Today, Drew and Taylor are discussing Astonishing Ant-Man 11, originally released August 31, 2016. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
Drew: When I was 13 or 14, a group of older kids vandalized our high school. They broke in after hours, threw a bunch of furniture off of the roof, and dug a bad word into the grass of the school courtyard. It got a lot of attention, but the vandals were smart enough not to leave any incriminating evidence. Until, that is, they were caught vandalizing a billboard on the other side of town. Being caught red-handed is generally only a sure indicator of guilt for the crime you’re caught doing, but these idiots also happened to have a video camera with them. Oh, right: in the decades before everyone carried a video recording device in their pocket, these knuckleheads went out of their way to create incriminating evidence, bringing along a camcorder to immortalize their crimes. But, you know, not being made out of videotapes, one tape might cover many nights of escapades. Which is to say, the police caught them with a video confession of sorts for the high school vandalism.
It was a remarkable story at the time, but in the years since, as cameraphones proliferated, stories of idiot criminals (usually teens [but not always]) caught with footage of their own criminal acts became more and more common. Sure as selfies and reality tv made navel gazing a way of life, they also created a new kind of criminal: one with the self-directed airtight case against themselves. That’s almost the situation Scott Lang finds himself in, though in his defense, he didn’t know he was being recorded and broadcast around the country. Still, how do you talk your way out of a conviction when there’s video footage of you planning and committing the crime in question? That remains to be seen, but there’s little doubt that Jennifer Walters is the one lawyer who might be able to pull it off.
In the meantime, Scott is making the most of his time in county. Griz and Machinesmith, feeling guilty about getting Scott into this whole mess, manage to secure Scott some commissary funds to make his life more comfortable. Mary Morgenstern offers her moral (if not quite financial) support. And Darla brings news that he’s become somewhat of a breakout star on her reality show. These are small victories, sure, but they manage to turn around Scott’s prison life, which was getting dark pretty fast.
(Of course, he’s still beat up pretty bad by the end of the issue — worse for wear than in any of the scenes leading up to that, which lead me to three possible conclusions: 1) Scott’s still getting picked on, he’s just not admitting that to Jennifer. 2) This was a simple continuity error, and Scott should have had that black eye/bandaged nose throughout the issue — or at least since that first scene of him getting beat up. 3) It’s a more complex continuity error that stems from some combination of Scott having been depicted this beat up way back in issue 7 and some earlier draft of the story that featured at least two beatings to get him to that point, but was backed away from at the last minute for one reason or another. That last explanation might best explain why there are two scuffed-up models of Scott in this issue, but gets into behind-the-scenes stuff that is frankly pretty uninteresting, so I’m just going to go with option 1.)
For all of the prison montages, though, the real heart of this issue sits in its opening pages, as Scott takes the fall for Cassie. That act might be enough to establish what a sweetheart Scott is, but writer Nick Spencer gooses it a little further, allowing Scott and Cassie to communicate through telepathically-controlled insects.
It’s a heroic gesture, sure, but it’s also a little patronizing. Obviously, Cassie’s not going to sit back and let her dad hog all of the heroism, so she tracks down and aprehends the Power Broker on her own.
The only other “loose end,” as Scott puts it, are the Crosses and Scott’s band of henchmen, which come crashing together with all the grace you might expect from a Spencer crime joint.
“And also let me use your bathroom” is my new favorite pitiful plea. Obviously, things aren’t over, as knowledge of the lab is sure to lead Cross to Hank Pym’s cache of technology, along with Raz Malhorta. I have no idea what that could mean for Cassie and Scott long-term, but I’m sure it’s not good.
In the meantime, though, we have a trial to worry about. Darla makes it clear that Scott might just have public opinion on his side, but like I said, walking away from a crime there’s video footage of is no mean feat. I can’t wait to see how Jen manages to pull that one out (Charles Soule’s She-Hulk run definitely set a strong precedent for her legal prowess), but in the meantime, I’m just enjoying this quasi-FF reunion. Medusa showing up might be even less likely than Scott beating these charges, but a guy can hope, right?
Taylor: Oh, I’m sure Scott will somehow beat his charges. If I’ve learned anything about him over the course of this series, it’s that he can get himself out of sticky situations. Usually, this involves some sort of bullshit on his part, so when I say I don’t doubt he’ll get off, I mean to say I’m curious to see what type of bullshit he pulls to get out of jail. I know it’s coming, it’s just a matter of how.
That being said though, Scott’s ability to pull his usual bullshit is severely limited by his incarceration. As with most inmates, Scott’s life is controlled and dictated almost exclusively by the prison. He has jobs he has to perform, scheduled meals, structured downtime, and, of course, the anticipated beat downs.
All of this leaves Scott with little time to get up to his usual hijinks. On the outside, Scott was a freelance contractor, which essentially meant he set his own schedule. This allowed him to follow any passing fancy he might have had and it certainly gave him the time to plan the ill-fated heist that landed him in jail. Being an inmate, though, gives Scott a structure he doesn’t have in his civilian life. Now, it seems, he spends a lot of his time doing normal things as opposed to trying to break into a super villain’s lair and steal his equipment. In this way, Scott is able to finally stay out of trouble, if only because he isn’t allowed the unstructured time to get into it by himself.
That raises the question of if Scott is actually better off in jail than on the streets. By not being to pull off his usual bullshit, Scott’s no longer around to mess up the lives of those he claims to care about. Take, for example, Cassie. Ostensibly Scott does many of the things he does for her. This often lands him in trouble, but you could possibly excuse his actions as a misguided attempt to show his love. However, these attempts to prove his ability to be a good father are ultimately what drove Cassie to become a henchman. Had Scott been in jail, it seems reasonable to conclude that Cassie would still be a normal high school student instead of moonlighting as a crook. This is to say nothing of how Scott has also made virtually everyone else’s life around him more complicated, which suggests that maybe everyone, including Scott himself, are better off when he’s locked up.
However, to assume that everything is coming up Scott Lang in jail would be perhaps to paint a rosier picture than the reality shows us. Looking at the page above, it’s hard to ignore that it appears Scott is regularly beaten up while locked up. Any life where you are regularly beaten bespeaks an existence of that is far from ideal. In narrating his life in prison, Scott tries to play it off like everything is OK, but it’s clear from his bruises at the end of the issue they are not.
Of those bruises I think I have an answer to Drew’s questions about their continuity in the issue. If we compare the page pictured above with another later in the issue there are some striking similarities.
In both there are four vertically aligned panels that show life in prison not being all that bad for Scott. Both also have a horizontally aligned panel at the bottom which at first appear very different. In the panel pictured formerly, Scott is being beat up while in the latter it appears he is being cheered for his appearance on Darla’s reality TV show. While it might appear Scott is getting along with his fellow inmates in this latter panel, I believe it’s the opposite. I think we’re seeing the moments right before he is once again assaulted. That inmates would see Scott on TV and do this doesn’t seem like a far fetched idea. Perhaps jealous of his fame or because they want something from him it’s not hard to imagine why someone would see Scott on TV and attack him. That the panel immediately after this one on the next page shows Scott beat-up further suggests this. I also just can’t ignore how similar these pages are. Their content and their structure are just too similar to believe that the differences between the last panels on each are really so strikingly opposite.
And really, doesn’t it make sense that Scott wouldn’t really dwell on the darker parts of his existence in jail in this issue? One of Scott’s most enduring and endearing traits is his positive outlook on life despite the hardships it throws at him. When it comes to his personal pain, Scott isn’t one to share and that’s perhaps motivated by said positive outlook or by a desire to always put on a good face. Whether that face is for Cassie or for us, it doesn’t seem to matter. Scott prides himself on being a happy-go-lucky guy and he’ll be damned if prison takes that away from him.
It’s odd then to consider that Scott is maybe at his most heroic while he’s in jail. Not only is he keeping his life in order (perhaps forcibly), but he’s enduring hardship with a stiff upper lip. Regardless of how he gets out (which I think he will), it will be interesting to see if Scott emerges from jail a changed man. Will his positivity remain intact? Will be become more responsible? And, perhaps most important of all, will he emerge a better father? Only time, and perhaps She-Hulk, will tell.
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