I know, I know — yesterday I said I was done with “motion comics,” cold turkey. It was over. Finished. No looking back. I’d had my fill and generally walked away feeling pretty let down by most of them.
So what do I do? I sit down last night and watch Shout! Factory’s 2011 Marvel Knights Animation release (again, DVD-only as far as I’m aware) Thor & Loki : Blood Brothers, adapted from writer Robert Rodi and artist Esad Ribic’s highly-popular late-’90s four-part Loki miniseries (it was re-titled upon release in both collected form and on DVD in order to cash in on the hype then surrounding the pre-release of Kenneth Branagh’s highly-anticipated, big-budget Thor movie). My expectations weren’t high, having been worn down by a steady diet of lackluster stuff over the past few nights, culminating in the really rather atrocious Spider-Woman, Agent Of S.W.O.R.D. But hey, my wife was at work, there was nothing on TV, I was feeling too lazy to read, and the unique occult combination of all these factors led me to give in and give this thing a go.
And boy, am I glad I did, because Thor & Loki : Blood Brothers is everything you could ask for in a “motion comic” and then some.
First off, the story’s simple, yet highly effective and tremendously involving : Loki, lord of mischief and misrule, gets his wish and finally takes over the mystical kingdom of Asgard. He defeats his brother, Thor, and lays waste to all that his mightier and more famous sibling holds dear. He holds the iron fist of power over all those who previously shunned him. and settles scores with both his families, natural and adoptive. He’s in charge. He’s The Man. Things are definitely looking good for the guy in the golden horned helmet.
And yet — he’s vaguely dissatisfied. He can’t bring himself to just be rid of Thor once and for all and finds that he still needs the love/hate relationship they’ve fostered over the centuries to serve as his primary motivating force in life. Hell, one even gets the sense that he’s done all this conquering and what have you just to impress the more legendary and heroic member of his family. And that love and acceptance he’s longed for his whole life? It still ain’t comin’. Thor still feels nothing but a strange mix of pity and anger toward this black sheep of his family.
And it’s in that emotional complexity — that exploration of why these two disparate figures fear and despise, but also love and even need each other, that Thor & Loki : Blood Brothers shines as a piece of psychologically compelling modern comics storytelling. This is a tale of ageless gods with powers beyond comprehension that somehow all of us mere mortals can still relate to. My heartiest congratulations, Mr. Rodi, on a job very well done.
But hey, “motion comics” are still comics (at least of a sort), right? So all that high-fallutin’ story stuff doesn’t matter a whit (well, okay, it still matters, but not as much) if the art sucks. Fortunately, Esad Ribic’s highly-stylized, exquisitely-detailed renderings are flat-out awesome, and Shout! Factory does a superb job breathing life into them via the use of complex, highly-intricate 3-D computer animation techniques that do more than just provide “motion,” they also breathe additional life and depth (both genuine and metaphorical) into the art and draw the reader into the physically and emotionally cold world of Loki’s Asgard by dint of their expressive power and sheer ingenuity. In other words, this is one awesomely cool film to look at.
Continuing down the technical rabbit hole, the disc also features a pristine widescreen image, well-realized and nicely-mixed 5.1 sound, two superb “making-of” featurettes (one concentrating on the creation of the original comic, the other on its translation into this new format), and some trailers for other titles in this series that by and large make them look better than they really are. The main feature itself may clock in at only 74 minutes, but this is definitely a package that gives you value for dollar.
So I guess when it comes to “motion comics,” I’m feeling a bit like Al Pacino’s Michael Corleone in The Godfather, Part III : “just when I thought I was out — they pull me back in!!!!!!!!!!!!” But for the time being, at least, I’m damn glad to be back. Thor & Loki : Blood Brothers is a darkly majestic work that balances its contradictory-on-their-surface epic and intimate themes with grace, precision, care, and a heck of a lot of style. It’s this reviewer’s opinion that it represents the apex of achievement in the still-nascent field of “motion comics” to date. It’s compelling, chilling, accessible, gorgeous, complex, and even breathtaking at times.
It gave me a much softer and more pleasant landing than I probably deserved for falling off the “motion comics” wagon so quickly. And you ,dear reader, should see it immediately.