Thor & Loki: Blood Brothers
From the beginning in Journey into Mystery, Thor’s arch enemy has been his foster brother Loki, which Stan Lee lifted directly from the Norse myths. Loki, god of mischief, was an infant when Odin slew his father and took the child to raise as his own. Much of the Norse mythology tells stories of Loki’s schemes and trickery among the gods of Asgard, a rivalry with Thor clear. Stan, Larry Leiber, and Jack Kirby didn’t real mine the sibling relationship in those early years; it had to fall to other writers who added sophisticated psychological thinking to the relationships of gods.
One such rumination of that relationship was Robert Rodi’s 2004 Loki miniseries. Released under the Marvel Knights imprint, it echoed the core Marvel Universe’s interpretation of the characters but offered up entirely fresh takes on the characterizations and look of the deities. Painter Esad Ribic eschewed Kirby’s science fiction-blended imagery and costuming in favor of a look the Norse themselves would have recognized. About the only things shared between the two universes was Loki’s horned helmet and Thor’s blond hair.
Rodi picked up the story some time after Loki triumphed as has enslaved not only his “brother”, but all who would oppose him including Odin, Balder, and Sif. The weight of rule grew heavy on the trickster, who found no mirth from the throne. He was unhappy and unmoved by the forces that demanded his time and attention including Norn Queen Karnilla and Hela, ruler of Hel. The story is strong, aided by Ribic’s powerful artwork in its somber tones.
To promote the forthcoming Thor movie, Marvel turned the miniseries into a four-part motion comic, Thor & Loki: Blood Brothers, which was released throughout the spring. Now, the adaptation is being released on Tuesday by Shout! Factory. They have not been edited together into a seamless whole so each chapter comes complete with opening and closing credits which can be tedious. Worse, this is being marketed as an animated project when it is most definitely a motion comic.
Motion Comics have yet to come into their own and vary wildly in quality, as seen in all the offerings to date from movie studios and comic book companies. The actual artwork is taken and mouths move, eyes blink, arms and legs periodically rise and fall while smoke, leaves, snow and other effects create the illusion of movement. No one studio has mastered the concept nor has there been a breakthrough project that has captured the world’s attention to show what the hybrid medium is capable of. Some move frenetically others move with deliberation.
Thor & Loki: Blood Brothers falls into the second category but the minimal movement actually helps the story. There’s a heaviness in the still imagery that shows the consideration in every utterance, the minimal movements demonstrating no wasted energy. Ribic’s powerful art comes to life letting us focus on the detail in the artwork, now seen on the screen in high definition and it is rich.
While most of Marvel’s traditional animated fare usually falls short with its vocal cast, this offering, using largely unfamiliar talent, works. David Blair’s Loki is filled with anger, remorse, and a desperate need for vengeance against those who have wronged him.
You don’t need to know a single thing about Marvel’s Thor to appreciate this tale of gods and power. Rodi’s dramatic dialogue is filled with the words of gods without Lee’s patented faux Shakespeare and it sounds right aloud. Coupled with Ribic’s art, it’s a compelling story, well told.
The DVD comes with a 15 minute behind the scenes interview as Rodi and Ribic briefly recount how the miniseries came to be and how they view their work being adapted in this way which honors the source material better than a fully animated version. There is a four-part behind the scenes look at the production process which is informative.