Vote Loki #1
Writer: Christopher Hastings
Artist: Langdon Foss
Colour Artist: Chris Chuckry
Cover: Tradd Moore
Variant Cover: Valerio Schiti
Publisher: Marvel Comics
A review by Stephanie Pouliotte
In the wake of a rowdy US primaries season, Marvel is getting into the political spirit with Vote Loki #1. It’s relatively self-explanatory: Asgard’s greatest trickster and mastermind decides to run for the highest office in the land – President of the United States. Basically implying that Loki would fit right in with the current presumptive nominees, writer Christopher Hasting, an admitted fervent follower of the current presidential campaign, might be gearing up for some tough political satire in this series. That being said, it’s hard to believe that the world would be taken in by such a notorious villain, especially one who is known for his cunning and manipulation.
The story is told from the perspective of a hard-hitting political journalist, Nisa Contreras, who witnesses Loki save a room full of reporters from a Hydra terrorist attack at an election debate, declaring “a God protects you this day!” The press immediately swarms him: Did he know about the Hydra plot? Is he turning hero? Who is he voting for? Seeming to revel in the attention, Loki brushes off any political allegiance, calling the candidates liars who are simply fun to watch and subtly lighting the spark of his own campaign. Rumors quickly begin to spread, as he is plastered all over morning talk shows, late-night sketch comedy, and social media. He even gets his own meme.
The vast majority of people are skeptical, but there are many who would rather vote Loki than for the current choices, even though he hasn’t openly announced his campaign bid. In an interview with J. Jonah Jameson on what’s called The Fact Channel of all things, Loki publicly denies being in the race, yet his veiled comments seem to hint otherwise. After Nisa confronts him on air for having destroyed her neighborhood years ago in a battle with the Avengers, Loki privately reveals to her that he does plan on running. He intends to convince her of his good intentions, a marker to measure the likelihood of his campaign’s success with his greatest critics: the American people. A journalistic opportunity too big to pass up, Nisa agrees to an interview, but will she just become another part of his narrative?
Loki’s character has become more complex since his recent popularity in the Avengers films. He sometimes skirts the line between hero and villain, but still overwhelmingly winds up manipulating others to his own ends. He’s a character with a lot of preconceptions and putting him forward as a presidential candidate makes some pretty broad, but decisive parallels with candidates in our current political climate. Politicians are liars, crooks and scheming manipulators only interested in retaining power and serving their own agenda. Hastings doesn’t introduce any scathing political commentary that we haven’t already heard, but it does provide the electoral context for what’s to come. He also stays away from definitively naming the other two candidates or referring to them outright, but it seems pretty clear who they’re supposed to be.
My favorite part was the interview with J. Jonah. Often on the wrong side of the story, Jameson seems to be an odd voice of reason as he claims he isn’t fooled by Loki’s feigned disinterest in running for President. He grills the Asgardian on his eligibility for POTUS, dredging up the well-known ‘Birth Certificate’ argument used by right-wing mouthpieces in our own presidential elections, except this time, he makes a pretty good point. Loki is from another dimension, how could he possible stake a claim in the US presidential election? Well Loki has an answer for that; one that seems like quite a pill for readers to swallow, but the creative, yet ridiculous way Loki explains it away, coupled with how Jameson just can’t take it, made be outright laugh. You kind of find yourself agreeing with Jameson, which is a first, so Hastings did a great job in pitting our preconceived dislike for both characters against each other. In politics, the choice always seems to be between the lesser of two evils.
But it does seem like Loki is just manipulating everyone and it fits his M.O., so what’s the big reveal of this series? That’s my biggest issue so far and since we’re just in the first issue, it might remain to be seen how Hastings will address this. Voters have preconceived ideas about presidential candidates and in the comic this plagues Loki as much as the rest of them. However, the reader also carries these preconceptions about Loki’s character. We know him; he’s a cunning trickster and history has taught us that even if he seems palatable in the beginning, he’s nearly always up to no good. I didn’t for a second buy into his narrative and, depending on where the story goes, this could make it difficult to keep readers hooked. Sometimes it can be beneficial for readers to have the inside track, but it can also make the plot frustrating and stale, especially if for the entire run we are just waiting for Loki to slip up or for someone to finally figure out what we already know. Dramatic irony only goes so far before the novelty wears off.
Foss’ art is a bit cartoonish and somewhat inconsistent at times. Nisa’s facial expressions in particular are really exaggerated, but he does a great job of capturing Loki’s snarky charm and Jameson’s no–bull shit attitude. Overall, the action sequences are stiff, but the more mystical elements were beautifully detailed. Chuckry goes light on the colouring, with minimal shading and contrast, sticking mainly to a more pastel pallet to make Loki’s ornate green threads stand our even more. I did like Valerio Schiti’s work on the variant cover though, the colours are much bolder and there is some deep shading around Loki’s face that makes him look truly disturbing. That may be the reason why they opted to go lighter on the colours, lots of dark shading would only make Loki appear villainous to the reader, which might undermine the writer’s intentions.
Wait and see. I felt the plot of Vote Loki #1 lacked tension, as our conception of Loki wasn’t really at odds with his behavior; it seems like we can see right through him and the “twist” at the end wasn’t much of a surprise. Hastings might be setting us up for a reversal, where Loki’s motives are genuine, but that’s hard to argue at this point. The variant cover showing Loki grinning at the podium in front of a bloodied American flag and the cover tagline Believe with “lie” in bold heavily implies that Loki has sinister motives, this might feel very heavy handed if it was all a red herring. Aside from a few comical moments, like when Loki changes gender because he isn’t polling well with women, the overall narrative just seems to fall flat. Hopefully the political commentary in future issues will have a bit more bite and there will be some underlying tension between the characters. From the variant, we know that Captain American will be making an appearance eventually, though you will be seeing one big name hero in this first issue. The concept for Vote Loki is clever and topical, but at this point it fails to sell us on the premise and there isn’t much substance beyond the fact that Loki is up to his old tricks yet again.