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‘Loki’ Explained: Beware These Troublesome Variants

Marvel Explained is our new ongoing series where we delve into the latest Marvel shows, movies, trailers, and news stories to divine the franchise’s future. In this entry, we explore Loki Episode 2 (“The Variant”), the origins of the female Loki (a.k.a. Lady Loki), and consider the other Loki comic book variants we’ll most likely encounter in the Disney+ series. Yes, prepare for SPOILERS.

Life for a god ain’t what it used to be. First, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) discovers his free will may not be as free as it once appeared. Then, he learns he’s not even the baddest Loki he can be. There’s an even more devilish version stalking the one-true timeline and causing havoc throughout the Time Variance Authority (TVA). She arrives toward the climax of Loki Episode 2 (“The Variant”) and sends a shockwave through our displaced trickster.

The TVA and its Time-Keepers enrage Loki. For a creature who has spent an entire life chasing one glorious purpose only to be told that the chase is futile and fated for destruction, the possibilities presented by the female Loki variant (Sophia Di Martino) are irresistible. Lady Loki bucks against the all-powerful TVA and their precious singular temporal one-way street. She says to hell with their fate and uses their multiverse-pruning weapons against them, creating chaotic alternatives. It’s no wonder why our Loki bails on Agent Mobius (Owen Wilson) during the first possible moment. Don’t tell a Loki what they can and cannot be.

In the comics, Loki has appeared in several forms throughout their incredibly long lifespan. They’ve never settled on one shape, size, or gender. Where’s the fun in that? And if Loki pursues any one thing, it’s fun.

At the top of Loki Episode 2, Mobius explains the many Lokis who have already attempted to swerve from the Time-Keeper’s meticulously curated stream. In a brief holo-flash, we see big, tall, and beefy iterations, all of which have stumbled through the comics in some form or fashion. “The Variant” positions Lady Loki as the greatest threat plaguing the series, but we shouldn’t be surprised if we see even more Lokis spring into action throughout the season.

And maybe we’ve already witnessed another variant in Loki Episode 1 and didn’t even realize it.

In the previous installment, before Mobius and our Loki meet up at the TVA, the dry-witted time agent investigates a crime scene in 1549 France. While surveying a collection of Minutemen corpses, a young child wanders into the carnage. Mobius assumes that the kid merely witnessed the atrocity and that Lady Loki distracted the child with some tantalizing Kablooie chewing gum. Mobius spots the temporal disparity when the kid exposes their blue teeth, which has resulted from gnashing the blue Kablooie. But what if the kid’s teeth are blue because the kid is a child of Frost Giants, like Loki?

Judge Renslayer (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) sure loves throwing Loki’s Frost Giant origins in his face. When Loki first approaches her bench, she seemingly relishes naming him Loki Laufeyson, as in son of Laufey, not Odin. The god of mischief proclaimed himself Odinson before he met his end in Avengers: Infinity War, but Renslayer refuses to recognize the growth. Or confuse the when from where this Loki came.

This Loki, the 2012 Loki, is still in rebellion mode. Dear old adopted dad is the bad guy, the bastard who anointed Thor at every given opportunity. Renslayer could be maintaining the timeline when addressing Loki as Laufeyson, or she could be stirring the swirling rage of emotions inside the criminal standing at her bench. The Laufeyson name stings and cuts to the crisis constantly mutating inside Loki throughout his Marvel Cinematic Universe appearances.

The Loki child, assuming they are the Loki child, offers our Loki a chance to take a Thanos-less shortcut toward a new purpose. Children represent vitality and possibility. They’re not tied to decades of options taken. Instead, they can wander in any number of ways and open any number of doors. The child has what our Loki wants: choice.

Kid Loki is a fan favorite amongst comics readers. In Journey Into Mystery, after Asgard got decimated by Ragnarök and Loki perished, the trickster god resurrected in the form of a child. It involved a deal with Hela and the striking of Loki’s name from the book of the dead. The rascal returned as a wee one, but Kid Loki was not without problems. The old self, the diabolical one, infected their mind.

This new, young iteration began to feel things that the old one never did: shame, guilt, fear. Kid Loki did not want to be what they once were. Kid Loki aspired to be more, to be a hero, like the Young Avengers. Loki head writer Michael Waldron told Vanity Fair that Journey Into Mystery issues 622 through 633 is the one comic book run that TV viewers should read. And while that does not necessarily mean Kid Loki is the French child of Episode 1 or that they’ll arrive in the series at all, it does indicate that our Loki will encounter an internal identity struggle. The glorious purpose is not what it’s cracked up to be.

Our Loki’s confusion will only spin into further flux as he learns more and more about the female Loki variant propelling the plot. Back in 2008, during J. Michael Straczynski, Marko Djurdjevic, and Olivier Coipel’s epic Thor saga, Loki jumped into a female human body designed as a vessel for Lady Sif. Now dubbed Lady Loki, this version dominated Marvel Comics for quite some time.

Lady Loki joined up with Norman Osborn (a.k.a. the Green Goblin) during the Dark Reign event. Alongside other villains including White Queen, Doctor Doom, The Hood, and Namor the Sub-Mariner, the female Loki pulled corporate and political strings as a means of quelling Avenger interference. Think of this era of Marvel Comics as their answer to the Star Trek Mirror Universe, only it’s not a parallel dark side, but one very much seething within our reality. Up is down, black is white. It’s Hell on Earth, and the demons rule.

Straczynski’s Lady Loki was firmly rooted in the same two-dimensional villainy that originally pitted the trickster against Thor and his spandex buddies in The Avengers #1. How she savored the dark side suggests an equally nefarious representative in the Disney+ Loki series, but we shouldn’t assume actress Sophia Di Martino is simply here to cackle wickedness. Eventually, the female Loki version evolved, and as presented in the 2019 young adult novel Loki: Where Mischief Lies, the character returned to a more dubious morality.

Di Martino is potentially the first (or second, if the French kid theory pans out) of many Lokis to come. Marvel Comics has crafted numerous mischievous gods for the show to consider. There are Lokis from the future, Lokis that conquered Asgard, and Lokis that switched personalities with brother Thor. Our Loki may have broken from the Time-Keeper’s path during AvengersEndgame‘s time-heist, but with a god who has lived so long, who knows how often Loki has actually splintered a timeline branch? And with each escape attempt, another Loki sprouts? The TVA is pretty good at pruning these problems, but clearly, one or two — or a dozen — have avoided their shears.

Each of these twisted reflections presents our Loki with a unique opportunity. They are the choices Loki didn’t take. They are the possibilities Loki could be. They are Loki’s middle finger planted firmly toward the TVA.

Loki is not fated to crack under Thanos’ grip. The future the TVA showed him on their fancy television screen is a preposterous joke and one the Loki variants have already rebelled against and will continue to rebel against. If they have to jumpstart another multiverse to return free will to all realities (and most importantly, themselves), they will absolutely do so. And who doesn’t love to see a rigid organization like the TVA crumble? Rules are meant to be broken. Bureaucracies that believe otherwise deserve to be burned to the ground.

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