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As a character at home with secrets and sleight of hand, it’s fitting that getting to grips with Loki’s physical prowess is a tricky one. After all, he prefers to fight sneaky, delivering a dagger to the back after a spot of magical misdirection.
In comic books, assessing the relative strength level of various characters is absolutely no challenge at all. There’s been enough trading cards, roleplaying games (there’s a new one, Marvel Multiverse Role-Playing Game, coming 2022 btw), and proclamations from the letters pages to have some ‘official’ numerical rankings. That these numbers were often inconsistent is no biggie, I mean once you actually have some numbers that have some semblance of authority, you can go about working out an average, draw a conclusion, and sleep better at night.
Working things out in the MCU is an entirely different tray of Infinity Stones. For a start, they often vary wildly between movies depending on who is at the helm and there’re relatively few fixed points to judge them against, as not enough characters invest their time competitively bench-pressing the Quinjet like it’s The World’s Strongest Superman.
Strength in Marvel movies is neatly divided into two highly technical measurements: Punching and Getting Punched. Punching also incorporates throwing cars, jumping through walls, and doing that headlong superhero bumrush that they like doing, whilst Getting Punched involves being on the receiving end of those sorts of things.
Asgardians generally seem to be a pretty robust lot. Their capacity for Getting Punched significantly outclasses their Punching and it took beings of apocalyptic power (Thanos, Hela, Surtur) to snuff out the likes of Heimdall, Lady Sif, the Warriors Three, and Skurge. For the sake of grading their abilities, I rate them ‘Champion Tier’. They’re the tip of Asgard’s spear, the warrior caste. Heimdall was definitely pushing the upper limit of this, and Valkyrie is also a force to be reckoned with.
The rest of Asgard – gold armored guards, cowering courtiers, and the like – occupy a sort of ‘Peasant Tier’ where they’re presumably hardier than mortals but whilst an Asgardian shoeshine boy might be able to pitch up in New York and reinvent himself as a superhero (or at least a really strong shoeshine boy), he’s not going to be joining The Avengers because he doesn’t have the training or heroic X-factor or space on marvel.fandom.com that the actual gods have.
Leo Fitz: “You’ll have to go through me.”Agents of SHIELD, ‘Purpose in the Machine’ – S3, Ep2
Elliot Randolph: “And I could. Literally.”
Obviously, Odin’s ‘line’ (Odin himself, presumably Bor, definitely Hela, and eventually Thor) appears to be occupying a level of power that perhaps we can categorize as being ‘Allfather Tier’. They have a power set well beyond the standard ‘strong and scrappy’, and are capable of taking skyscraper-leveling blows to the jaw. In fact, it’s notable that Hela was empowered by Odin’s death, and then Thor grew in power exponentially following the deaths of Odin and Hela, so this probably the real birthright of Asgard’s reigning monarch.
Basically, there’s a reason Thanos chose to attack Earth when he did…
[See also: Loki | From Myth to MCU, Loki Was Always Queer by Clint Worthington]
Do You Even Lift, Bro
Sylvie: “How is he doing that?”Loki ‘Journey into Mystery’ – S1, Ep5.
Loki: “I think we’re stronger than we realize.”
Loki seems to have a place firmly on the Champion Tier, holding his own in a scrap with Valkyrie in Thor: Ragnarok (2017) and defeating Kurse in Thor: The Dark World (2013), and even bettering his brother for a few moments in both Thor and Avengers. That he generally leans on spellcasting, stealth, and cat-like reflexes in no way undermines the fact that he’s actually a lot stronger than you probably realize.
There is no evidence as far as I can see that him technically being a Frost Giant affects his power set meaningfully (woo resistance to cold!!), or at least meaningfully for the worse. If he were a Dungeons & Dragons character, he’d have all the standard Asgardian racial modifiers, but courtesy of Frigga his character class would Rogue/Sorceror. A little short for a Frost Giant, but probably above average for an Asgardian and well above mortal given how casually he lobbed an unarmoured Tony Stark across the room in The Avengers (2012) when he got sick of listening to his generic Joss Whedon two dimensional megalomaniac patter.
This is actually a great starting point, as his augmented ticker aside, Tony is just an average joe physically. According to his SHIELD File – one of the bonus features from The Avengers – he weighs a mere 185 lbs (84 kgs approx). Loki needs to brace and pivot to accomplish this, but it’s an impressive amount of weight to heft in one hand from a standing start.
Earlier in the film, he accomplishes a similar feat with Captain America – albeit it with considerably more effort. Bulked out with the additional muscle mass of the Super Soldier Serum, Cap’s SHIELD File puts his weight at 220 lbs (100 kgs approx). Actually lifting these weights is well within human capability, but throwing them – not redirecting their force in a Judo throw, but actually throwing them – is something else.
For context, the world record for throwing a 70lbs (31.75kg) keg is just under 5 meters (!).
As an aside, the reason we can’t use Thor as our base, despite having the greatest number of tests of strength with Loki, is that he’s so far removed from human limits that we’d have to do the same work establishing how strong he is; his power levels start going off the charts in later films; and the presence of Mjölnir, which we know has variable density and does some baffling things to the laws of physics, also complicates assumptions.
Honestly, start trying to factor that into your equations and you’re on a rainbow bridge to nowhere.
“The humans think us immortal. Should we test that?”Loki, Thor (2011)
One thing we know for certain is that Loki can take far more punishment than he dishes out. In his most iconic beating at the climax of The Avengers, the Hulk slams him repeatedly (five times, to be exact) into the ground before sauntering off. Loki’s response is more of a stunned, humiliated silence as he lies in his crater at the top of Stark Tower – indeed we next see him cuffed and gagged, sheepish but fine – not a bruise or broken bone in sight.
So rather than being the fragile DND spellcaster, Loki’s endurance (not his strength) probably puts him up there with the likes of Ronan the Accusor or Malekith. Long-lived to the point of being functionally immortal, immune to most diseases and poisons, resistant to usual (non-magical) extremes of temperature, and entirely unphased by bullets, Loki can dish out roughly as much Punching as Captain America or Drax, but his Getting Punched is a whole other beast.
Not Thanos-level by any means, but his Frost Giant DNA obviously allows him to shrug off anything short of a Mad Titan to the windpipe.
And as we learned from Silver Age Loki’s escape from Avengers: Endgame (2019) in Loki Episode 5, it’ll be a cold day in Hel before he relies on physicality alone to guarantee his survival.
Sylvie: “Do you think that what makes a Loki a Loki is the fact that we’re destined to lose?”Loki ‘The Nexus Event’ – S1, Ep4.
Loki: “No. We may lose. Sometimes painfully. But we don’t die. We survive.”
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James is editor of The Companion. He has been “working in publishing” since the early 1990s when he made his own Doctor Who fanzine to sell in the school playground.You can find him on Twitter @JDHoare