Once upon a time, Loki stole the hammer of Thor and nearly destroyed his brother and Asgard itself! Thor managed to prevail, but… What If? Your Major Spoilers review of What If…? Dark Loki #1 from Marvel Comics awaits!
WHAT IF…? DARK LOKI #1
Writer: Walter Simonson
Penciler: Scot Eaton
Inker: Cam Smith/Scott Hanna
Colorist: Andrew Dalhouse
Letterer: VC’s Travis Lanham
Editor: Wil Moss
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: $4.99
Release Date: July 12, 2023
Previously in What If: Dark Loki: A tale of one of Asgard’s worst days…
…and one of Loki’s best!
THE TRADITIONAL ANSWER IS “EVERYBODY DIES”
Having dropped his hammer in battle with Ulik the troll, Thor is shocked to find that Mjolnir is gone. The Lady Sif saw Loki snatch the weapon and teleport away, and just as it happened in the Silver Age, the God of Thunder transforms back into his human form of Doctor Donald Blake. Unlike that story, though, when Sif and Blake return to Earth, Loki is behind them, and not in front of them. This allows him to impale Don Blake, then fatally blast a distracted Lady Sif. He then returns to Karnilla’s palace and uses the same power he stole from her to kill her. Having now secured both Norn magic and the hammer of the Thunder God, Loki sets out for his ultimate revenge: The death of Odin himself! Before that, though, he dispatches Balder with a spear of mistletoe, frees his son, the Wolf Fenris, and allies with Hela, Surtur, and the serpent Jormungand.
The only problem is, he forgot about Ragnarok.
EDITOR’S NOTE: SEE THOR VOL. 1 #153
It’s a well-known half-joke that the original run of What If? back in the Bronze Age almost always ended up in carnage, as if reminding us of an unbreakable rule of comics: Alternate universes don’t matter. This story manages to capture some of that bloodshed, but bolts it to a sturdy Simonson plot that calls upon actual Norse mythology in new and interesting ways. This issue comes out on the 40th anniversary of Simonson’s classic Thor #337, the introduction of Beta Ray Bill and the launching point for his legendary run. The downside of that comes in forcing all of the events of this issue into 40 pages, when Simonson’s plot clearly wants to expand into a two or three-parter. More importantly, though, the art doesn’t have the same panache that Walt’s work did in those days, instead giving us a pastiche of Kirby’s work, in keeping with the story this is homaging. That ends up being limiting for Eaton and company, and the modern digital coloring just does NOT mesh with that art style.
BOTTOM LINE: NEEDED TO BE A MULTI-PARTER
I imagine many readers have never read Thor #153, but What If…? Dark Loki #1 has a well-crafted story even if you haven’t, art that’s well-done but ill-served for the story and ill-served by the coloring, rounding out to an above-average 3 out of 5 stars overall. I’m not sure that it is an appropriate 40th birthday for Walt’s game-changing run of stories, but as a standalone What If, it’s worth the price of admission
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WHAT IF: DARK LOKI #1
Simonson still has the chops to write a ripping tale of Asgard, but the art lacks his inventiveness and the sheer amount of story feels cramped by one issue, even a forty pager.