“The Serpent’s forces are in Hell. I want this to be a political thriller and a spy/espionage book, but through a fantasy filter. So the Serpent is playing diplomat. He’s sent a servant to Hela and asks for an alliance. He says, ‘Join us. You never liked Asgard anyway. And if you don’t, we’ll destroy you.’ So we’re examining the mythological Realpolitik,” Gillen said. “There’s a scene in the fourth issue, which is almost the classic black ops assassin style scene, when you stage that scene in Hela’s fortress though it changes it fundamentally.”
Gillen also plans to use his inaugural arc to examine the impact the rise of the Serpent has had on the other mythological pantheons in the Marvel Universe. “There’s this war between the Serpent and the forces of Asgard, but what on Earth are the rest of the pantheons thinking? There’s the entire council of godheads — what are they thinking about Asgard deciding to scour the Earth as a way to try and defeat the Serpent? That’s kind of the stuff I’m dealing with,” the writer explained. “Essentially, it’s kind of like the history of the Second World War. You can look at the battles and who did what and where, but the politics are also something which you study. Why did this country decide to join the Axis? And why did that country decide to join the Allies? There’s a little bit of that in what I’m doing. That’s not to imply that this is a dry history lecture, but that part of the history books is where some of the inspiration for this story comes from though.”
The political aspects of godhood and demonhood will be explored further in an upcoming issue which sees Mephisto’s perspective on things. “My sixth issue is literally Mephisto sitting in a pub telling someone a story. It spins out of the idea that there is a council of godheads that meets in this large extra-dimensional, UN-style building where all their political business gets done and everything is overseen by the Living Tribunal’s servants. And the Serpent’s war has just got everyone talking, registering on a cosmic and mythological scale and we’re going to see how Mephisto and some of the gods and demons feel about it. Is Mephisto happy that the Serpent has tried to form an alliance with Hela? Does he profit from that? Or does that hurt him? These types of questions lend themselves to some fun and interesting stories.”
Loki’s mission against the Serpent is just the first of many espionage assignments that Gillen has planned for the young god, but the writer ultimately views “Journey Into Mystery” as a finite series with a beginning, middle and end. “I’ve broken down the arcs to about a series of 30-40 issues. I want to have a strong structure of stories, but still leave room for improvisation. There are stories inside of stories, so there’s a freewheeling nature to the book. It’s like a raconteur going on diversions and asides. Like how in the first issue where we did a Loki adventure in two pages or in the second where Volstagg tells Loki about the goats. That’s also the nature of Loki. If this book had an Alan Moore style clockwork plot structure, it would play against the nature of its main character. The main character wants to rebel and disobey. I have a structure in place where I can move the book forward, but Loki surprises everyone around him, and I don’t think I’m immune to that. I suspect Loki is going to surprise me in ways I would not have guessed.”
If Gillen’s plans come to fruition “Journey Into Mystery” will have been a story about many things. Its central story, however, will be about whether or not Loki’s morally murky machinations will cost him his soul.
“In order to do what needs to done, there’s a good chance that he may become what people think he is. That’s part of the dramatic tension. Even if Loki has a good reason for what he’s doing, if you look at it from the outside, it does appear that he’s just up to his old tricks. That’s part of the appeal of the book. Everybody hates Loki. He’s still trying to do ‘good,’ whatever that means, but he’s still Loki. He’s very likable, but you worry for him. To me, that’s totally the heart of the book,” Gillen remarked. “Doing that sort of work does corrupt you. So how much corruption can Loki take? Can he stay innocent and do what’s required? Because if he wants to save people, his only choice is to use the abilities he has. The abilities he has are not to summon thunderstorms or stand up to a 1000 foot demon. He outwits people. How far can a smart mouth get you?”
If the sales continue to do well for “Journey Into Mystery” Gillen should be able to take Loki very far, perhaps even to the end of the journey he has planned for the young god of mischief. “I’m very pleased with how well the book has been received,” the writer stated. “With this book, I thought, ‘Instead of trying to second guess yourself and come up with what you think the audience needs or wants, let’s just do what you think is best.’ I’ve been especially true to myself on this. It’s the most ‘me’ book I’ve ever done for Marvel and it’s very gratifying that it’s the one that seems to have gotten the best reviews. That’s not only pleasing, it’s a useful message for Loki: ‘For god’s sake, listen to yourself!'”