This volume kicks off with a flashback two-parter featuring some wonderfully brutal art from Rafa Garres about a viking who drank dragon blood to become the Asgardian equivalent of a Hulk. All thanks to Loki, of course. The story hits its familiar notes from the song of Thor/Loki sibling rivalry while the present-day sequences tie it back to the main story. They also paint a more interesting picture of the God of Lies than I’m used to seeing in this series. Usually Loki only comes off as sympathetic and vulnerable when he’s thrust into the spotlight for his own titles. Here, Jason Aaron mines these qualities for the character while he’s in a supporting and ostensibly villainous role and it’s actually kind of refreshing. It’s also clear that Loki is playing a long, dangerous game and I’m really interested to see where it goes.
As for the main story of this volume, it turns out that Dario Agger’s expansion of Roxxon into the Asgardian realms has not gone unnoticed by his equally villainous businessperson peers. Taking the initiative to cut him down are the Silver Samurai and Exterminatrix, and they turn out to be surprisingly successful at it. To the dismay of everyone in Manhattan, however, as Agger has programmed Roxxon’s floating island HQ to level the city in case of a hostile takeover. Such an action places Thor, and S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Roz Solomon in the uneasy business of having to save a genuine villain.
Crawling bullets that turn what they touch into gold, Hulked-out security enforcers, Jane Foster performing surgery on… herself(?), Dario Agger being tortured over several issues, and the secret origin of Mjolnir -- this arc has it all. It’s the kind of ridiculously over-the-top superhero spectacle that Aaron excels at and he hits all the right notes here. This time around he not only has the good guys earn their victory, but also drops some solid hints that the worst is around the corner. It’s the kind of balance I like to see in these titles. Typically excellent art from Russell Dauterman, with Frazer Irving guesting on Mjolnir’s origin issue, round out a most worthy volume.