REVIEW: Thor & Loki: Blood Brothers AND Behind the Scenes Video

I am not a motion comics fan. I don't understand them, who they're for, or why anyone would want to watch them. I will admit that they've gotten a lot better since their debut a few years back. I can even accept that they're just not for me. They're for someone else. I won't begrudge anyone their enjoyment, and if it offers publishers and creators another revenue stream from which to make some coins, then I wish them good luck.

Yet, I found myself headed to Marvel a little while back to watch all 4 parts of their newest work from Marvel Knights Animation, Thor & Loki: Blood Brothers. At first, I didn't even think it was a motion comic. For one thing, Marvel doesn't call them motion comics any longer. They say it's because they've moved beyond that, and a great deal of the production is actually just straight up animation, while the rest is an animated version of the original art from the source material. I say that might be true (because it is), but what is also true is that the term "motion comics" is a poisoned well, and it would be a good idea to just stay the hell away from it. When I first saw the trailer, it looked more like a video game cut scene than it did the pokey non-animation of earlier attempts. I later figured out that this was indeed the next iteration of what had previously been known as a motion comic. But hey, I'd never really given them a shot, so why not give it a look?

The animated series is based on the not-all-that-well-known series from 2005, The Mighty Thor: Loki by Robert Rodi and Esad Ribic. I'd never read it, and as such, this was all new to me. From a story standpoint, it's very good. I was engaged through all four parts, which are being released weekly through various video content sellers, like iTunes and XBox Live. It should be noted that there's really not a lot of Thor in this at all. I get that there's a movie coming up, but even without that, comic fans aren't likely to try out something just called Loki, so you put Thor's name in there just to get their attention. The hero in question has precious few lines and spends most of the program shackled in a dungeon. The story is that of Loki's, after he has defeated Odin and Thor and taken control of Asgard. He's got everything he wants, but isn't finding the satisfaction he'd hoped for. Hela is on him about killing Thor, and he just can't seem to do it. We go back and see some of Loki's past, and really spend time digging around in his head about who Loki the Trickster is. It's incredibly heady and full of faux Shakespearian Thorspeak, and I'm not really sure who they think the audience for this is. It's not a superhero story by any stretch of the imagination, with only a passing reference to Thor's pals from Earth. Other than that, it's just a longform Norse god story. It's good, don't get me wrong, but it's an odd choice, to be sure.

From a production standpoint, I'll start with the voice casting. It's very good as well. There are a bunch of British accents, as is likely to happen whenever any kind of divinity or, well anyone who isn't American needs to be portrayed. The production and sound design is as good or better than what you'd hear in any given traditionally animated TV show. Other than one character whose British accent is so brazenly awful, I couldn't pick out a single problem with the voicework.

Speaking of voicework, the very best thing about Thor & Loki: Blood Brothers was the characterization of Thor. I know I said he's not in it very much, but in one flashback, he's got a very clear characterization, and that is: big dumb jock. It makes so much sense! Standard Marvel comics have to portray him heroically of course, but from Loki's point of view, maybe that's not the case. Maybe Thor is a big dumb jock? It's almost like a long haired, hammer laden Puddy from Seinfeld. Again, I'm not sure who this is for, but I found that part hilarious, and I'd love to see more big dumb jock Thor.

Finally, there's the animation. It's not that bad all things considered. The painted Esad Ribic artwork being used as a basis for the whole thing is gorgeous, and entirely fitting to the story, In a way, it works a little better than animating, say Cassaday's Astonishing X-Men work, perhaps because the textures aren't so defined by outlines. There are a bunch of scenes that look pretty good, but then occasionally you'll get to a bit of a groaner, where it just doesn't look right. It's actually sort of amazing how much they can get out of some of these static images, but the truth is, if the story wasn't so good, or the sound design and voicework was just a little worse, it would be a little hard to take. That isn't to say I wasn't impressed, because I honestly was. It's just a tall order, and as I said, I'm not the audience for these things. Yet I was a little won over, so that has to say something about the quality.

If you've got some spare time, and like the Norse end of things, there are worse ways to spend your time. It might be just as well to go back and read the original material if you're into that. But Thor & Loki: Blood Brothers is easily the best of what motion comics have to offer so far. You can download it on iTunes, XBox Live, and Playstation Network. I'm sure it will eventually be available on DVD as well. So far, 2 episodes have been released, and there are 2 to go.

 


If you're interested in a little peek behind the scenes of the production of Thor & Loki Blood Brothers, Marvel has supplied us with this video. For more, you can also listen to this podcast we did with Marvel Knights Animation executive producer Ruwan Jayatilleke.
 

Comments

  1. I’ve seen the first episode and I really enjoyed it.  The writing is fantastic, the animation is great in parts, and having never read any substantial series with Loki, it immediately made me a huge fan of him.  I’m looking forward to watching episode 2 tonight.

  2. I picked up the graphic novel a few years back cause I liked the artwork, read it and ended up liking the story a great deal. I agreed the subject matter was an odd choice for a “motion comic” because it’s a pretty adult oriented story. Hopefully it will find an audience that can enjoy it for what it is, a character study of Loki.

  3. Paul Montgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    I really, really dig this project. It’s gorgeous. Like walking into a Frazetta painting. Are there some awkward moments? Yes. But I think it’s a cool achievement overall, and I was very impressed with the Loki performance. The sound mix, too, is better than it has any right to be. 

  4. The score on Blood Brothers is very well done…along with the voice acting. I feel these are the parts of motion comics/animation that have to be focused on the most since they are the key difference between just reading the book and watching it in this format. If marvel continues to get quality talent like Amotz Plessner and Underground Music to do their musical scoring, I think these Marvel Animation comics can begin to get more respect in the comic community.

    I really enjoy this Marvel Animation project and appreciate Ron’s interview with Ruwan and this follow-up review, Josh. I’m glad iFanboy is covering this project so well.

  5. The reason you like big dumb jock Thor is because he is the bridge to your post-coitel Thor

  6. @lifesend  thank you for your support. much appreciated.
    @Blackphoenix  i’d disagree that it’s an odd choice. it’s a great stand alone story for animation. it’s evergreen. goes outside the normal trappings of a superhero story. and just to point out, all Marvel Knights Animation is aimed at an older age segment. hence the MA ratings on Spider-Woman, Astonishing X-Men, and Iron Man Extremis. the source material, like you wrote, is great! 
    @PaulMontgomery  the fuzzy typewriter is everywhere! lol
    @dgazzuolo  Amotz is a dear friend and a brilliant composer, musician, and audio storyteller. add that to the oice acting and focused visual storytelling…and you’ve got a winning project. i was very lucky to field a team as talented as this.

    Thank you so much to ifanboy for both its coverage, support, and open mindeedness regarding these pieces of animated content. While I know it’s not perfect, our goal remains the same to tell great stories and keep improving the way we do that. 

    Cheers!