Ant-Man 1

ant-man 1

Today, Taylor and Spencer are discussing Ant-Man 1, originally released January 7th, 2015.

Taylor: As long as stories have been told, people have enjoyed hearing about clever heroes. Perhaps the prototype of the clever character in western literature is Odysseus — a man who more than made up for physical shortcomings with the power of his mind. And while many people nowadays might not feel a close kinship to Odysseus, they still appreciate a clever hero — and a clever story. Marvel, as a publisher, has taken this love of cleverness and has essentially turned it into a multimillion dollar business. While the Marvel movies embody this philosophy to their core, there are a number of comic series which also are banking on this appreciation for wit. The reboot of Ant-Man is no exception to this formula, but does it have anything all that clever to say?

Scott Lang used to be a criminal but now he’s the new Ant-Man. He’s aware of all the baggage that comes with donning the antennal helmet, but he feels up to the challenge. So trusting in his skills is he that he decides to apply for the head of security job at Stark Industries. His main motivation for doing this is he wants to be able to provide both financially and emotionally for his daughter, who lives with his ex-wife. With the help of some typically atypical Scott Lang improvisation, he gets the job. However, before he can celebrate he learns that his ex-wife is moving to Miami and taking their daughter with her. Not wanting to abandon his daughter, Scott gives up the job at Stark Industries to live close to his daughter.

Right from the first panel, Scott makes it known that he’s well aware of the lineage of his superhero persona.

Ant Man Identity

He’s goes on to mention that there has been a whole mess of Ant-Men, most of whom have turned evil. This is essentially writer Nick Spencer’s way of telling the audience that yes, he is well aware of who Ant-Man is and the baggage that comes with a writing about a superhero who in many respects is pretty silly. While I’m generally game for this kind of candor, I found it a little off-putting in this instance. This reason for this is that the tongue-in-cheek style of storytelling is already well worn by other Marvel titles. One has only to look at Spencer’s Superior Foes of Spider-Man or anything written by Brian Michael Bendis to understand what I’m talking about. When I picked up this title I guess I was hoping for something new and different. Instead, I found that it’s mostly more of the same type of cleverness already used by so many Marvel titles.

This isn’t to say that I didn’t enjoy the issue. While I find myself struggling to accept yet another clever title meant to emulate the tone of the Guardians of the Galaxy movie, there are still some genuinely and truly witty scenes in this issue. After Ant-Man sneaks into Tony Starks apartment to steal computer codes to help him win an interview, Beetle reveals herself to be an assassin trying to kill Iron-Man.

Later Jerks!

Luckily, Ant-Man is there to disarm her by shrinking down and destroying her gun. Tony then throws on some armor and pursues the fleeing Beetle while congratulating Scott on his hiring bonus. What makes this scene clever is just how run-of-the-mill all of this is for all the characters involved. In most situations, seeing a man shrink down to the size of bullet would be comment-worthy. The same could be said about Iron-Man jumping out of a window in pursuit of an assassin. In this case, however, no one is shocked. This is what normal is to these people. As with Superior Foes of Spider-Man, Spencer has done a wonderful job of taking the world of superheroes and making it all seem so mundane. There’s a cleverness to that whole idea which I think the summer blockbuster movies will never capture, despite (or because of) all of their bombast and fanfare.

Taken in and of itself, this title is enjoyable and its oh-so-clever self-awareness isn’t so bothersome. Unfortunately, we live in a world where nothing can just exist in its own context, which makes this issue less fun than if it had come out five or ten years ago. Perhaps the fault lies with me and my inability to totally submerge myself in the issue, so I’m curious to here what you have to say, Spencer. Did you find the tone of this issue old-hat or did you enjoy it more than I did? Did you enjoy enjoy Ramon Rosanas’ artwork? Also, what do you think the effect of moving the series to Miami will have on its characters?

Spencer: Well, the ideal result of a move to Miami would be an Ant-Man/Golden Girls crossover, but since we obviously won’t get that (much to the disappointment of both myself and Deadpool), I’ll settle for just seeing how long Scott can last in his Miami “apartment” without air conditioning. Okay, more seriously, I think the move to Miami is meant to separate Scott and Cassie from their allies so as to better establish Ant-Man as a solo hero with a rogues gallery all his own. It’s an interesting move and I look forward to seeing what Spencer does with it, though I hope this doesn’t exclude Darla Deering from showing up soon.

Anyway, Taylor, I am all about “clever”, so yeah, I adored this issue. I will admit that Ant-Man‘s fun tone is no longer as novel as it once was in the wake of books like BatgirlHawkeyeSuperior Foes of Spider-Man, Ms. Marvel, or even this week’s other new title, The Unbeatable Squirrel-Girl (which I look forward to discussing with you on Tuesday, Taylor), but as long as the story is told well, I really couldn’t care less if other titles are striking a similar note — and this is definitely a well-told story.

What I like best about Nick Spencer’s work on this issue is the specificity of it all. Spencer never settles for generic anything, be it dialogue or world-building. His characters all have distinct voices (even bit players like Prodigy and Beetle), and all their decisions are grounded in the reality of living in the Marvel universe. I suppose some of these references could just be seen as easy jokes, but they’re also a natural consequence of living in a world that’s nearly destroyed on a weekly basis, and I’d rather see that acknowledged than swept under the rug.

Dead like Ant-Man

The near-mundanity of even Scott’s superheroic life is almost perfectly summed up by how Spencer and Rosanas portray his shrinking abilities. There’s only one panel where Rosanas actually shows Scott shrink; otherwise, Scott always shrinks between panels, and he’s just as likely to shrink for some silly reason than he is to go into battle. Scott’s got superpowers and nothing to hide, so why wouldn’t he shrink to brush his teeth, or travel, or even just to hide when he’s feeling sad and embarrassed on public transit?

sad on a bus

I also appreciate that, for all its cleverness and humor, Ant-Man is full of heart. Scott Lang is a relatable character in the same vein as Clint Barton, in that his many foibles humanize him, but it’s Scott’s relationship with his daughter, Cassie, that forms the heart of the book (and it’s that father-daughter relationship at its core that differentiates Ant-Man from other titles of a similar ilk). Scott is far from perfect, but the moment he passes up his dream job to be with his daughter shows that his priorities are in the right place, giving us more reason than ever to root for the character.

Actually, though, if I have one minor quibble with the issue, it’s with the handling of Cassie. I understand that she just needed to be a normal 14-year-old-girl for this particular issue, but it still feels a bit strange how Spencer glazes over not only her past as a superpowered Young Avenger, but also her recent death and resurrection. The fact that Cassie just came back to life is really important information, and explicitly stating it would have added some important context to the issue that would flesh out Cassie’s mother especially, whose actions might come across as a bit drastic otherwise.

Still, that’s ultimately a small complaint in an issue that I otherwise found to be a nearly perfect character-based story. Ramon Rosanas’s art and Jordan Boyd’s colors, meanwhile, are an excellent compliment to that story. Boyd’s colors are lush and cheerful, and Rosanas has a perfect facial expression on hand to suit pretty much every scene; Rosanas also seems to be having some fun with the few action scenes he gets, throwing out some inventive poses and camera angles. I especially love the second image Taylor posted, where the top of the panel cuts off Beetle as she flees — combined with the broken glass it feels like a really intuitive way to demonstrate her speed.

So, does Ant-Man reinvent the wheel? No. But I don’t really think it needs to; it’s still a smart, funny, inventive, dense read that’s full of heart and personality. That’s no small feat.

For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?

15 comments on “Ant-Man 1

  1. Maybe it’s because I didn’t read Superior Foes, but man, the tone of this thing worked like gangbusters for me. Few writers can get so much mileage out of just having their characters in costume as Spencer. Just looking at Scott wearing the Ant-Man suit in that interview makes me chuckle, but Spencer takes care to remind us of it every chance he gets, explaining that, not only is it Scott’s only “suit” of any kind, but that he’s also just kind of proud of it. I think I’m going to like this series.

    • “Maybe it’s because I didn’t read Superior Foes. . . ” – That’s a mistake. You should remedy that.

      Other than that – I’m glad someone else brought up the fact, “WASN’T THIS KID JUST DEAD?” “DIDN’T WE HAVE A HUGE “OMG THAT’S SO MOVING” CONVERSATION ABOUT THE DEAD KID AND THE BLACK AND WHITE TREE IN FF?”

      Sorry for the all caps, but holy crap, his kid was dead, now she’s not, surely that could be brought up! (Since they brought up that he was dead once, too.) That really struck me as odd.

      I liked the book. Didn’t like it was 5 bucks, but it was fun. Definitely clever. And not that Gillen hipster clever, either.

      • For the record, Cassie was resurrected in Avengers World 16 a few weeks ago, which we discussed in one of our Weekly Round-Ups (and in the comments: https://retcon-punch.com/2014/12/17/weekly-round-up-comics-released-121014/#more-26530)

        But yes, VERY weird how oddly it was glossed over. I suspect we may see more about it in the future. I just wanna see Cassie meet up with her friends in the Young Avengers again, though, what with her being the youngest member of the team to begin with AND losing a few years while dead, they might not exactly be her closest peer group anymore

        • See, I don’t think I even knew Cassie was a Young Avenger. Was she in Gillen’s most recent run or was this before that?

        • It was before that, in the original Alan Heinberg/Jim Cheung run. Cassie was a hero named Stature who could grow and shrink thanks to being exposed to Pym Particles by her father. She was murdered by Doctor Doom at the end of the “Young Avengers: Children’s Crusade” mini that ended Heinberg’s run.

          In fact, at the beginning of Gillen’s Young Avengers when most of the group has retired and Wiccan especially seems scared to fight crime again, it’s because of Cassie’s murder.

        • That makes sense. I didn’t read Children’s Crusade, but I did read Gillen’s Young Avengers. If Wiccan even mentioned Cassie (he may or may not have, I don’t recall, I do recall his fear of heroing), I wouldn’t have known who he was talking about.

          The only way I knew Cassie was from Lang’s fear of getting back into the hero biz from the start of FF. That’s why it seemed weird to me she got brought back in an Avengers World AXIS tie-in. And even weirder she’s now alive and hanging out in a box with her dad in Miami.

        • And isn’t Cassie sort of resurrected as part of AXIS? How we have to treat Cassie is one of those things I really dislike about the kind of continuity these characters exist in. Kaif is right, we should be absolutely flipping our shit about the fact that OMGCASSIEISALIVE, and Scott should be too, but that’s so clearly not what this chapter in Ant-Man’s life is about. I’d guess that Spencer wanted to write that moving father-daughter story and the rest of the Marvel Universe needed to do some narrative gymnastics to bring her back to life.

          And like, I don’t begrudge any Young Avengers fans that want to see her history as Stature acknowledged, but that’s simply not what this issue — or this series — is about. As someone who would almost always rather the issue be served (instead of continuity being served) I’m all for starting their relationship at a relatable place.

        • I think part of the discomfort is that there doesn’t really seem to be a place for the “OMGCASSIEISALIVE” reaction. Like, if we were talking about the resurrection of, say, Batman’s child, there could be a series totally devoted to its emotional repercussions, but another series that treats his presence as if he had never died. Ant-Man doesn’t have the benefit of a half-dozen series, so it maybe feels like all of his story should be told here. Of course, that kind of ignores his recent history as connective tissue in the Marvel Universe, with his story largely unfolding in cameos and team books (and honestly, probably mostly between issues of those things). So much of his story hasn’t had “Ant-Man” written on the cover that I’m kind of willing to forgive this story for not having the whole story.

          On a more practical level, I think addressing those questions would have been overly complicated for a first issue. There’s no doubt that this series is aimed at movie fans who might be totally unfamiliar with Scott Lang as a character. That he has a daughter is obviously going to be important to his origin story in the movie, and I can’t really blame Marvel for wanting to get their comics in line with what folks might see there.

      • I really dislike the word “hipster,” but I totally know what you mean about preferring Spencer’s brand of clever to Gillen’s. Spencer tends to be clever at the expense of his characters’ egos, while Gillen still wants everyone to be cool.

        Also, yeah, I’ll throw my hat in for Superior Foes being worth the read — even after-the-fact.

        • I think I dislike Superior Foes for the very reason you prefer Spencer to Gillen — all of his characters are total losers. It’s charming when the characters are also likable, as Scott is here, but was a total turnoff when they’re intolerably despicable, as I found them to be in Superior Foes.

        • I never want my Gillen talk to be taken as Gillen bashing. I find him the most approachable of creators, his blog is fantastically written with tremendous insight into his creative process, and he writes one of my favorite comics of 2014. I just don’t like the tone of some of his teen characters, even if I like the comic.

    • A “retcon” is short for “retroactive continuity” — basically, any time the continuity of a story is changed by a later story. Good examples would be that Superman Returns takes place after Superman and Superman II, but completely ignores Superman III and IV, or that Ian Malcolm is the hero of The Lost World even though he’s pretty explicitly killed in Jurassic Park (the book, not the movie). Retcons are incredibly common in superhero comics, which is understandible, given how big their universes are, and how long they’ve been running, but that doesn’t stop fans from hating retcons.

      Anyway, the “Retcon Punch” refers to a very specific and infamous retcon in DC’s Infinite Crisis, in which Superboy-Prime punches the fabric of reality, causing a whole slew of changes to DC’s continuity. It’s one of the more maligned moments in comics history, so we thought it would be a fun name for our site.

      • ““Retcon Punch” refers to a very specific and infamous retcon in DC’s Infinite Crisis, in which Superboy-Prime punches the fabric of reality, causing a whole slew of changes to DC’s continuity.” – As a non DC guy who is completely unable to read any of the Crisis stories (I’ve tried, I don’t understand any of it. I got through four issues of the Monitor, Anti-Monitor, and put it down and never picked it back up), I had no idea that was a thing.

        That’s awesome.

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