For the second issue of "Ultimate Comics Thor," Jonathan Hickman turns his attention away from the eponymous Thunder God and towards his adopted brother, Loki. The entire issue isn't devoted to the self-proclaimed Lord of Chaos, but it feels that way with his scenes standing out above Thor's. He makes for an interesting contrast and complement to Thor's simple character, showing paradoxical motivations and a contrarian streak. It's hard to tell what Loki will do next in this issue, making every time he's on panel an unexpected treat.
Loki is shown to be both a loyal Asgardian, building on his fighting alongside Thor and Balder against some Frost Giants last issue, and as someone with no loyalties when he approaches his mother after the Frost Giants' defeat, offering to do anything she asks. In the celebration that follows the end of the war with the Giants, Loki and Thor battle as part of a showcase featuring Balder and Volstagg as well. During their sparring, Loki tells his brother that the end of the war is not necessarily a good thing. By ending the status quo of war, Asgard and its inhabitants must change how they go about their lives and how they define themselves, a change that none are most likely prepared for. Through Loki, Hickman can apply concepts of sociology to the Asgardians and their mythic nature. He thinks and acts like no one around him, while still being bound by many of the same urges.
The Thor scenes lack the same punch. With the three timelines of the comic and the focus on Loki and the aftermath of the war with the Frost Giants, the recent past when Thor was being held by Dr. Braddock and the World War II time periods both receive a small amount of focus. These scenes contain some interesting moments, especially the revelation of Baron Zemo at the end of the issue, but feel ancillary to the sparring scene and Loki's visit with his mother. Even though Loki is a very compelling character, the strong focus on him over Thor also detracts from the comic to a small degree given that this series is meant to develop Ultimate Thor.
Carlos Pacheco's version of Ultimate Asgard and its inhabitants is a joy to see. The sparring scene that begins the issue gives Pacheco a chance to show his version of the Warriors Three. His Volstagg is impressive, looking like a bulky wrecking machine, not the goofy fat man of the Marvel universe. I love the determined, threatening look he has on the fourth page; he like a bald Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart. As that scene progresses, the fight between Thor and Loki is stunning. Pacheco makes it look like both men are going full tilt without trying to actually hurt the other. It's a delicate balancing act.
This issue drives the story forward and definitely makes the second half look interesting. Hickman's Loki is the focus and is a very intriguing interpretation of the character. With so little of the Ultimate versions of these characters defined in hard terms, Hickman and Pacheco take advantage and move away from the traditional Marvel universe versions of the characters.