Following the events of the as-of-yet unreleased “Fantastic Four Annual” #1, Doctor Doom takes a trip to the future to see the fate of his beloved Latveria — only to find old Loki sitting amidst the rubble that was once Doom’s stronghold. Furious, Doom — with the help of his niece Valeria — attempts to nip this event in the bud by challenging teen Loki in the present. For a book that touts Loki as its titular character, “Loki: Agent of Asgard” #6 has surprisingly little to do with the godling and much more to say about Doom, burying the lede in Marvel’s “March to AXIS.”
Fresh from outwitting the Tenth Realm almost singlehandedly, Loki returns to Midgard only to fall into Doom’s snare. Uncharacteristically, he barely gets to speak in this issue. Even Valeria — whose only lines generally consist of “Yes, Uncle Doom” — gets more edge in speaking-wise. He can barely get a full sentence out before friend and foe alike cut him off to spout their own diatribes; where Loki certainly deserves this, it seems very unlike him to let anyone — especially Doom — shut him up that long unless he had a plan at work. However, from what we get in this issue, there are no hints of a plan being laid. Though it’s unlikely that Loki could have an escape for every situation, especially in this one where he was taken completely by surprise, he has — historically — at least attempted to talk his way out of it. Instead, he lets Doom prattle on about magic, and ultimately the issue becomes more centered on this antagonist. What’s more, Ewing spends precious page time on two construction workers who argue about Doom’s philosophy; while this contributes to Doom’s discussion on the control of narrative, it feels out of place and draws too much attention away from the plot to be subtle.
Of course, the issue isn’t a total bust. Ewing continues his deliciously meta discussion of magic and narrative from the series’ first arc with Doom’s attempt to change the future. Old Loki’s banter with Doom is, as always, a pleasure to read, with letterer Clayton Cowles emphasizing the ethereal nature of Loki’s projection in his use of yellow speech bubbles and a distinct font. However, this exchange only serves to make readers miss that sharp wit and sass from teen Loki.
Similarly, Jorge Coelho’s artwork is hit-or-miss. He creates wonderful, vivid landscapes — whether Latveria is in its heyday or reduced to rubble — and detailed scenery, like the books and furnished interior of Loki’s New York apartment. He is likewise attentive to the ornate costuming for his characters, doing justice to Loki’s scaled outfit, Doom’s regality, and Verity’s punk flair. He knocks one splash page out of the park, showing a lot of action in a quick, easy-to-read layout that packs in a lot of information without looking stuffed. However, his style falters at the face; his expressions aren’t nearly as detailed as his other work, and the figure’s faces come across as blocky and flat. With a character as sly as Loki, this greatly impacts the way the character is read, weakening his characterization even further. It’s enough to make reader miss Lee Garbett’s slick style.
On the other hand, Lee Loughridge provides some absolutely stunning work on color. In Latveria’s desolation, his earthy greens and bright yellows make Doom and Loki seem like the last two living things in the world against a drab, gray backdrop. He brings this to current day Latveria in Doom’s castle, illuminating the cold stone interiors with a sickly green light that emanates from Valeria’s interfaces, just a shade lighter than Doom and Loki’s iconic costumes. In this “March to AXIS,” Loki’s world is dark and his outlook darker, which Loughridge strengthens with his knack for atmosphere and mood-setting.
Ewing and Coelho’s “Loki: Agent of Asgard” #6 feels like a hiccup in an otherwise stellar run, but this is likely due to its tie-in status. Hopefully, Ewing and Coelho will shift their focus from Doom and back to Loki and his supporting cast soon.