The Unstoppable Wasp 7: Discussion

By Taylor Anderson and Spencer Irwin

This article contains SPOILERS. If you haven’t read the issue yet, proceed at your own risk!

Taylor: Nadia Pym isn’t the first person to don the Wasp moniker. Long before she became the Unstoppable Wasp, Janet Van Dyne was rocking a set of insectoid wings and shrinking down to microscopic sizes. The accolades Janet earned as Wasp are long, but suffice it to say that, as a founding member of the Avengers, her superhero resume is pretty well stacked. With such an impressive background, it’s interesting to consider what Janet thinks about Nadia, the love child of her husband with another woman and in many ways the younger version of herself. In bold fashion, Unstoppable Wasp 7 answers this question by shifting its narrative perspective and centering the action on the Wasp that started it all.

Issue 7 stands out immediately because of this shift. The previous six issues of Unstoppable Wasp followed Nadia’s adventures with her chiming in with the occasional narration. That all changes in this issue from the very start. The main character of this issue is Janet, and Nadia is simply a character, albeit a major one, in Janet’s life. As such, Janet gets a fair amount of narration in this issue and we learn what she thinks of Nadia and how she views herself as a hero now that she is no longer the only Wasp in town.

This latter subject is the one I find the most interesting about this issue. Janet is essentially what amounts to an elder statesmen in the the superheroing world. That much is especially true now that Nadia is in town and running the Wasp game. Janet seems okay with this for the most part — she recognizes that she’s not a young gun anymore and seems happy to let Nadia do the superheroing so maybe she can get more time to relax. However, when the time comes, Janet is ready to act, and while she may still be able to punch the daylights out of villains, her true super power lies elsewhere these days.

As Janet herself says, her real power now is the ability to simply get shit done. This should come as no surprise to those who remember that Janet was once the leader of the Avengers, but her ability to act is second to none. In this case, her actions are all about networking and advocating for Nadia and basically doing things that a teenager can’t do. This makes sense for where Janet is in her life right now. She’s a powerful businesswoman and has been around the superheroing block a few times. She’s now the executive expert willing to do the administration work few superheroes want to think about doing.

That Janet does this for Nadia is of special importance. Throughout the first six issues of this series it has been easy to forget that Nadia is still a teenager. Sure, she has that trademark enthusiasm for science and righteousness, but in a lot of ways she acts like an adult. This issue reminds us that Nadia is still a kid, though. When Ying goes to the hospital after having a bomb removed from her spine, G.I.R.L. is in jeopardy of disbandment. Needless to say, this has Nadia freaking out.

All along the way Janet recognizes that Nadia needs her support and can’t handle all of this by herself. First, she makes sure to calm Nadia down and then she tends to her emotionally. After that, she takes care of all the problems Nadia was worried about above. Basically Janet is acting as Nadia’s parent here, and it’s never been more clear that Nadia needs Janet to be just that. Nadia is dealing with a lot: she’s worried about her friend dying, she’s paranoid about assassins, and she’s trying to keep her super team together. Few, if any, teenagers could deal with all of this, and Nadia is lucky she has Janet here to help her out when she most needs it.

The shift in focus from Nadia to Janet is impressive and writer Jeremy Whitley deserves credit for pulling it off so well. However, artist Veronica Fish deserves some praise for her fine artwork in this issue, as well. There’s a lot to like here, but there is one panel in particular that I find stunning. When Janet is attacked by Whirlwind and Beetle late in the issue, she tumbles down a stairwell in the midst of battle. Fish’s depiction of this is spectacular.

In an Escher-esk panel, Fish depicts Janet and Beetle as they battle and tumble down a long stairwell. I always love it when artists use several figures to show how characters move through a space, but that’s not the real prize here. What’s a marvel is how Fish leads our eye in a whirlpool motion around the stairs as the action goes along. What’s unique about this, is the way it leads our eye. Traditionally we read comics right to left, but here we first read right, then down, then left, the up, and so on. This goes against basic comic reading instinct and this shift in perspective (just like the narrative!) is a fresh take on things.

Spencer, I really liked this issue. It feels very settled and confidant in itself and overall is just a nice read. Do you agree? What do you make of Janet’s somewhat jaded thoughts on the heroing business? And were you ever actually afraid that Whirlwind and Beetle posed any real risk to our heroes?

Spencer: Nah, although it is nice to see Beetle being used outside of a Nick Spencer book (the Superior Foes gang are characters I’m always excited to see pop up anywhere). Whitley mainly seems to be using these two villains to show how well Janet and Nadia work together, and they make an interesting foil in that regard. Both pairs consist of a veteran (Whirlwind, Janet) and a next-gen (Beetle, Nadia), but while Nadia and Janet respect each other and have already built a great rapport, Whirlwind and Beetle can’t get out of each others’ way.

And the fact that Janet is portrayed as the confident veteran superhero that she is is this issue’s greatest strength. Janet Van Dyne’s Wasp is a character that’s gotten a bad rap throughout the years, much of it stemming from her early treatment as the original Avengers’ token female character. Despite the sporadic brilliance of Marvel’s Silver Age stories, their treatment of women was abysmal (even for the era), and she’s often been labeled as shallow, redundant, or stereotypical ever since. Whitley tackles those accusations head on.

I’ll admit, I’m not often a fan of stories so bluntly addressing this kind of thing (remember how awkward those scenes of Johns’ Aquaman trying to claim he doesn’t “talk” to fish in the New 52 came across?), but Whitley and Fish do a lot right in this instance. For starters, Jan is rather nonplussed about the whole thing. She’s not desperate to prove herself (she’s already more than done that), so the creative team thus doesn’t feel desperate either. Secondly, Janet doesn’t just tell us that her power is “getting thing done,” but she shows us how she gets things done, and it’s by embracing qualities that many of her detractors view as faults.

Janet’s been criticized in the past for her bubbly and outgoing personality, but it’s allowed her to make friends throughout the superhero community who will always help her out when it matters the most. She’s been criticized for her “stereotypical” interest in fashion, but she’s turned it into a career which, again, has opened doors for her among NYC’s most influential. She’s a woman of privilege, but she uses the social skills she’s gained from it for good — the charm and persuasion she shows when talking to, say, the warden, is as useful a skill as any of Jan’s superpowers.

Yet, Janet’s interests shouldn’t need to be justified by their usefulness, and thankfully, Whitley doesn’t fall into that trap.

Her concern about paparazzi is a bit minor compared to what Nadia’s going through, but Janet is never demonized for the thought or for her celebrity lifestyle. Janet’s interest in fashion and fame are just a part of her the same way Nadia’s interest in science is for her, and while Janet is no scientist, she supports Nadia’s interests nonetheless because that’s what a polite, well-adjusted person does.

(More importantly, it’s what you do when you love someone. I love seeing Janet’s parental feelings bloom — and it’s to her testament that, if she’s thrown by Hank having a family before they even met, she doesn’t let it affect how she treats Nadia — but if I have one criticism of this issue, it’s how often Whitley mentions that Janet never wanted to be a mother before having her be motherly to Nadia. He doth protest too much — it’s like he’s scared that he’s betraying Janet’s character, or that fans will be upset if she shows affection in a way she hasn’t in the past or something. I don’t think that’s the case, and there’s some uncertainty here that doesn’t otherwise come across in Whitley’s handling of Janet).

So yeah Taylor, I really enjoyed this issue too, and am more than ready for a Janet Van Dyne ongoing. That said, this is still Nadia’s book, and I think it works to Nadia’s benefit to get an outside perspective on her character and her life for an issue. Nadia’s so agitated right now that I don’t think her internal monologue would reveal anything she isn’t already saying out loud anyway, after all. More importantly, Janet is just privy to aspects of Nadia’s life and past that Nadia simply isn’t.

Given everything that Hank Pym has been through (and/or put Janet through), this is a chilling moment, and a nice way to give some flaws and potential roadblocks to a character that, as much as I like, can sometimes come across as a little aggressively perfect. Moreover, it’s an emotion that really only Janet could have identified, making the qualities she brings to Nadia’s life more than just some contacts and money.

Like Taylor, I want to take some time to praise Veronica Fish as well. I’ve really come to like Fish’s work over the past few years, and with Spider-Woman finished and Slam on some sort of extended hiatus, it’s great to see her art grace the pages of a comic again. While Fish’s storytelling skills are tremendously solid, what I enjoyed most this month is the sheer humanity she imbues her characters with. Under Fish’s pen the cast is beyond expressive, and she isn’t afraid to get cartoony even in serious moments.

Take this shot. Nadia is beyond serious, and her hit hurts — you can tell from how stiff her body is, as well as that harsh red colorist Megan Wilson throws into the background. Janet is clearly hurt, yet you still get her cheek scrunching humorously beneath Nadia’s fist. As funny as it looks, it’s also a very real, visceral kind of reaction, yet one many artists might skip in hopes of a more “dynamic” shot. Fish’s art is always dynamic, but she’s most concerned with making her characters as human and relatable as possible. Between Fish and Whitley’s efforts, I’d say The Unstoppable Wasp 7 is a smashing success in that regard. I’d love to hang out with Janet and Nadia, and as far as I’m concerned, that’s a high compliment indeed.

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?

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One comment on “The Unstoppable Wasp 7: Discussion

  1. THere is little chance that this issue won’t end up on my best issues of 2017 list.

    If I was given a choice to read this issue or the best issue of the Vision for the first time again, this would be the right choice. That isn’t to say this issue is better than the Vision, because it sn’t. But it is something special.

    If I could choose to read any comic again for the first time, it would be something like the ten page prologue of Omega Men. I entered the book with literally no expectations and no idea about any of the characters, but by the end of that short, ten page prologue I knew I had just read a masterpiece. By the time I read the first issue of the Vision, I was expecting a masterpiece. I was amazed at how good it was, but not surprised.
    And this issue got a very similar response from me to Omega Men, in how it took advantage of my lack of expectations. It wasn’t a masterpiece. But it made me fall in love with a character that I was utterly apathetic about.

    Janet Van Dyne is not a character I cared for. Quite simply, due to bad luck, I’d never encountered a story that made me see her as anything other than wallpaper. I could never write about Janet in the way I have about, say, Hank Pym in the Secret Empire 4 comment, because I was so completely lacking the context required. As a superhero, everything I read made me go ‘she’s there’. Series like Bendis’ Mighty Avengers or Duggans Uncanny Avengers (yeah, Taylor, your idea that Janet is letting Nadia do the punching while she relaxes and plays to her own strengths isn’t entirely accurate. Throughout the entire run of this book, Janet has been fighting in an Avengers team. She is just as involved in the superhero community as she always has been) didn’t do anything to endear me to her. Not a bad character, just a nothing character. The closest thing there was to a moment I liked her was her cameo earlier in this series.

    And that’s what makes this issue so special. It made me fall in love with a character I had no idea and no expectations of. From the way that Whitley effortlessly dramatises the ways that becoming a superhero has changed and affected her life, providing a richer protrait in a few pages than some superheores have ever gotten (everything about her sleeping arrangements and schedule is gold), to the way Janet effortlessly shows her skills to get shit done (the one thing I really want from Secret Empire: Brave New World, since we’ve seen her in the background multiple times, is a Pepper Potts/Rescue story. Because I want to see the story of how Pepper uses he rpowers to get shit done to transform Clint’s Underground into something that functions, especially with regards to the refugee populace. To learn that Janet has that exact same superpower and to see her so effortlessly get so much shit done was a fantastic moment). And then there was the constant humanity, from Janet ribbing Bobbi for her effect on Nadia, to the way that her history is constantly used to contextualise every scene to make it deeper (Janet realising what a mistake she made when she grabbed Nadia’s arm by paralleling it to her own experiences with abuse and PTSD is amazing). And then, last of all, is the power of Janet’s arc in this issue, discovering her mothering side through interacting with Nadia. Personality, history and abilities are so effectively combined that Janet feels like the most multifaceted character around. She has a complexity that is begging to be used. Hell, there is so much more I want to say about Janet in this issue.

    Spencer, I completely agree with the wish for a Janet ongoing. But I fell in love with her so much, I would happily give up this book, featuring who I think is one of Marvel’s best characters running around at the moment, if it meant a Janet ongoing by WHitley. That’s how much this issue made me love Janet (though would prefer both ongoingsat the same time). She is basically a new favourite Marvel character

    But ignoring Janet for a moment, there is so much to say about how well this issue does Nadia, and especially how using Janet as the perspective character deepens Nadia. Taylor discussed how this issue reminds us that Nadia is a kid, and SPencer discussed the value of Janet being the perspective character, because of her knowledge. But it is deeper than that.
    Using Janet has value outside of the specific, Hank related insights that Janet can provide. Placing the reader’s perspective outside of Nadia for once let’s us see her in a completely new light, providing the right context to the scenes to emphasise all of the important ideas. THe vulnerability and the hurt we see in Nadia as we finally see how she’s struggled to cope with the events of the last six issues works in large part because we get to leave her head and finally see her as what she truly is, a scared teenage girl.
    And as Nadia’s violent actions should always be scary – they represent everything Nadia doesn’t want to be and are the moments where everything she fights wins – the choice to go both outside of her perspective, letting her lose the protagonist position that makes it easy for us to contextualise her actions, and to place us in the perspective of, in one case, her victim, really makes sure WHitley keeps Nadia scary. THe perversion of Science Facts was amazing last time, but by constantly depicting this horrifying moments in different ways (especially in ways that break the fundamental aesthetic rules we expect from this book, like science facts or Nadia’s perspective) really helps sell these moments.

    So yeah, I fell in love with a character I had no idea about, and Nadia’s character was enrichened by a whole list of really clever, really fantastic choices that makes one of Marvel’s bes tnew characters even better. Hard to ask for much more

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