This week the first issue of Christopher Hasting and Langdon Foss’ new monthly title Vote Loki was released. I bought it because I was very intrigued at what the series could/would be…and after reading the first five pages I knew it would take the last free spot in my monthly file! I recently dropped the bi-monthly Deadpool main title for Spider-Man/Deadpool and had a free spot (to keep myself at ten a month). But it’s free no more! In the hands of Christopher Hasting’s insightful writing, the Trickster god’s campaign can’t be missed.
This is an exceedingly intelligent comic, offering serious commentary not just on this current election cycle but on American politics in general. It is satire in the purest sense of the art – holding a harsh mirror up to our cultural (often willful) ignorance in regard to campaigns, politics, and even how American government actually works while lampooning all of that with this hilarious tale of Loki’s quest for the presidency of the United States.
The story follows Nisa Contreras – a reporter who made her name by exposing a corrupt politician who took funds Stark Industries donated to rebuild part of the lower east side of Manhattan that was damaged in an Avengers battle and funneled most of it into his re-election campaign. Her family lost their home as a result of that battle and, knowing firsthand the sort of damage this can cause, Nina’s become a reporter who seeks to protect others from such corruption.
At the press conference following a debate between the not-directly-named-or-drawn-up-close-yet-still-clearly Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, we see a quick illustration of the American psyche going into this presidential campaign. A television viewer of the debate complains there’s no good choice in the election as “They were both lying through their teeth up there! Why vote for either?!” It is mirroring the frustration many voters feel with the election cycle – especially this election cycle. It only takes a casual glimpse of social media or a perusal of the comment section on any political article to see that there’s a real feeling of disenchantment on the part of many voters.
While we, as Americans, are very comfortable yelling about how things are messed up, there’s very little practical discussion of how to fix things…or more disturbingly very little actual drive to do something to fix things. We rant. We post. But we aren’t looking to get far up off of our couches. To think of this as an accurate read of everyone in the country would be unfair. But it seems to describe more and more people every year. That is scary. The American government wasn’t designed to function with elected officials who stomp their feet and refuse to listen to any view not their own, voting only ever on party lines. Nor was it designed to function with a growing, uninformed electorate that honestly believes something can be true if it feels true to them. In the wake of American’s victory in the Revolutionary War, Europe looked down on their dreams of a republic. It was somewhat condescendingly called “the American Experiment” and it was expected to fail. However, now, in an increasingly partisan time, America faces the real test of its government. Can we get things back on track? Can we listen? Can government function as we need it to again? It is an unnerving time to be American – and it is the perfect time for the Trickster to shine. This is Loki’s scene.
At the press conference, there’s a discussion of the presumption that politicians will just normally lie to the media. Loki, in a hidden form, tells Nisa, “The whole process is just fascinating. They’re not really competing with their ideas – they’re competing with their stories. She claims raising wages for service workers will aid the economy because more people will have more money. He claims it will hurt the economy because it will impede small business growth…now, neither of them are economists. And neither of them have been poor a day in their lives, or for that matter owned what you’d call a small business…so the voters just decide which story they believe. Facts and studies can be presented for either side, but if you believe the story, then information that disproves it only hardens your beliefs!”
It’s not all political discourse though. This is a comic book and we’re talking Loki after all people! Hydra infiltrates the press conference and tries to assassinate both Hillary and Trump…until Loki intervenes. It would appear the god of mischief is once more trying to turn over a new leaf (think Loki: Agent of Asgard).
After he stops a Hydra assassination attempt, Loki is the center of the media blitz. He is asked which candidate he’s voting for. He tells the press, “Which candidate am I voting for? Hahaha, neither. They’re both liars; fun to watch, but…” When a reporter challenges him that it’s a pot/kettle situation he replies, “Listen, these candidates dance around questions like they’re hot irons. They make up half-positions based on whatever people want to hear, and they clearly stand in contrast to their true history. And then once they take office, the do whatever they want anyway, as quiiiiietly as possible. America, if I were your president, I’d have the guts to lie right to your face. And you’d love it.”
After his little comment the Twitter-sphere explodes and the Internet floods with debate about Loki actually running. Some are for, some against, but most are just excited at the idea of Loki getting involved. Yet again, we see a fantastic commentary on our current political process. We love talking about this stuff online. But how aware is the average American of the actual process? How involved are we? If everyone who texted, tweeted, posted, pinned, liked, favorited, or commented on an issue (hell, if half the people who did those things) actually got involved in our participatory government, urging their representatives to do something and making sure they weren’t re-elected if they didn’t, we could have a dramatically different country.
As the hype around a potential presidential run for Loki begins to mount, he goes on J. Jonah Jameson’s call-in TV talk show. There he teases the idea of his actually running and lampoons some familiar issues we see in our election cycles.
Nisa, watching at home, calls in to challenge Loki with some very prophetic words for us today. She says, “People, you can’t keep giving him attention. I know this is a big joke, but the problem is that jokes are harmless. Loki isn’t. He just wants you to think that. He’s running this exactly how he likes. He wants to be the joke until it’s too late.”
Reading that sequence felt eerily familiar to me. It’s supposed to too! Christopher Hastings is an incredibly talented author, with an admirable ability to satirize. The book is wild, fun, funny…but it also challenges the reader to think about the world we’re living in. It is art, performing one of the most important jobs art has – making us think and calling us to become better than we are at present.
If all of this wasn’t enough to send you running to your local comic store, they even reference Chuck Klosterman’s amazing collection of essays on our culture’s fascination with evil, I Wear the Black Hat!!!! Seriously, if you haven’t you need to read some of Chuck Klosterman’s work. NO ONE does a philosophical reading of pop culture like him.
The comic is timely. The comic is intelligent. And it urges the type of self-reflection we all need. Is Loki the candidate we need? Uh…we don’t know. The reader gains little actual knowledge of Loki’s motives or plans. We’re left guessing what his end goal is. I’ll certainly be along for the ride as we figure out where Loki’s heading. I should mention, I left the big twists from the book out of this piece. Why? Because it’s more fun if you figure them out when you read the comic! Which, if it wasn’t clear, I totally think you should do. Issue #1 just came out! It’s the weekend; go and treat yourself to a satirical guilty pleasure. It’s what Loki would do!