by Kieron Gillen (writing), Mitch Breitweiser (art), Bettie Breitweiser (colors), and Clayton Cowles (letters)

The Story: Loki gets a very special present from Hela, courtesy of Garm.

The Review: This was originally advertised as something of a Christmas issue, but ultimately, while Gillen delivers on that promise, we get something a little more subtle.  While there definitely is a nice message and a certain Christmas-y atmosphere, outside of an opening scene, it’s never overtly a Christmas issue.  Rather, it’s a charming one-shot that feels appropriate for the spirit of the season.

The first thing you’re going to notice about this book is the art.  It’s a pretty big departure from the look Doug Braithwaite established for the book and yet, it’s utterly gorgeous and totally appropriate in its own way.  Much like the Allreds, the Breitweiser husband/wife duo are perfect artistic compliments to one another.  They come together to bring you a book that feels, well, mysterious.  It’s a book that’s heavy on atmosphere and one really gets the feeling of a fantastical wintry wonderland.  And then there are the little puppies which are the core of the issue, and the Breitweisers do an absolutely adorable job on them, making them little bundles of malcontented fur.

And really, those puppies sum up this issue: completely and utterly charming and adorable.  This is a comic with a big heart, but one that also has mature sensibilities when it comes to its storytelling.  Loki, Leah, the puppies introduced in this issue, all of them are just so bloody lovable.

This helps Gillen in getting the reader to really become emotionally invested in the issue.  On the one hand, yes, the ending was predictable and yet, in spite of that, I was still crying out at “Loki, don’t do it!”  The fact that I was so desperate to get the ending I expected/wanted and that Gillen kept me on the hook throughout says quite a bit about this book.  When I finally got that ending, it was all too satisfying.

There are a lot of laughs to be had this month as well.  From Leah and Loki’s always wonderful relationship, to Volstagg’s honorary Christmas job, to the ridiculously murderous quips of Loki’s new pet puppy, you’re guaranteed to laugh out loud with this comic and all of the jokes are of the good-natured sort.

But quickly, about Loki’s new dog and the puppies in general: not only are they cute and, in the case of one of them, particularly funny, but they also serve as a vehicle for Gillen to deliver a message.  Indeed, there is a moral to this story, as is only appropriate for a Christmas tale: anyone can redeem themselves and be better than they are and that there is ultimately no such thing as a “bad seed.”  It’s a great message, deftly delivered, and all the more compelling due to Loki’s determination that it be true.  This also makes for a wonderful parallel between Loki and the one unwanted, and foul-mouthed, puppy “Thori,” or as he likes to call himself, “the death that prowls on four legs.”  Gillen does a great job in having Loki unconsciously associate the pup with himself, making him all the more determined that he be a “good dog” and all the more affected when the All-Mother considers the puppy irredeemable.

Thus, there’s a great parallel here that makes this issue the dawn of a great “boy and his dog” relationship where in the dog, the boy sees not only a companion, but also a bit of a projection of himself.  That folks, is great writing.

Conclusion: Heartfelt, gripping, hilarious, emotional, and sincere with great artwork and great character-work.  What more could you ask of a comic?

Grade: A

-Alex Evans