Addressing Asgard’s final fate is pretty important, and it made sense to have a final issue after ‘Siege’ where we could end our story. It’s like, here is the end of this age of ‘Thor,’ and then Matt Fraction comes in and takes over with issue #611. Otherwise, a lot of Matt’s first issue would be essentially a sweeping of the decks of parts of old plot before he could actually really show what he wants to do. I’ve read Matt’s first issue – it’s very exciting and just goes right in to things,” Gillen explained. “So I can make sense of some of the other stuff. I can show what happened to Asgard after ‘Siege;’ who’s left standing, who’s alive, who’s dead and how people feel about that. And I can give an interesting end note to this whole era of ‘Thor.’ The idea of Thor fighting his clone, Ragnarok, strikes me as an absolute symbolic way to end things, so that’s what I tried to write. This is the apotheosis. This fight symbolizes where we’re going and what things are going to be about. I’m really excited about it.”
In addition to his “Siege” related work, Gillen fans also have the final issue of “S.W.O.R.D.” to look forward to, along with a story in the black and white anthology “The Mystic Hands of Doctor Strange,” both hitting stores in March. “The Doctor Strange story is very exciting. Frazier Irving is doing the art. He’s a long time friend and he’s a guy I’ve been interested in working with for awhile,” Gillen explained. “There’s a lot of me at the moment [Laughs]. Christmas and January were insanely busy for me, and it’s leveling off now. Right now I’m finishing up on ‘Thor’ and then that whole slew of work will be completely tied off.”
Even though Gillen’s “Thor” work comes to an end in May, fans of the writer’s Marvel work don’t need to worry as he already has his next assignments for the House of Ideas lined up – he just can’t talk about them yet. “I feel like I’ve learned a lot while writing for this crossover. I think crossovers are fascinating cauldrons of creativity, and through my interactions with people I wouldn’t normally interact with, I’ve been given some valuable lessons into how Marvel actually creates comics. I’m still learning – and help me if I ever stop learning – so it was nice to see how things work,” the writer said. “And I think the next set of things that I do will show what I’ve learned from all of this. My run on ‘Thor’ and my run on ‘S.W.O.R.D.’ just taught me so much about comic writing. I’m really excited about what comes next.”