A god with a wicked sense of humor : Fairly early in ''Loki,'' the latest superhero side dish Marvel is serving up on Disney+, the deceitful Norse god of the title has a reckoning - a come-to-Stanlee moment, if you will.

He gets a peek into what could be his future [ a future we've have already seen in multiple Marvel films, which allows for the recycling of some pricey intellectual property] and it doesn't please him. It doesn't scare him straight, exactly, but it persuades him to cooperate with the good guys and become the wisecracking consultant to a team of armed time cops.

It's a premise reminiscent of a largely British genre of comic fantasy sci-fi, the territory of ''Doctor Who,'' Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett, and it carries a promise of straightforward mystery and adventure. [ Two of six episodes were available for review.] 

It also distinguishes Loki from its Disney+ predecessors, the high-concept ''WandaVision'' and the Avengerslite ''The Falcon and the Winter Soldier,'' each of which put a heavier spin on its comic-based material. [Family trauma in the first instance, race and class allegory in the second.''

A little lightness is welcome, and the 45-minute episodes of ''Loki'' fly by painlessly, though they may not deliver quite as much jokey satisfaction per minute as you'd like. If the writing has dull patches, there's always the company of a stellar cast, headlined by Tom Hiddleston as Loki and filled out by Owen Wilson as Loki's detective partner from the  Time Variance Authority, Wunmi Mosaku as a SWAT cop of the pure time stream and Gugu Mbatha-Raw as a judge in time court.

The focus on time is the vehicle by which Marvel once again brings back Loki, who was killed by two  ''Avengers'' films ago. In the most recent film, ''Avengers : Endgame,'' a time-travel plotline enabled him to make a cameo reappearance; that wrinkle in the continuum is now, in the series, the explanation for his apprehension by the T.V.A., which monitors past, present and future for divergences from the proper course of events.

A hallmark of the Marvel-Disney+ production so far has been their self-conscious desire to show that they have more in their minds than typical superhero series. ''Loki'' also  goes for some extra texture in a comparatively easygoing and thereby successful manner.

There's an amusing element of oppressive office comedy among the harried clerks and claustrophobic warrens of the time authority. [ A running joke is Loki's  refusal to believe that this petty bureaucracy is the most powerful outfit in the universe.]

And there's a not-too-heavy-handed metafictional thread about the ways in which managing the timeline is akin to building a fantasy story - or, by extension, to overseeing an immense comic-based entertainment empire.

Disney+'s propensity to dole out review episodes sparingly - it's release of just three episodes of  ''WandaVision,'' with its backloaded plot, made early reviews practically pointless - leaves you wondering, hopefully, whether Loki will up the pressure as it goes along, adding some more energy and wit to match the skills of its cast. [Not even seen yet is the always wonderfully droll Richard E. Grant.] 

The show's head writer, Michael Waldron, is a rising Marvel star - he's also the writer of the coming  Doctor Strange feature - whose previous work was in the wacky-cerebral sphere of Dan Harmon, on  ''Community'' and ''Rick and Morty.'' A little less Marvel and a little more ''Rick and Morty'' would be something to look forward to.

The World Students Society thanks review author Mike Hale.


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