Final issues can be tricky things to pull off even for the most seasoned of comic book writers. Such a chore is even more problematic when such an issue is still obligated to tie in with the crossover of the season. Considering that Marvel Comics practically relaunches series faster than they can produce them, few issues for few characters seem to be “final” anymore. Yet despite being thrown for more than one editorial loop, writer Al Ewing, artist Lee Garbett and colorist Antonio Fabela bring this well traveled series about Thor’s wicked step brother to a worthy conclusion.
As “Secret Wars” dictates, the entire Marvel Universe has ended (for now). Loki and the truth telling specter of his best friend Verity seem to be all that is left, facing the beings who literally give and take life from the godly pantheons themselves, “Those Who Sit Above in Shadow”. Meanwhile, what is left of King Loki (the hopelessly evil older form of Loki who can magically coexist alongside him) has once his latest attempt to destroy and rule over Asgard, and has decided to sulk. With this issue, Ewing and Garbett not only tie their own series (which had its’ highs and lows) into a neat little bow, but they valiantly connect it to the efforts of previous “Thor” and “Journey into Mystery” comics, stretching all the way back to plot threads introduced eleven years ago.
Having two versions of Loki running around has been something which has happened for some time, ever since the popularity of the cinematic version of the character (played by Tom Hiddleston in what will soon bet at least six films) prompted Marvel Comics to elevate the character beyond simply being a villain. The ideal to craft a newer, craftier, more modern version of the “prince of lies” has always seemed to clash with the desire to return to an older, blunter status quo of Loki simply being “the god of evil” and easy antagonist of Thor and various heroes (specifically, the Avengers). Kieron Gillen forged the idea of making this clash of characters literal, and Ewing brings it to an ultimate and heartfelt conclusion. He also properly recreates Loki as the “god of stories”, and as he proves almost effortlessly within these last twenty pages, story telling is essentially the foundation for everything.
The artwork by Garbett is absolutely stunning. The farewell column in the back showcases how much the creators adored their work on this series, and it shows on the pages. Between the art, the pacing, and Ewing’s masterful voice for the character, this issue easily reads like something Neil Gaiman would have written for “Vertigo” in the early 1990’s. As much as Loki himself admits that he’s a being of change who will always inevitably risk succumbing to his base desires (such as revenge), one hopes that this time Marvel Comics’ editors take notice of this evolution of a character. The Loki presented here seems far more interesting and useful for their universe as a whole than a snickering villain who teams up with Baron Zemo and Radioactive Man to wrestle with superheroes.
Overall, this was a bumpy run to get into and follow. Including this issue, at least eight out of seventeen were tying into some crossover event (either “Secret Wars” or “Axis”). Ewing tried to maintain a focus and direction to this series despite that, and some issues succeeded better than others. This final issue, however, is a masterstroke which peaks at exactly the right time. If a series is going to peak at any time, there are few better times to do so than the end. As Loki himself would say, every story has an ending and the best endings can redeem the entire tale and leave one wanting the next. In this, this issue is a amazing success.
Below are honorable mentions. They’re perfectly good comics on their own, but they aren’t in Loki’s league this week!
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #49: IDW Publishing has been promoting their upcoming fiftieth issue of their main TMNT for some time, promising like many comic companies do that little will be the same afterward. Considering how crazy things get within this issue, for once it seems that such promises are not hyperbole. This epic retelling of the iconic franchise by storytellers Kevin Eastman, Tom Waltz and Bobby Curnow has been anything but predictable, and this is yet another issue which showcases that fact. Left hopelessly outnumbered by hordes controlled by Baxtor Stockman and the Shredder, the Foot Clan’s second in command Karai offers a far more honorable and final end to the blood feud between the Hamato clan and the Oroku clan. This is an ancient rite of trial by combat, essentially, between the warring parties (Shredder and Splinter) and four of their chosen students. Although this saves our heroes from an immediate death by cybernetic flies, it leaves the Turtles forced to fight four of Shredder’s most dangerous mutant warriors – most of whom they’ve never outright defeated even when facing each one individually. Bebop and Rocksteady alone have battled virtually every named protagonist in the series at once and held their own! Meanwhile, Harold and the Fugitoid desperately seek to mend Donatello’s body and free their friend from his current form, only to face yet another memorable figure from the Ninja Turtle franchise! Returning artist Cory Smith once again delivers a knock out issue in terms of pencils, while longtime colorist Ronda Pattison crafts a world full of diverse colors to his work. Month in and month out, this series has crafted a genuinely original and innovative retelling of this classic franchise which embraces both its’ roots and its’ future as well as honors both the old and the new. The collaboration of an original creator of the franchise as well as newer talents on it have produced a unique work which seems to know just how far to go when it comes to giving fans what they expect while also throwing them for new loops. The highly anticipated “double sized and truly epic” issue fifty is due in September, and it truly will be one for the ages.
Invincible #122: It seems that space can make anything better. The roots of this series began there with aliens coming to earth and it seems that both writer/co-creator Robert Kirkman and longtime artist Ryan Ottley always seem to have much more vigor and imagination for arcs which deal away from Earth, and this one is no exception. After leaving the Earth to be conquered by Robot, the Grayson family have taken to the stars to live on the world run by their longtime ally Allen, who is head of the “Coalition of Planets”. While his half brother Oliver (who was himself born on the planet Mantia) has adjusted fine, both Eve and Mark are adjusting in their own ways. Mark is trying to adjust to being semi-retired as a superhero (or warrior), while Eve is simply trying to adjust a bizarre environment. Naturally, space arcs give Ottley a change to go wild in terms of character designs and landscapes, and in terms of plotting, Kirkman has being managing to tie together loose plot threads years in the making. The “Dinosaurus year” was likely the low point of this series, and this year seems to represents a much needed upswing in quality. At the very least, Invincible’s status as a creator owned series always allows it to have more of a sense of urgency or finality to its’ arcs that many “big two” superhero franchises have lacked for a long time.
Runaways #3: It may not be that closely related to the franchise begun by Brian K. Vaughan and Adrian Alphona in 2003, but this “Battleworld” mini series by Noelle Stevenson and artist Sanford Greene (and colorist John Rauch) is certainly interesting and creative. Set on the temporary hodgepodge of alternate realities that is “Battleworld”, a group of teenagers from Emperor Doom’s academy realized how corrupt and deadly their school’s “exams” are and decided to go rogue. Unfortunately, that’s something Doom does not tolerate, so a chase is underway. The electic band (which seem to be led by Jubilee and consist of Molly Hayes, Skaar, Amadeus Cho, and Delphyne) cross cross from a wild west world to a “weird world”. Much of the charm of this series lies in individual manic scenes or cracking dialogue exchanges more than the plot. This has easily been the best series for Jubilee in years (which shows how poorly the character has been handled for the last decade). The finale is up next month, and while this may hardly be the best mini series there ever was, it has at the very least been a fun one.