Loki, the God of Lies has been a thorn in his brother Thor’s side since his Marvel Comics debut in 1962. And with his Marvel Cinematic Universe incarnation getting his own TV show in June, Marvel is capitalizing on his popularity with a new collection, Marvel-Verse: Loki. The book, bargain-priced at $9.99, is a sample of four stories dating from 1968 to 2011 chronicling Loki’s mischief throughout the Marvel Universe.
Marvel-Verse: Loki opens with a short story about Loki regretting his schemes that led to the original foundation of The Avengers. Originally a back-up to Avengers #300, the story is written by Ralph Macchio and reproduces drop-dead gorgeous art from Walter Simonson at the top of his game. It’s a short and sweet retelling of the original comic, and it sets the collection off on the right foot.
Next is Silver Surfer #4 from 1968, the oldest story in the collection. In this story written by Stan Lee himself with art by Sal and John Buscema, Loki tricks the Silver Surfer into visiting Asgard in a scheme to pit the hero against his brother Thor. This story is a classic Silver Age dust-up, and the art is clean and bright, making the action a delight to read. Unfortunately, the writing isn’t as stellar as the art. Stan Lee was always more of a pitch-man than a writer, and the flowery dialogue just doesn’t hold up.
Next, Loki teams up with Spider-Man to stop the spirit of a sorcerer who has inhabited the body of his daughter in a two-part story from the early 2000s that sees him trading barbs and eating NYC street food with the web-slinger. Plotted by J. Michael Straczynski and Fiona Avery with pencils by John Romita Jr, this story is a perfectly fine little adventure with Loki not being the cause of a crisis for once. The character of Loki’s daughter Tess, and Morwen, the sorceress possessing her, are pretty flat, however. They exist as merely a damsel to be saved and a problem to be solved, respectively, and Loki declines to take an active role in her life, stating he has hundreds of children throughout the globe. The story feels like a bit of a missed opportunity for the God of Mischief, but works well as a Spider-Man story, with him being the mortal slightly intersecting with a bigger story. It makes the Asgardians feel mythic and unknowable in a way we rarely see in their Marvel Comics stories.
The collection closes with Loki reincarnated as a child, because sometimes things like that happen in comics, trying to turn over a new leaf, but using divination to find out that the other Asgardians aren’t so quick to forgive the crimes of his past self and trust him.
The four stories presented in Marvel-Verse: Loki are perfectly good examples of his adventures, but I found myself wishing that they had included at least one newer story. While Loki has been a villain for most of his comics career, the character’s popularity following the film debut of Thor led to him becoming a much more complex and interesting character. The main image on the cover is taken from his most recent solo miniseries, in which, among other adventures, he took over Jotunheim, robbed a casino, struck a deal with cosmic forces, and even had an adventure with Wolverine in the Old West. A story like that would have been a welcome addition to this collection, especially since his upcoming series frames him as more of an anti-hero in the mold of those stories.
Marvel-Verse: Loki is a beautifully presented collection of short stories at a great price. Fans of the character will want to snap up this book of old-school hidden gems.
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