By: Kieron Gillen (writer), Rich Elson (art), Sotocolors (colors), and Clayton Cowles (letters)

The Story: Loki brings an unpopular kind of peace to Otherworld and fulfills his debt to Hela.

The Review: KIERON!!!!!!  Seriously, this issue made me feel like Captain Kirk in Wrath of Khan.

That’s actually not really a bad thing though.  It’s just that Gillen delivers an absolutely heart-rending, downright unfair character death this month that almost hits too hard.  Given that it’s a character that Gillen has done such a great job of building from the ground up, and one with a really great dynamic with Loki, it’s hard to read.  Gillen also shows his skill as a writer:  this is one of the best written death scenes that I’ve read in a big two comic in some time.  In just a couple of pages, Gillen makes the scene truly emotional by capitalizing on the reader’s investment, using dialogue that recalls former elements of the character’s relationship with Loki.  I guess that’s what makes it so sad as well: those elements are, chiefly, a running joke between the two that now takes on a very sad and ironic, and hence very different, meaning.  I guess this touches upon why this death is written so well – it feels meaningful because Gillen has spent so much of the series getting us invested in the character and his/her relationship to Loki.  Gillen spent the time in the script, he made the investments, and now he’s reaping the dividends.

Moreover, while I’m sure we’ll see it even more in the coming issues, Gillen is already making excellent use of the character’s death in showing it’s impact on Loki and how it’s changed his demeanour.  His angry, blunt confrontation with the All-Mother showed a very different Kid Loki and is an extremely strong scene that shows the character turning a corner, coming to terms with his sense of self and how others regard him.  In tragedy, he shows a new, different kind of brazen, angry confidence and is a moment of brutal honesty by the character that almost takes the reader aback.

And as if two great moments aren’t enough, Gillen offers a third:  Loki’s farewell to Daimon Hellstrom is also quite touching, showing Loki’s (this time successful) effort to change how he is regarded and to walk a different path from his former, adult self.  It works well, their back-and-forth is both genuine and roguish, and Hellstrom’s final backhanded compliment is guaranteed to garner a smile from any reader.

If there’s one part of the issue that falls a little flat, it’s the ending of the issue and, honestly, it’s for no fault of Gillen’s.  It’s actually a GREAT reveal and a fantastic cliffhanger and great set-up for things to come, and it SHOULD be a big surprise and jawdropper.  The problem is that it’s basically been spoiled by Marvel’s solicitations regarding the upcoming “Everything Burns” crossover.  It’s one of those scenes where someone giant and ominous is speaking off-screen…but thanks to those solicitations, we already know who it is.  It’s a shame, as were it not for those solicitations, this would’ve been magnificent.

As far as the art goes, it’s another brilliant performance by Elson.  Elson has really managed a modern, polished look that is nonetheless reminiscent of all those great high fantasy cartoons from the 1980s.  It’s really the perfect art for a story like this.  Also, Elson’s illustration of Loki and Leah wearing V for Vendetta-style Guy Fawkes masks while blowing up British heritage sites like Stonehenge was a great touch.

Conclusion: A brilliant issue with nothing but huge, emotionally evocative moments…even if you’ll hate Gillen for it.

Grade: A –

-Alex Evans