Loki surely has to be one of the greatest villains to come from the Marvel Universe to date.
The lying, narcissistic, shapeshifting antithesis to Thor has certainly given the movie franchise some of its greatest comedic moments, usually when he tries to ingratiate himself with every enemy of The Avengers available.
Perhaps the most appealing thing about him is that he doesn't want to destroy the world, he simply wants to make himself the most important thing in it – and he has quite a lot of fun along the way.
You may also remember, however, that after stealing a particularly powerful artefact, the Tesseract, in Avengers: Endgame, he seemed to just disappear.
Was this a cutting-room-floor accident? A gaping plot hole? Of course not. This is Marvel, whose universe is so meticulously constructed it all makes sense eventually.
"One of my favourite things coming out of Endgame was people saying that we forgot to tie up the loose end of Loki. Loki just disappears and we forgot to mention what happened to him at the end of that movie. And now, finally, it's being unveiled to the world," Marvel chief Kevin Feige tells The National.
As it turns out, Loki had simply disappeared in an alternative timeline, but he wasn't supposed to. Hence, in the new Disney+ series Loki, which debuts on Wednesday, the "god of mischief" finds himself imprisoned by the all-powerful Time Variance Authority. They are are about to "reset" him for his timeline-jumping crime until MCU newcomer TVA Agent Mobius steps in.
Mobius has been unsuccessfully tracking a particularly brutal and evasive time variant for some time, and it seems Loki may be the only one who can help.
Without giving too much away about the TVA, if you're a Marvel comic fan, you'll already know. If you're not, you won't have to wait long. But if you're already feeling confused, don't be too concerned.
Marvel dives headlong into its multiverse – multiple timelines and dimensions involving the same characters simultaneously – in the new series, but the end result is not so much deep-concept sci-fi or confusing comic book silliness as it is a hilarious odd-couple meets buddy-cop jaunt.
Loki, largely stripped of his powers by the mighty TVA, and Agent Mobius, a humourless automaton, are forced to track their mutual nemesis through time, space and place despite their utter incompatibility. And it's really all rather amusing on the basis of the early episodes we've seen.
"What I love about the series is that Loki is stripped of everything that's familiar to him. Thor is not close by. The Avengers aren't in sight. He's stripped of his status and his power," Tom Hiddleston, who reprises his role as Loki after appearing in six previous Marvel films, tells The National.
"And if you take all those things that Loki has used to identify himself over the past six movies, what remains of Loki? Is he capable of growth? Is he capable of change? And do his experiences within the TVA give him any insight into who he might be?”
If anyone can answer these questions, it's surely his new partner Mobius, or at least comedy veteran Owen Wilson, who finds himself playing the straight man to Loki's stooge in the new series.
Even an A-lister such as Wilson seems slightly enthralled by the Marvel magic as a newcomer.
"It's just nice to be here," he says with a laugh. "It's exciting to be a part of it, but the secrecy – even now, I'm thinking, can I even tell them I'm in a show called Loki?"
More seriously, Wilson explains how Hiddleston helped him learn about the MCU in preparation for the series and how it strengthened their bond.
“Tom very generously and patiently took me through the whole MCU mythology and Loki. We're calling them the Loki Lectures,” he says. “He let me in and I asked questions. I think that was really important and really helpful to our dynamic. Once we started filming the scenes that was really helpful to me – going to Loki school before we began.”
The fact remains, though, that whatever challenges Loki may face in this new series, whatever friends he may make and whatever powers he may gain or lose, Loki himself is the draw.
He's been a constant in the MCU since he first appeared in 2011's Thor and, frankly, compared to villains such as Thanos, he's a reason to side with the bad guys rather than the sugar-coated Avengers.
Hiddleston seems aware he's been given a remarkably likeable villain to play with in the biggest film franchise of all time.
“There's no question that the reason I am allowed to continue to play him is because he clearly means so much to so many people, and for so many different reasons. That is incredibly gratifying for me and I see that as a big honour.”
He is conscious, too, of people's varying interpretations of this loveable rogue.
“Over time, I've been made aware of the different things that he represents for people. Some people enjoy his playfulness, his spontaneity and that inherent sense of mischief he has. Some people enjoy that he has that quality as an antagonist. Some people probably can't stand him,” he says.
Hiddleston also appreciates the duty he has on his shoulders in playing such a beloved character in the MCU.
“I owe that to everybody who has ever written this character. Everyone who has written the character in the comic books. Obviously, starting with Stan Lee. I just feel it's a really huge honour.”
Loki will be released on OSN Streaming on Wednesday, June 9. New episodes follow weekly on Wednesdays