Al Ewing and Lee Garbett continue their master class in long continuity in "Loki: Agent of Asgard" #13. It's often difficult for creators to use decades of other people's storytelling in their favor, but "Agent of Asgard" makes everything read like an inevitable payoff rather than an ill-fitting rewrite. Facing the fallout from his and his predecessors' choices, Loki tries to choose better this time around, and the decision-making process is a creative mix of angst, metaphor and humor. Yet again, "Agent of Asgard" delivers.
In many ways, this issue is gearing up for "Last Days," but it doesn't dig into the main event much. (A large planet appears in New York City, and that's about all that's revealed.) Instead, Ewing and Garbett focus on the series' core questions. As the two dead Lokis make their case to the current one, Ewing once again draws effectively on past continuity. However, as things come to a head, there's also no more evading, and so the dialogue gets rather blunt. This directness can be powerful, as when Loki rejects "that part of me that hates myself," but it can also feel overly obvious.
There's also a whole lot of meta-philoso-theorizing about stories, lies and fire, which I'm admittedly a sucker for. However, Ewing also gets away with it in part because of his skillful, liberal use of dramatic deflation. He balances the mythical with the irreverent, the crises of self with Daft Punk ringtones. It's arguably disingenuous, a sort of authorial back-up plan rooted in doubts about one's art, but it works so well here because this is a Loki comic. Trickster stories don't work in a deadly serious tone and, while Loki frequently sees himself as a tragic hero, Ewing has the other characters push back against that narrative. When Loki complains that he's trapped as the god of lies, Verity replies, "Seriously -- what does 'god of lies' even mean?" This sort of pushback makes the issue much more dynamic.
Lee Garbett surprises me in some small way every issue and, in this one, it's how he makes a cellphone conversation visually interesting. He always draws expressive faces, but Loki and Verity's emotional shifts are drawn more subtly here. As they talk, it's easy to trace their decisions. Garbett also handles the multiple Lokis as deftly as ever, including the more feral "god of stories" on the last page. He pays strong attention to details and the different ways that characters move. I could picture how the "god of stories" walks just from the one panel.
Colorist Antonio Fabela makes expected but beautifully effective choices. His coloring immediately lets the reader see that the Skald sequence is set far in the past, and it makes the transitions between present and past that much smoother. Clayton Cowles does his usual lovely work, but he's also particularly impressive in the rather wordy Skald sequence. There are so many scrolls to place and, yet, it all reads smoothly.
"Loki: Agent of Asgard" continues to surprise me with how clever and compelling it can be. I am rarely delighted to see how a major event will affect a series, but I'm eagerly anticipating this book's use of "Last Days."