By Steve Morris
There’s a lot of narrative arrangement to wade through in issue #637 of Journey Into Mystery, a story about stories. As we’re introduced to the fairly standard new status quo where the Asgardians have all become human and have “normal” lives and jobs, the issue never stops pointing out for a second that this is something we’ve all seen before. Superheroes lose their memories and go all normal on us? That’s every third comic book, so it’s a relief that Exiled is conscious of our consciousness.
And there is some fun in seeing the creative team knock you round the head with all the subtlty of… a hammer?… as we see Thor the mechanic, Fandral the barber, and Volstagg the baker living out lives in town, oblivious to their own speech bubbles (Clayton Cowles makes no moves to even try and hide the fact that these are, indeed, the Asgardians we’re dealing with here) and resistant to any suggestion they might be superheroes of some kind. And in turn, Sigurd reveals his spell made them all lose their memories, shrugs, and goes back to his two-bit life as a bachelor.
None of this is the end of the world, and the apparent villain spends the rest of the issue sitting around in a chair, watching TV, and probably playing GTA.
Sigurd is an interesting character because he doesn’t really require “filling in”, so to speak. We already know that he’s a womaniser, and this issue makes it clear he’s also a coward, whose actions were just done to save his own skin. That’s all there really is to him, and he has no grand plans in store for anyone. He’s completely cognisant of his own shittiness, which is a bit refreshing, really. At least he’s being completely honest about the fact he sucks, which makes him an outlier for Journey Into Mystery. And in turn, he’s a great foil for the New Mutants, who themselves are essentially pure and innocent souls throughout this crossover. Doug aside, who I never liked.
Writing off the Asgardians means all we see of them are quick snapshots of whatever random job they’ve each been given, as they say something arch or ironic without realising it and then go back to the sidelines. Again, this is a fairly routine story which in fairness wastes quite a few pages summarising things we didn’t especially need to see. By the time the sixth Asgardian’s “new” life has been revealed, the whole thing is starting to wear a little thin. It’s in service of a clever twist next issue but there’s nothing new at this particular moment in time.
The only especially notable part of this is that Loki’s “human” form is a foster child for Hela, where he sits around all day and does nothing particularly productive. As you might expect, he’s interested in tabletop gaming, and spends his time strategising little figurines of Thor and the other Asgardians. Leah says he’s “playing with himself”, which arguably sums up his entire lifespan within comics. When the New Mutants catch up to him he enthuses over their outcast status, which he seems to idolise. He’s got the “hated” aspect down pat, but the “feared” bit seems to elude him.
Which, again: isn’t that just Loki summed up? The character is the God of Mischief, and he’s never been perceived as being an active or real threat to Thor or the Avengers. He’s an irritant and nothing else, for the most part, and putting him in the body of a child only serves to emphasise his silly nature. He puts on an X-Men uniform which doesn’t fit him, and spends the issue running around happily, playing his little games by himself, even whilst the New Mutants are right there with him. There’s no indication he’s doing anything particularly purposeful, but he’s happy to have something to do.
It can be very hard to take him seriously, but the New Mutants are put in a position where they’re forced to do exactly that. Loki relishes this aspect of their “crossover”, where unusual characters have to team up – and I wonder if it’s too much of a stretch to connect Loki’s current position within Asgard to the New Mutants’ position within mutantkind. Just as Loki is never a true architect of lasting villainous damage, so the New Mutants are never the ones who really save the day… because that’s what the X-Men are for.
Each are left in a secondary position within their own respective mythos, and maybe that’s why they bounce so easily off one another? In the end, anything they do is cancelled out by the more notable deeds of Thor or the X-Men, so all they can ever really do is play with themselves…
Journey Into Mystery #637
Writers: Kieron Gillen, Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning
Artist: Carmine di Giandomenico
Colourist: Andy Troy
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Steve Morris runs this site! Having previously written for sites including The Beat, ComicsAlliance, CBR and The MNT, he can be found on Twitter here. He’s a bunny.
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