There’s a unique touch in Marvel villains in how they went from one-dimensional to deeply complex characters. Loki is a fine example.
For decades, Thor’s adoptive brother was a purely evil figure. Long jealous of growing up in Thor’s shadow and his origins as the son of Frost Giants, Loki would lash out in schemes to conquer or wipe out Asgard.
One plan to set Thor and the Hulk against each other led to the formation of the Avengers, which long rankled Loki and drove him onward.
Over time, the character was deepened, even aiding Asgard and wanting to become more heroic. But that dark nature could not be denied, and Loki keeps going back to being his tricky self.
Tom Hiddleston’s performance in the MCU movies made the character more likable, and it appears that it will fit for the upcoming Loki Disney+ series.
With his long history in Marvel Comics, there are scores of great tales, but these are the best to read to get set for the show and the truth in how the God of Lies is a wonderful villain that fans love to hate.
Honorable mentions: Journey Into Mystery #85 (Loki’s first appearance), the Acts of Vengeance crossover, and the Siege crossover event.
Avengers/Defenders War (Avengers #115-118, Defenders vol 1 8-11)
Loki is the instigator of a huge super-team conflict.
Temporarily blinded and cast in another dimension, Loki is rescued by the Dread Dormammu, who proposes an alliance. They trick the offbeat super-team, the Defenders, into getting the Evil Eye for their power.
Loki realizes if Dormammu gets Earth, he’ll be a step closer to Asgard, and Loki wants it for himself.
Swallowing his pride, Loki sends a warning to the Avengers but, not wanting to admit he of all people got conned, he makes them think it’s the Defenders themselves who want to rule Earth.
Thus a massive fight between the teams occurs, including an epic Thor vs. Hulk battle while Loki tries to outwit Dormammu. It’s a fun event and shows how Loki loves playing others like a fiddle.
Frog Thor (Thor #364-366)
Walt Simonson’s run on Thor is considered the greatest in the history of the book. His Loki is a true schemer who can be petty (such as impersonating Thor with Lorelai to make Sif jealous) and clever.
A true classic is this tale as, in his latest scheme for the throne, Loki transforms Thor into a frog. Loki soon maneuvers his way to gain power while Thor is stuck in Central Park.
Simonson then tops himself by having Thor regain his hammer and powers…only now a six-foot-tall frog in the Thor costume!
Even Loki has to laugh hysterically at the sight before being forced to restore Thor to normal in a beautiful offbeat tale.
X-Men: Asgardian Wars (X-Men/Alpha Flight Special #1-2, New Mutants Special Edition, X-Men Annual #9)
Loki usually sticks to fighting Thor or the Avengers, but he made an exception to face Marvel’s merry mutants.
First, he offers several members of X-Men and Alpha Flight godlike powers to turn Earth into a utopia. But when they discover the dark price this “gift” carries, the teams unite to fight Loki off.
Annoyed at being bested, Loki kidnaps the New Mutants and has them scattered across Asgard for adventures. The X-Men have to travel to rescue them.
Meanwhile, Loki plots to have Storm become a literal Goddess of Thunder to enhance his own schemes. He loses in the end, but Loki shows his wicked power against any foes.
Battling For The Throne (Thor #375-382)
Walt Simonson wrapped up his incredible Thor run in epic fashion in this tale.
Under a curse from Hela that makes his body easy to injure but unable to heal, Thor takes to wearing a suit of armor to aid his battles.
Loki manipulates events to trap Thor in the Destroyer armor, hoping to trick the heroes of Asgard into defeating Thor, all while he takes the throne for himself.
Thor manages to survive and has a nice final talk with Loki, knowing he can’t prove he was behind all this. But he does give a parting shot by smashing Loki’s arm with his hammer.
From his near-victory to a perfect comeuppance, Simonson wrapped up his take on Loki quite nicely.
Meet the TVA (Thor #372-373, Fantastic Four #352-354)
A major part of the Loki TV show will involve the Time Variance Authority, and so these introductory stories are good.
First, while battling the mysterious Justice Peace, Thor meets this cosmic organization that maintains the timelines, and it’s funny seeing the God of Thunder facing red tape.
Then, Walt Simonson has the Fantastic Four meeting the TVA, concerned the FF’s time-travel adventures may threaten reality.
The stories showcase how, for all their power, the TVA is really a typical bureaucracy packed with office drones who cause as many problems as they claim to solve.
Trials of Loki #1-4
This 2010 mini-series explores Loki’s origins to show just what warped him into this figure.
While it covers familiar ground, this is a great job detailing how Loki had a shot at being a decent person, but circumstances and his jealousy toward Thor shifted him to a darker path.
It’s a terrific crash course in Norse mythology from Loki dealing with how he is destined to set off Ragnarok to how he could have lifted Thor’s hammer himself.
The detail is wonderful to paint Loki, not as a villain but a tragic fallen figure and a reminder of the old saying that evil isn’t born; it’s made.
Thor & Loki: Blood Brothers #1-4
The relationship between Thor and Loki has always been amazing. As much as they fight, Thor deep down hopes that they can be the friends they were as kids.
This mini-series does a fine job exploring that, as Loki finally achieves his dream of becoming lord of Asgard. Thor accepts that as he has his own duties on Earth and is hopeful Loki can be a just ruler.
Loki’s rule is tested when Hela asks for Thor’s soul to stop a greater attack on Asgard, and Loki is struck by not wanting to hurt his brother.
There’s also Loki realizing the irony that ruling Asgard may not be as fulfilling as he’d dreamed. The bond of the brothers and a more noble Loki highlight this tale.
Journey Into Mystery: Fear Itself (Journey Into Mystery #622-630)
One of the wilder periods in Loki’s life is when he was seemingly killed, only to be reborn in a child’s body.
Still cunning as ever, Loki keeps up the schemes in these tie-in issues to a larger crossover as the heroes of Earth face the legendary Asgardian Serpent spreading chaos across the globe.
While the event was a letdown, Loki’s story is terrific as the conniving Trickster assembles his own team to face the Serpent’s forces and honestly wants to help save the day.
Kieron Gillen does a magnificent job making the child Loki appealing and how, no matter his age, the Trickster is never a foe to be underestimated.
Loki Agent of Asgard #1-17
Back in an adult body, Loki took center stage in this delightful Al Ewing written series.
His mother, Freya, enlists Loki as her own special operative to watch out for threats to Asgard in exchange for wiping his slate clean. Of course, Loki can’t help but get into mischief along the way.
An inspired touch is the universe’s greatest liar meeting Verity, a mortal woman who always knows when someone isn’t telling the truth. Their banter is wonderful, with Loki both aggravated and amused with her.
The series nicely explores Loki’s brush with heroism from a cosmic casino heist to getting involved in some heavy-duty crossovers. Still, his true nature always comes calling in the end.
Vote Loki #1-4
If anyone is perfect for U.S. politics, it would have to be Loki.
In this 2016 mini-series, Loki suddenly announces he’s running for President of the United States, skirting the tiny issue that he wasn’t born in the country.
It’s a genius satire as, of course, Loki’s charm and smooth words win over voters. The best thing is Loki actually tells the truth on the campaign trail, which does much better than any of his lies.
Of course, there’s a secret mission behind Loki’s campaign, but this still works nicely. It appears the Loki Disney+ series will use this storyline with Loki vying for rule differently.
Loki premieres on Disney+ June 11. Find all the upcoming Marvel movie release dates here.