Monday, May 23, 2016

Catching up on Comics with CGraig: Astonishing Ant-Man #7-8

2016, Marvel

A tremendously weak Canadian dollar meant the prices of comics were starting to skyrocket.  A $3.99 book was now over $5 which meant my monthly pull suddenly was costing 25% or more.  Changes had to be made.  Some books had to be dropped.  A cold hard assessment of what I actually wanted to read, and what I enjoyed had to be performed, and in the process the Astonishing Ant-Man fell victim to the chopping block, being put on the "going digital" list.  The problem with the "going digital" reality is that I don't have a good platform for reading digital comics, and, as I showed with the Nameless a few posts back, there's an actual tangible difference between physical and digital such that I prefer the former pretty much always.

I've never cared all that much for Ant-Man.  Being a DC kid, he just was a pale imitation of the Atom, like Namor was a nudist iteration of Aquaman and Hawkeye was just lame Green Arrow.  But with Marvel Studios bringing little dreams to big life on the silver screen, one can't help but be charmed by these cinematic iterations, and perhaps look at them in a different light.  The fact that they've gotten to the big screen, and successfully, well before their DC counterparts has given them a tremendous edge in cool factor, intrigue and bragging rights (especially given DC's otherwise general mismanagement of their characters in the comics over the past half decade).

I was particularly charmed by Paul Rudd as Scott Lang, as Paul Rudd tends to charm in any role he's in.  And with the Ant-Man film we also ventured into my favourite superhero terrritory: legacy.  Having Michael Douglas as Hank Pym trying to find a successor for the Ant-Man role, all the while his daughter Hope was vying for the part and his once-protege Darren Cross was attempting to figure out the whole shrinking thing on his's all kinds of legacy swirling about.  It's not a perfect film (there's a lot of "why would they do that?", or "what's the logic here?") but I loved it tremendously.

 Shortly after Ant-Man came out in the cinema Marvel launched The Astonishing Ant-Man comic, and of course I ignored it.  I don't read Ant-Man comics.  I read a trade of the Irredeemable Ant-Man by Robert Kirkman and Phil Hester quite some time ago, and I loathed it.  I pretty much swore off Kirkman after that (Phil Hester, meanwhile, is a tremendously underrated writer, and I tend to perk up when he's writing something...but he only drew that Ant-Man series).

Three months later though, I happened to notice while reading Marvel solicits that Nick Spencer was writing The Astonishing Ant-Man and that in the series Scott Lang was employing reformed (or supposedly reformed) supervillains in his new Miami-based security agency.  I knew immediately this was a book I had to read.

Anyone who read the Superior Foes of Spider-Man (and there were far too few of us for a book of such tremendous quality) knew that Spencer + D-level super-villains equals superhero comedy gold.  And I have an incredible soft spot for D-level super-villains.  It stems back to the Dark Side Bar from I think issues 43 and 44 of the Giffen-DeMatteis Justice League America with Wally Tortellini winning a bunch of gear off of super-villains in a poker game and downright shaming he JL.  Actually, it predates that even, with the introduction of the Injustice League, a group of lackluster villains (Major Disaster, Big Sir, The Cluemaster, Clock King, Multi-Man and the Mighty Bruce!) much earlier in the series.  Or maybe even before that with Suicide Squad.  Regardless, these were comics where the writers and artists were plumbing the depths of the DC pantheon and pulling out the dullest, most tarnished, impurest of nuggets and polishing them into gold.  Spencer did the same in Superior Foes, and continues to do so with the Astonishing Ant-Man.

Not only that but Spencer is dealing with Ant-Man legacy in a much different way than the Ant-Man film.  It's not so much about Hank Pym and Scott Lang, but rather about Scott Lang and his daughter Cassie, who was in the Young Avengers as the giant-lass Stature.  Darren Cross stole her heart, literally, and now she has no powers and has lost a tremendous sense of her identity, while Scott has the poorest of coping skills for all these events, and mishandles pretty much everything.  But then he always has... and he always faces the consequences... such as his short-lived relationship with Darla Deering, aka Miss Thing, in the pages of Matt Fraction and Mike Allred's run on FF (I thought I was missing something, as I read all of Jonathan Hickman's FF run, but did not carry forward with Fraction/Allred's) that has reared its head again in Spencer's book.

Meanwhile there are two competing smartphone apps for hiring supervillains at the touch of a button, not only that, but the creators of one of the apps is able to bestow superpowers upon willing new recruits.  Cassie herself enlists with one, gaining new Wasp-like powers, and the moniker "Stinger".  Her task is to infiltrate Darren Cross' organization and corrupt his competing super-villain app.  Scott's all too aware of the danger his daugher is in, and needs to enlist a group of super-villains himself to infiltrate Cross' org and get his daughter back.  (Spencer has carried the latest incarnation of the Spider-Man villain Beetle over to Ant-Man as a quasi-love interest for Scott).

I'm not sure why I dropped this from my pull, but I was so very wrong to do so.  Watching Civil War, my favourite part of the film was Scott Lang's transition into Giant-Man.  It's one of the most giddily delightful things I've ever seen.  It reminded me how much I liked the comic and I felt that I had made a huge mistake in dropping the title.  Thankfully, it was easy to catch up on and it's great.

io9 pointed out today one of the greatest highlights of the series so far: the group of Scott's super-villains showing the new guy the ropes, dropping knowledge on all the pain points of the Marvel U.

No comments: