By Steve Morris

In which Loki does the right thing, which seems to look an awful lot like domestic terrorism. Having decided that he’s on the wrong side of the war between mystic albion and industrialisation, Loki switched sides in order to destablise Otherworld, which takes the form of systematically destroying all the symbols of England’s pagan past: Glastonbury Tor, Hadrian’s Wall, presumably Alan Moore’s house. The act single-handedly turns the battle, to the point that Otherworld almost immediately has to surrender and sue for peace with The Manchester Gods. Progress wins, as it always does, in whatever form Progress elects to take. 

Speaking of Moore, Loki and Leah elect to pop on V For Vendetta masks whilst filming their attacks, stating “symbolism is important”. In doing so they match Moore and David Lloyd’s leading figure, who wears a Guy Fawkes mask to represent his interest in disrupting the Government. Fawkes, to explain, lived during the times of King James I. He was a Catholic who was part of a failed plot to blow up the House of Lords on the 5th November. In England, every year the country unites to burn effigies of Guy Fawkes on bonfires, whilst letting off fireworks and upsetting dogs nationwide.

We don’t really question why we still burn an effigy of the guy who tried to overthrow Parliament, given most people in England hate parliament, but that’s part of our national image, I suppose. If we get to have a bit of a party at the end, we’ll accept any kind of holiday that the powers-that-be throw at us. “Celebrate your escape, m’lud? And we get toffee apples?” See also: the King’s coronation later this year in 2023, where they’ll spend millions of pounds in taxpayer money so one guy gets to wear a nice hat and feel important. We get the day off, though, so we’ll just accept that part of the system.

The adoption of the V For Vendetta mask shows that Loki and Leah – who is very much onboard with everything Loki does this issue – are presenting themselves as disrupters who want to overthrow the prevailing powers-that-be in order to set up a new, anarchistic, revolutionary future. It’s also that the creative team are huge marks for Alan Moore, but mainly it’s the anarchy thing. Imagine, then, what happens when Loki’s plan is successful and the Manchester Gods win their war? The revolution there’d be! Well, no.

Donning the mask of Guy Fawkes, Loki actually creates Parliament. Assuming that previously Otherworld was a monarchy, the issue brings in a peace treaty wherein all the old powers of Otherworld keep relative amounts of their former power; all the iconography blown up by Loki is restored back to the way it was; and The Manchester Gods establish that they’ll be creating a Parliament which’ll be the new power at the heart of Britain. 

Halfway through the issue Tony Wilson strolls back in – I forget what the character is called – to sign that treaty and turn the mystic world into an electoral constituency. The most telling moment of the issue takes place at this point, where the spluttering King complains that years of tradition have been destroyed in favour of something strange. Wilson cuts him off with what may well be the mission statement for Journey Into Mystery as a whole:

“You say “the strange”, your majesty. We say “the new”. It’s really a matter of perspective”.

Across the course of Journey Into Mystery, you can argue that Loki’s true fight has been about the nature of change. Who should rule Asgard? Who should rule Hel? And now: who should rule Otherworld? He’s been involved in the direct change in “ownership” for many of the most powerful entities in all of Marvel, deciding who has power and control across multiple realms. When he gets pulled in from of the All-Mother and demanded to provide an explanation, he says that everything he’s done in Otherworld makes perfect sense. He’s installed allies into Otherworld, ended the war, and done so with minimal loss of life. Nothing he’s done here is wrong, as far as he can tell: it’s simply new.

At which point we should all remember Ikol the raven, and wonder what he thinks about change.

Manchester Gods marks the moment where Journey Into Mystery starts kicking Loki back, bringing a sense of consequence into all the “new” that the character has brought to Marvel’s mystic realms. His previous changes saw him switch ownership of the Disir, or create a power vacuum in the afterlife, or stop the Serpent from taking over Earth: all acts which are broadly heroic, even if achieved in a more morally iffy marvel manner. Here, there’s no choosing between the two sides at war. Across this arc, we don’t really know which side to stand with, so Loki’s choice is not rooted in wanting to see a “good” result: instead, we have to invest based on what we want for the character.

That’s an important shift for the series, which had to work hard to make the former villain into someone we could side with. We’ve reached the point now where the audience sides with Loki because they see him as the “good” option, someone able to weigh the scales and see where the greater good balances out. That shift in our perception happens across the course of multiple issues, but is rooted in the relationships Loki cultivates. He turns the antagonistic Leah into a supporter, even if she doesn’t want to admit it publicly. He gets a nod of approval from Daimon Hellstrom, who doesn’t like him that much. And the All-Mother see him as a valuable agent. 

It’s strange to see all these relationships turn into a positive wind, but then they aren’t really strange, are they? They’re simply new. With a sense of the new, we then have to look towards what that means for the future, which is another reference point for Journey Into Mystery as a whole. Does anyone here have a future, and what sort of form can that future take? After everything Loki has done in this story, we see Leah – his best friend forever – vanish from existence as a result of his choices. “Forever” doesn’t exist, which puts a huge question mark over if the future can be promised to anyone.

And then the last page of the issue reveals that Mister Wilson is working directly with Surtur, which tilts the scale somewhat. That could be a problem. 

The loss of Leah from the series is the first in a series of blows to Loki which come to punctuate the final issues of Journey Into Mystery. His new allies are working with old enemies, of whom he sees to have more than ever. In embracing the anarchistic spirit of the plotters who wanted to blow up Parliament and bring about something new, Loki may just have created something so unpredictable that even he can’t keep it all together. As The Saturdays once wisely told us, “forever is over”. What comes next might be strange, it might be new, but it’ll almost certainly bring strange new problems, no matter your perspective.

Journey Into Mystery #641 “Manchester Gods, Part Three”
Writer: Kieron Gillen
Artist: Richard Elson
Colourist: Ifansyah Noor
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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