Let Slip the Dog of War is one of those beautiful gems that, once found, you don’t want to let it go. You want to keep it to yourself – put it in a crystal box upon a stand and savoir its brilliance. Yet you want to share it with the world; to hold it up above your head and shout, “Look what I’ve found!”
It is one of those stories that makes your throat burn, your eyes sting, your chest clench. And when it’s over it leaves you sitting alone in a great empty hall of tarnished gold, wondering if you should cry with heartache or smile with hope.
Now before I say anything further, be warned that this story contains The Dark World Spoilers – or at least, it’s unconfirmed speculation. So if you’re not okay with that, take your exit now. Otherwise… Read on!
Told from Thor’s point of view, this is not strictly a Loki story, but one where overall family dynamics has a lot of presence. It’s an incredibly poignant, reflective piece. Thor’s inner reflections on himself, his family and his realm are crucial in order to bring him – and ultimately Loki – forward. It is a story where you are achingly aware of everyone’s presence, even when they’re not the direct focus at the time, and you are aware of how everyone fits, how everyone is needed. Where Loki doesn’t have a direct part in the story, you can feel his presence nonetheless. As you can with Frigga, although her part in this story is purely reflective.
When his vision begins to blur, he stares straight ahead. He thinks of Loki in the crypts below them, thinks of his brother’s fragile hands and the dark circles under his eyes, thinks of his brother tipping his head back to listen to the bells of Asgard ring for her queen. There are veins in Loki’s eyelids, he remembers suddenly with a start. He remembers his mother kissing their closed eyes when she put them to bed.
Jane and Thor have a beautiful bond in this story, and I’m sure even if you’re not a fan of Jane Foster or her relationship with Thor, you’ll appreciate the care the author has taken in writing them. Jane is strongly written. She provides good counsel for Thor, and yet we can also see her oh-so-human fragility. And you can’t help but smile at how typically Jane she is.
“Can you believe,” she says finally, and her voice is shaking. “All these constellations, and I don’t even have the proper equipment to record them?”
Thor has had to do a lot of inner-reflection, he’s realised a few things about himself, his family, and the worlds around him. He’s grown, and he understands that Asgard is not the grand glittering realm it once was.
This is no family, Thor wants to say. This is an old, broken man and his desperate, grasping son, making deals with chaos to preserve a threatened state.
And Odin truly is a broken man in this story. As you could well imagine he would be. His family has been broken, his long reign of peace broken, his realm invaded, and his sons understand more of what is going on around him than he does. He clings to the past while the world is moving forward. He’s tried, and for a long time he’s succeeded, but he banked too high on his success and refuses to see that his mighty rule is not so mighty anymore.
Can’t you see? He wants to scream at his father’s retreating back. Can’t you see? Svartalfar, Chitauri, the Other, Earth—all of them rising up, higher and brighter and stronger than ever before; can’t you see that Asgard is no longer the apex of the universe?
The brotherhood between Thor and Loki is fragile, but well portrayed. There is distrust, but there is hope, there’s wrong that has been done, but there’s understanding. However grim it might be. Ultimately, there is a lot of mending that needs to be done for this family to be brought back again – if it ever can. And a realm that needs saving, but only if the family can be mended.
“Loki lies.” He says finally. “It is… when I was a boy I believed that he did it to spite me, but now I know it is in his nature. It is a part of him, and I cannot change it. But I do not have to fall for it and Jane, you do not know him—what he asks for might seem harmless, might seem small and pointless, even. But Loki never asks for anything he cannot turn into a weapon, and words are weapons, Jane. In my youth I scorned it, and I scorned him for placing so much stock in it. But I realize now—the fate of a kingdom, the heart of a king. All change with words.”
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