It’s Christmas, which means it’s time to give out some presents and exchange them for something you really want.

With many members of the cast moved to the side for the time being, Journey Into Mystery brings out a new character to add to Loki’s contingent: a hell-dog who the half-God decides to name “Thori”, against the profane objections of Thori himself. The hell-dog comes as the result of Garm and the Hell-Hound from the previous arc, who apparently didn’t spend as long fighting as we all thought they did. It’s another example of the comic deliberately cutting away from the story at a point which readers thought was just the natural break for a scene – but turns out to be used to hide a secret from everyone.

Journey into Mystery is a story of omission, where every act of good inadvertently creates a thousand new unexpected problems. All Loki really did was sneak in a clause to the history books which helped his brother kill a villain, but Thor still died in the process. Odin still left Asgard. And Mephisto was given power, Hela was given power, Surtur was freed, and now this hell-hound makes his appearance known to all and sundry. Loki’s best attempts lead to so many new problems that he has to resolve, two heads replacing each head he strikes off.

Although on the face of it most of the changes he’s brought about seem to be rather nasty (or at least the prelude nastiness down the line), some of it seems to be panning out in really unpredictable ways. Loki used to be able to play people off one another and know what their reaction would be – play Thor off against Odin, or set various villains against one another – but this new Loki has a different aura and just as he is unpredictable, his allies and enemies seem to be growing their own sense of mystique. Hela has left Leah on Asgard, which seems like part of a plan, but then she brings a box which could be read as either a reward or a punishment, depending on your perspective.

Near the start of the issue Hela brings Leah a box of… something, which is promptly snatched up off her by Loki, who has been receiving regular beatings from the other children in Asgard and could use a nice surprise for once. Out spring seven – that number again, mirroring the ravens from the first issue – hell-dogs, breathing fire, borking all over the place, and cursing out Asgard. Everybody likes a dog, and bringing in a whole group of them offers the comic a few fun little options – for one thing, Loki is now outnumbered by Leah and Thori, who seem set to form a sarcastic alliance against him. They’re perhaps the two most open and honest characters in the series at the moment – Leah doesn’t hide her unhappiness, even if it’s with a comedic twist, whilst Thori openly plots Asgard’s destruction.

Loki welcomes them both into his home – dirty hole in the ground as it is – regardless, because he could use the allies even if they’re actively hostile. It helps develop Loki a little more. He’s being bullied, he’s got several primordial forces all working in the shadows and possibly against him, and even his allies are probably his enemies. We’re being asked to remain on Loki’s side, and it helps to show his ceaseless struggle against the stream of bitterness and resentment against him. We’re also seeing him ignore what’s right in front of him: his main guide is a dodgy raven, Thori makes no secret that he wants to betray his “master”, and Leah is blatantly a spy for Hela. Loki’s willingness to look past all this shows his slightly desperate and immature disposition at this point, and it helps warm the character up after his betrayal of the Disir last week.

There’s an obvious connection between Thori and Loki, who each were adopted into a new home which isn’t their own, and are seen as hopeless, lost causes. That’s clearly what inspires Loki to adopt Thori in the first place: he doesn’t want to see Asgard give up on someone just because they have “bad blood” – obviously he chafes at that idea. But the issue also brings in six other puppies, who are each given away as favours to someone else in the immediate supernatural community: Loki gives them out to Mephisto, Dani Moonstar, Gaea, Tyr, Heimdall and the people of Earth (as a webcam pup beloved by the internet). Those are six useful friendships to cultivate, and we see six sides of the hell-dogs: the lost foundling, the monster, the obedient hound, the runt of the litter, the watchdog and the internet darling. There’s an ambitious argument to be made that they also all represent aspects of Loki, although it’s telling that he is left with “the bad seed” as his puppy.

It’s in large part down to Ikol the raven that Loki ultimately makes his choice, delivering a morbid assessment of what must be done which so panics Loki (and hits home so strongly) that the godling basically adopts the puppy right there on the spot. They walk across to the World Tree to throw the dog into the abyss, and Ikol brings out a long speech which blatantly acts as the reasoning Asgard have used in the past to discuss removing Loki himself from their lives. By chucking him into the abyss, he is gone with no pain, and “the monster will not trouble anyone anymore”, Ikol manipulatively reasons. Loki doesn’t want to think that this monster cannot be redeemed – that’s there is such a thing as an irredeemable monster – and so Thori lives another day.

Loki’s lying to himself by thinking all of this – but he’s such a good liar that even he proves immune to his own charms.

 

Journey Into Mystery #632
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Mitch Breitweiser
Colourist: Bettie Breitweiser
Letterer: Clayton Cowles