“The Creature from Kosmos!”
Tales to Astonish #44
Written by Stan Lee & H.E. Huntley
Pencils by Jack Kirby
Inks by Don Heck
Whoa whoa whoa. Some big changes going on right off the bat in the land of tiny men doing giant things! First of all, we have (what I can only assume will be a one-off) a double length story this month, and then we have some new creative talent in the form of H.E. Huntley (who created none other than Super Rabbit[!]) in addition to the return of Jack Kirby on the pencils, once more replacing Don Heck and leaving him to work solely on the inking. Oh, and yeah! There’s the introduction of a new character—The Wasp! And you get all this information just from the splash page, which makes you think “finally! Something fresh in this otherwise insipid little ant-man fantasy that nobody cares about!”, and thankfully, you’d be right.
Aside from Henry Pym’s pseudo-debut back in issue #35, Ant-Man has been something of a one trick pony, being shovelled out month after month to the point of absolute tedium because of a lack of original ideas that first made his debut so interesting. Now, under the deliberate guise of Huntley who somewhat surprisingly handles the title with reverence and maturity, Pym is fleshed out even more, creating perhaps the darkest side of any of Marvel’s superhero roster yet. Pym is kinda messed up. Sure, it comes off as something obviously ret-conned, yet I’m willing to let minor details slide in favour of more compelling characterisation and storytelling—this is what we get here, and it’s actually gripping.
I mean, sure, we get all the same little kooky Ant-Man antics like ant landing pads and such, but with an extra edge—a darker, more dense palette that both the writers and the artists draw upon to make Pym a little more realistic and human, such panels are quickly forgotten rather than dwelt upon simply because it’s obvious that they’re not the highlight anymore; though in all fairness, this month’s monster isn’t all that bad either, and at least keeps himself to himself which is always a plus.
Of course there’s always the daunting thought that maybe Ant-Man and to a lesser extent, his new companion The Wasp are all exposition and no action—characters who work better as ideas than as actual storytelling devices. Yet after such strong second-chance origin story (I recommend, if you haven’t already read them, to skip everything between this and #35 entirely as this plays just like it was meant to be Pym’s second adventure, makes the ret-conning far more sensible, and of course allows you to not read those awful stories), I remain hopeful that maybe a new leaf has been turned here.
Kirby and Heck strike a wonderfully paranoid and foreboding tone this issue which reflects the issue’s script poignantly.
MY SCORE: 6.5 (out of 10)