Today, Taylor and Michael are discussing Ant-Man 3, originally released March 9th, 2015.
Taylor: Before I became a teacher, I was working in a job I cared nothing about. While that sounds kind of miserable — which it was at points — I did enjoy that my work was something I could leave at the office. Weekends and evenings were basically all mine during this period and I did whatever I pleased with that time. Now, working at a job I care about, I find the divide between work and my home-life has blurred. Work comes home often now and weekends are spent mostly preparing for the coming week. Basically, my situation was a trade off. Work at a boring job and be free at home. Work at a job that you care about, and never stop working. Ant-Man 3, despite it’s humorous overtones, meditates on this aspect of life in a way that is both insightful and entertaining.
Scott has established his new security firm in Miami. His first contract is to install a security system, with laser canons, into a warehouse full of paperclips. It turns out this is all part of a plot by the Taskmaster, who has been hired to keep Scott busy. Taskmaster took the job from Hench, on online mercenary site, so that Scott’s daughter could be easily kidnapped after her high school talent show. We later find out that Taskmaster was hired by Augustine Cross, who is trying to revive his semi-dead father, Darren Cross.
The joke about superheroing for a job is one that has been used on several occasions, but never quite to the same effect as when used by Nick Spencer. In this case, Spencer uses his talent to home in on what it means to follow your passion and turn that into profit. For Scott, that means using his ant powers to start a security firm. Not only does he enjoy it, but he has the skills necessary to pull it off (i.e. control hoards of ants). The idea of Scott using his amazing powers to perform a mundane task such as installing security is funny in and of itself, but is heightened by the fact that he’s only protecting a paper-clip warehouse. While at first we might think this a squandering of ability, on second look I found it had me wondering about why superheroes are required to fight evil anyhow? Sure, they are the best equipped to help the world, but that doesn’t mean they have the passion to do it. Scott is indicative of this mindset. He has the powers, but he would rather focus on family instead of saving the Earth. Can we blame him for that?
What makes this thought even possible is the world that Spencer has created. Even though there are bad guys in Spencer’s universe, that doesn’t mean the planet needs Ant-Man to find them. Indeed, heroes and villains abound in Spencer’s world so when Ant-Man uses his powers to install security systems instead of fight crime, we’re not too worried about it.
For me, what hammered this point home was when Taskmaster, the semi-nemesis of Ant-Man, stated he was attacking Ant-Man only because it was a job. Hilariously, he found the job on the Hench app which offers villainous mercenaries the chance to make money, like Uber for bad guys. Even more entertaining is that Taskmaster is pretty bored by his job and merely punching the clock so to speak.
Just as he’s about to give the final blow, Taskmaster relents, his job done. He even goes so far as to extend the professional courtesy of telling Ant-Man to “take care of himself.” From this, it would seem Taskmaster is less about enjoying his job and more about just getting paid. Sure, he cares about his reputation, but only because he wants to make sure he stays a desirable hire for those who may require his services. This is in contrast to Scott, who seems to love being Ant-Man, even though he may not be that good at it. This difference has us thinking about what it means to be a superhero in a world where they are common. Like us, Scott has found a job he loves but it may be costing him his home life. What a fun way to explore the malaise of working in a developed country.
While the issue of work culture resonated with me, I also just enjoyed this issue for some of the fun that artist Ramon Rosanas injects into the issue. Plenty of sight gags abound here, but my favorite might be when Taskmaster first gains the upper hand on Ant-Man.
Here, Ant-Man is shrunk down to ant-size. This hasn’t stopped Taskmaster wrangling him up however. Hilariously, Taskmaster holds Scott at sword point, which is ridiculous given Scott’s size. To exterminate Scott at this point Taskmaster wouldn’t need a toothpick, let alone a sword. A simple stomp under the shoe would suffice. However, Rosanas draws this scene with both characters deadpanned — they take it seriously. It’s a funny little joke the likes of which make this issue a fun read from the first page.
Michael, what do you think about this issue? I focused a lot on the fight between Taskmaster and Scott — are there other parts of the issue you found equally engaging? Also, I wasn’t too keen on this series at the start, but I feel like it’s rounding into form now. Do you feel the same way?
Michael: Taylor, I played a little bit of catch-up on the series before I dove into Ant-Man 3. I’d say that I’m enjoying the series, though. I love when talented writers like Nick Spencer take a stab at C-list superheroes; it proves that any character can have a great story with the right talent behind it. Though Ant-Man doesn’t have the exact same situation as Animal Man, this series has been making me think of the family drama of Buddy Baker. I like when writers explore a standard Hollywood story (like the deadbeat dad with the heart of gold) and put a cape on it. The scenario of a superheroes’ loved ones being endangered by their line of work is nothing new, but it’s often compelling to see how suiting up and fighting crime can affect a person’s home life. Things with Scott Lang’s ex-wife Peggy are pretty tenuous as it is, so there will most definitely be some serious consequences for Scott after he saves his daughter Cassie. (We all know that she will end up safe and sound, Spencer’s not gonna kill off the hero’s daughter four issues in…right?)
Being not entirely familiar with a character’s history can be a little worrisome when you are jumping headlong into a new book. Prior to this I only knew the basic origin story of Scott Lang and had never heard of Darren Cross or Dr. Erika Sondheim. Spencer’s script is pretty tight though and makes economical use of the pages allotted to him. The issue opens with Dr. Sondheim “interviewing” with who we later find out to be Darren Cross’ son Augustine. (This is the third or fourth “interview” that we’ve seen in the series thus far; more on that in a second.) Spencer utilizes the situation quite well and gives us all of the backstory we need while furthering the narrative of the issue. The end reveal of Darren Cross is given so much more weight because Ant-Man has been giving us a crash course on Scott Lang’s life. This is excellent pacing on Mr. Spencer’s part.
So we’ve got Dr. Sondheim interviewing with Augustine Cross, albeit with a gun to her head. Ant-Man 2 had Scott applying for a small business loan and hiring Grizzly, while Ant-Man 1 was Scott trying to get a job at Stark Industries. Spencer and Rosanas have been filling Ant-Man with what is known in the improv world as “transaction scenes.” While these are typically uninteresting encounters, they seem to fit in with the cross-section of “sensible superhero” that Spencer seems to be aiming for. Spencer is finding humor in these transaction scenes that convey just how tough it is for Scott to be a C-lister. Taylor brought up the question of “Do you need to be a superhero/supervillain simply because you have superpowers?” I’ve thought about this before, and how awesome it would be to have a teleportation power like Nightcrawler’s, just to avoid traffic and travel BS. So no, I don’t think it’s necessary to suit up and get in the super ring, but that is most definitely what is going to happen in the world of Marvel and DC.
If you think about it, Lang’s new security business is a poor man’s Stark Industries. Both Iron Man and Ant-Man are using their intellect/abilities to turn a profit; thought Ant-Man is many many rungs below Iron Man on the ladder to success. Similarly, it seems that most C-list supervillains like Taskmaster are often portrayed as mercenaries. Sometimes the fight is personal, but most of the time their crimes are depicted as “making ends meet.” Of course there would be a mercenary app that allows the grunts to put their skills to work -– it’s all they have! It makes me think of a quote from Sandman in the infamously bad Spider-Man 3: “I’m not a bad person. Just had bad luck.” Like Ant-Man, there can be a lot of story potential for villains who don’t get the kind of attention that Dr. Doom or the Green Goblin do; it makes them more human in a way.
It’s amusing that Scott thinks of Taskmaster as his “arch-enemy,” while Darren Cross, arguably his true arch-enemy is the true villain of this plot. Ant-Man has been very entertaining so far, and I’ll be interested to see what Spencer and Rosanas do next.
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?