Today, Michael and Taylor are discussing Astonishing Ant-Man originally released January 20, 2016.
Michael: At what point do you stop blaming the world around you for your problems and start taking responsibility for your own life? Life is undoubtedly full of poorly-timed coincidences, but there is also a lot to say about the power of free will. Astonishing Ant-Man 4 focuses on Scott Lang’s ignored responsibilities smacking him right in the face.
Scott is trying to balance a love life, a professional life and being a father from a distance all at once. He’s late to his first day working security for a new client because he had a booty call with old flame Beetle. Oh and his client is also an old flame of his — Darla Deering. As fate would have it, Scott’s daughter Cassie is at the charity basketball game that he is working for Darla, so he tries to hide from her by shrinking down. The superhero antics begin when Purple Man knock-off “The Voice” commands the crowd to unleash chaos. Eventually Scott takes out The Voice and is found out by Cassie, who is pissed off and kind of disgusted at her father for being so sneaky. Meanwhile, a new unidentified Giant-Man is chasing the villain The Unicorn and gets caught in the cables of the Golden Gate bridge. Oh and comedian Paul Scheer is in the issue.
Let me be perfectly clear: I am not a child of divorce, I am not married , I do not have children nor am I divorced. But I’m a human being and I’ve got an internet connection so I’ve got opinions dammit! Scott has the same problem that I imagine many a divorced parent has — he’s trying to forge his own identity and path while trying to maintain some semblance of a relationship with his child. By splitting his focus among his heroing, security guarding and parenting he puts forth a third of the effort for each. Random superhero hook-ups, successfully running a business and being a (kind of) good dad are mutually exclusive.
Scott’s the loveable screw-up that keeps getting more and more chances because he’s actually a good guy; but you can’t cash in on that forever. Nick Spencer paints a picture of Scott as the father who secretly helps from afar. I was expecting that when Cassie found out that Scott had been trying to secretly help/interfere with her life, she would just forgive and accept him. That easy ending would’ve pissed me off, so I was very pleased to see that Scott was held accountable for his actions. It was also oddly nice (?) to see Cassie call her father a stalker. I don’t know how I feel about that statement but you catch my drift, right?
Ant-Man’s situation reminds of me what is often referred to in Spider-Man titles as “Parker luck.” Part of the appeal of Peter Parker/Spider-Man is that despite the obvious spider powers he’s a flawed human being just like the rest of us. With that theme, Peter often finds the various facets of his life — super and other — interfering with each other and making him the perpetual schmuck; hence the “Parker luck.” Modern comic books run the risk of making their heroes TOO flawed as an attempt for “realism,” but Spencer gives just the right amount of realism to Astonishing Ant-Man 4. Scott flies by the seat of his pants — rarely having anything resembling a game plan. It’s pretty audacious then that he thinks that he can be this benevolent father who secretly helps his daughter Cassie from behind the veil of anonymity or dumb luck.
The whole Paul Scheer/charity basketball game aspect of the issue felt a little off to me. My only major takeaway was how the crowd was being mind controlled by The Voice. These people can’t be held accountable for their actions, which is a completely different situation than Scott is in. And the Paul Scheer of it all? I feel like his inclusion was merely to promote his upcoming Guardians Team-Up 7. Seemed a little superfluous to me.
Taylor what did you think of this issue? Am I being to harsh on Scott? Are you a Scheer apologist? Do you have any insight on the final scene with this new Giant Man? Whaddya got?
Taylor: I might say that you are being too harsh on Scott. He’s new to being a super hero (again), new to being a dad who tries, new to Miami, and a new business owner. That’s whole lot of newness all to juggle at once. It’s hard for me to knock Scott knowing this since I’m always terrible at things when I just begin doing them. Perhaps “stalking” his daughter is a pretty weird and not very father-like, but Scott just doesn’t really know how to behave otherwise. Add to this the context that Scott is a reformed villain and it becomes downright impressive that he’s able to accomplish half of the half-brained things he sets out to do. Scott is flawed, sure, but that’s both the source our love and frustration with him.
While I can apologize for Scott I can’t really apologize for the Paul Scheer appearance. I like Scheer in small amounts but his cameo here is simply just bizarre. He shows up, bounces a basketball, and gets arrested. That’s it. At first, the sheer (no pun intended) absurdity of his appearance had me excited, but when it quickly became apparent that his character was superfluous, I was crestfallen.
One of the reasons Scheer falls flat here is that a lot of his comedy stems from his delivery. There aren’t a lot of bald, bucktoothed smart asses around ,and Scheer’s ability to spin this to advantage is pretty genius. That genius is neutered here because we can’t hear Scheer’s voice and we don’t get any sense of his typical bravado. Minus that, Scheer is just a run-of-the-mill comic relief character in this instance. One could perhaps excuse this cameo if this comic was worse, but Ant-Man is so good and solidly stands on its own — it doesn’t need to settle for gimmicks like this.
Ramon Rosanas turns in his typical fantastic work on the pencils this issue. I’ve come to really appreciate the way he animates Scott’s transformation from human to ant size. In this issue, Rosanas enhances this transformation by adding some fun movement to the whole thing.
As Scott heads out to the basketball game he hitches a ride on a flying ant. I simply adore how we understand that Scott shrinks between the third and fourth panels above without even getting so much as a hint that he’s changing size. Some of that knowledge comes from knowing Ant-Man’s skill-set, but another part of that knowledge comes from the way Rosanas draws the scene. In the third panel Scott lifts his leg, suggesting he’s leaving through the window. That prepares us for seeing him bounce through the blinds in the next panel. But more than that, what really connects these panels together as one action is the orange motion line Rosanas includes in the fourth panel. You’ll notice that this line is moving in the same direction that Scott’s knee is pointed in the one above. That serves as connective tissue between the two panels and paints in my mind’s eye the shrinking and then bounce out maneuver that Scott performs as he exits his apartment. This isn’t anything flashy, but it’s great visual story telling.
As long as Rosanas keeps this up and Scott continues to be a complex and interesting character, Ant-Man will continue to be a great read, no matter how many celebrity cameos come along to spoil the fun.
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