This book is fun. Like, really fun. Snappy script, epic story, dangerous secrets (like actually dangerous, not just a sad thing about someone’s past), god fights, and a goat-drawn chariot. Oh, and Lee Garbett’s super foxy Loki is there too. I usually pass on event tie-ins, but The Tenth Realm may end up being more compelling than the event it’s tied to. Jason Aaron and Al Ewing are masters of Asgardian drama and it is a joy to watch this Thor and this Loki get mixed up in it.
SPOILERS if you’re unaware of the general thrust of the book: Angela, most recently seen in Guardians of the Galaxy being Gamora’s new best friend, is Odin and Freyja’s secret daughter (at least I think she’s Freyja’s, that part is less clear and you never can tell with Odin). They lost her in a battle in the 10th Realm, which is also a massive secret. Yggdrasil, the World Tree that constitutes the known universe, has nine realms, Midgard (Earth) among them. This is a literally universe-altering revelation. It’s also a very clever and concise way to explain Angela’s super-mysterious origins (Marvel acquired the rights to the character last year).
This storyline is incredibly intricate, so it is probably not for the casual reader. With the Watcher’s death, the existence of Thor and Loki’s secret sister is revealed, and the two brothers go in search of her (not realizing she’s been gallivanting around with a space raccoon and a giant tree). The drama between Freyja and Thor, Freyja and Loki, and the role of Old Loki is difficult to keep straight even if you do read both Aaron’s Thor: God of Thunder and Al Ewing’s Loki: Agent of Asgard (both of which are excellent). Ewing’s script does a nice job giving context to the big emotional beats, but it won’t be enough for some readers. The events of Agents of Asgard in particular weigh heavy on the story, as they outline some of the unseen forces working against Thor and Loki.
Another transplant from Agent of Asgard is Garbett’s fantastic art. He draws characters with very expressive faces, which bolsters and sometimes stands in for the spoken dialogue. He’s strong at body language. The dramatic battles pop, the intimate conversations simmer. And of course, no one draws a snarkier Loki. Nolan Woodard’s colors add to the delightful spectacle. Everything is bright and bold and has the air of being mythic. While I will never complain about a double-page spread of Thor with his faithful goats (Toothgnasher and Toothgrinder, I love you), I was a little thrown off by Simone Bianchi’s pages towards the end. It pulled me out of the story somewhat. They were gorgeous pages, of course. I do appreciate the use of different art to convey the extreme change of setting as a storytelling tool, it just still felt very jarring.
If you’re all caught up on the happenings of Thor and Loki from their own books, you are going to love this book. There’s layer upon layer of subtext in every interaction. The moving parts interlock perfectly. It’s bananas, but in the best possible way. Thinking forward, Angela seems a natural fit to the world of the Asgardians; it will be interesting to see how she reacts to the news of siblings, parents, and of course finding out her upbringing was a lie. It’s better than a soap opera, and there’s more magic hammers.
The Verdict: 9.0/10