A change is coming for the MCU’s Avengers and with that change comes opportunity. No, I’m not talking about Thanos whisking half of the universe into non-existence. I’m talking about the end of Phase 3, which coincides with some actors’ contracts ending.
Many of the original Avengers actors are either shooting their final film in their contract (Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr.) or the last of two (Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo). That means that many of the heavy hitters of the MCU, literally and figuratively, will be leaving a sizable vacancy on the team’s roster.
Their departure happens to have coincided with the arrival of some of the coolest characters in the MCU in recent years, including many who are young. (We love you, Shuri!) Add to that the arrival of Captain Marvel and the rumored Ms. Marvel adaptation and we’ve got the potential for a diverse, youthful fighting team—one you might even call the Young Avengers.
While I’m ready to let a lot of characters die or stay dead in the Avengers 4 movie, there’s one trickster whose story has only begun.
Loki, god of mischief, lies, and stories, has really only been represented as the bratty adopted brother of Thor thus far in the MCU. (It's a problematic representation not just for its erasure of Loki’s sexuality and gender, but also for the representation of adoption.) Even the small redemption arc he travels in Thor: Ragnarok and the opening sequence of Avengers: Infinity War never really reaches a satisfying conclusion. Of course, that’s because it’s really hard to redeem a previously genocidal god who invaded one of the most populated cities on the planet with an army of aliens.
In the comic books, Loki’s path to redemption also travels first through his own death. Because he’s amazing, Loki had prepared for his death, though, and removed his name from the Book of Hel, so he really can’t ever die. He reincarnates as an adolescent, eventually gets his memory back, and sets off to prove he’s not the person he once was. The only catch is that his former self and the future he created won’t seem to stay dead.
For a short period of time, Loki becomes one of the Young Avengers, a team of younger heroes who fight and defend our world, but not always with parental consent, sometimes because they don’t get along with their parents and sometimes because their parents have been turned into hosts for an inter-dimensional parasite.
While he doesn’t stay on the team long, just long enough to flirt with a cute boy and borrow someone’s powers, a slightly aged Loki continues his journey in Loki: Agent of Asgard and Original Sin: Thor & Loki: The Tenth Realm.
Both are beautiful and complicated enough to do justice to the god of lies, including at one point showing us four versions of Loki, including the dead one and the future one, in conversation together. These series also contain some of the most overt depictions of Loki as a queer person.
While he flirts with many a person without regard for gender, it also becomes clear that Loki’s powers are (temporarily) limited as compared to his former self. “I can change into anything, as long as it’s me,” he says, turning into a more feminine followed by a more canine take on himself. This should put to rest any lingering questions about whether or not Loki just morphs into a feminine version versus actually being feminine as well as masculine.
For a short period, Loki only appears as the feminine version and uses she/her pronouns, calling herself the goddess of stories. She’s absolutely divine and as a nonbinary writer, I consider Loki to be my personal goddess.
Think of the casting potential. Asia Kate Dillon, Ruby Rose, Bex Taylor-Klaus, or Nico Tortorella would each make a fantastic nonbinary Loki—and all are actually gender fluid or nonbinary and could bring more of a subversive swagger to the role.
Unlike DC, which cast openly queer actor Ezra Miller to play the Flash and Rose as Batwoman (not to mention the countless other queer actors and characters in the Arrowverse), the MCU is devoid of queer themes and queer actors. (Kevin Feige has promised we’ll be getting queer characters soon.) Embracing an out, proud, and mischievous Loki is only one step in rectifying this erasure, but it’s an important one.
The timing couldn’t be better to introduce an out bisexual and nonbinary Loki to the MCU. Everything is already changing in so many ways. There’s no reason the god/dess of stories should be any different.