Loki: Ragnarok and Roll #2

First things first: I still can’t believe that this comic exists. More than that, though, I can’t believe how good it is. There is no question that it has a ridiculous premise with a pretty naked basis in character recognition cash-in. But what’s wonderful about Eric M. Esquivel and Jerry Gaylord’s “Loki: Ragnarok and Roll” is that it makes no apologies about its premise and relishes its own absurdity. There are few things as charming as confidence and as endearing as going whole hog. This series does both.

Whereas the first issue was set almost entirely in Asgard, Issue #2 focuses on Earth and Loki’s new life in the rock band. The supporting members of the band — David, Masumi and Kay — are also introduced, and they’re likeably bemused and enthused by their rocket ride to fame. Esquivel makes them feel like different people, but plot-wise they all play the role of the audience: just along for the ride. When their concert is interrupted by a bloody inter-pantheon beatdown, they just have to conclude, “Our lives aren’t like other people’s lives.” There’s a sort of Greek chorus element to them, in that they cue the reader on how to react to what’s going on. Their universal recommendation? Enjoy and don’t ask questions!

Esquivel does his best work with shorter, less prolonged text: back-and-forth dialogue, conversational addendums, narrator’s interjections, etc. In that way, it’s disappointing that so much of this issue (as compared to last month’s) is taken up with speechifying. Loki rambles on in the equivalent of a sophomore sociology thesis on fame and religious worship for nearly half the issue. This exercise is a little tiring, but Esquivel makes Loki so invested in his own hyperbole and grandiosity that it sounds nearly earnest — except that the Trickster can’t even remember his own bandmates’ names. This is emblematic of what’s most appealing about “Ragnarok and Roll.” Just as it reaches the tipping point of earnestness, it always circles back to smiling at itself. In that way, it can take on a measure of genuineness without ever implying seriousness, something that would be deadly for a series like this.

Part of that effect comes from the over-the-top, swaggering art. Gabriel Cassata’s colorful, cartoony palette jumps from lightning blue to red-orange flames without announcement. The simple, single-color backgrounds take everything out of conventional, four-walls-and-a-floor reality and make the action look larger than life.

Jerry and Penelope Gaylord also have a great sense of proportion. They’re not afraid to spend page space on what’s funniest, even if it isn’t what’s most essential to the story. When Hercules’ statement that “nobody turns down godhood” was followed — without comment –by a full two-page spread of the twelve labors of Hercules, I laughed for about a full minute. So much of whether a joke works is about pacing, and in comics, the artwork controls almost all of that. This series is lucky to have artists who divvy up the page with that in mind. Ryan Ferrier’s lettering is also essential in this regard. Had a few of the captions been moved left or right, or split differently, many of the laughs would have failed.

Not convinced yet? The suggested listening list includes Kanye’s “I Am a God”, there’s a “Fight Club” quote on the title page and Thor refers to himself as “the Master of Monsoons.” No matter what you thought when you first heard about “Loki: Ragnarok and Roll”, just go read this. I promise, it’s so metal.

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