This one-shot epilogue to Age of Ultron almost makes the whole series worthwhile, restoring Hank Pym to our good graces.
With the Age of Ultron event finally stumbling over the finish line, the Marvel faithful breathe a sigh of relief as one of the most inconsistent and dollar-centric events comes to a close. Completely ignoring its own internal narrative structure in the pursuit of cheap wows, it seemed to all the world that the pursuit of the bottom line overrode good storytelling. Effectively the flagship that launched Avengers A.I., the Neil Gaiman run on Guardians of the Galaxy and Hunger over the coming months, the misguided mayhem of Brian Michael Bendis gives way to this island refuge by Mark Waid. Already doing amazing things with Daredevil and Indestructible Hulk, Waid uses the fallout of the Age of Ultron series to give us one of the most poignant Hank Pym stories we have seen in a long time.
Unlike the Ant-Man: Season One book that was released last year, the joy of this issue comes not from a comedic spin on his adventures, but rather a celebration of them. After the controversial and universe shattering events of Age of Ultron #10, Hank Pym has “finally lost it”. Given a glimpse of what the world is like both with his “greatest” creation, and without him entirely, he has sat “stock-still in a corner for ninety-six hours while dreaming of razor blades and poison”. It gives him the opportunity to reflect on his life to date, and it turns out that while he’s had hardships and been largely misunderstood, it’s a wonderful life after all. Convinced that his various adventures as Ant-Man, Giant Man and Yellowjacket have made a difference to the world, he embarks on a new phase of his life with renewed vigour.
Waid’s Eisner Award-winning Daredevil has been marked by its ability to distil an iconic costumed hero down to his most human of essentials. Few former Avengers have as many character flaws and frailties as Pym, and Waid carefully guides us through his sometimes troubled upbringing to perhaps explain why things haven’t always worked out for him. Pym didn’t land on Earth from a self-destructing planet, nor did he watch his parents get gunned down in front of him. Instead, his setbacks were human ones, his passion and genius stifled “for a couple of decades”. The recap of his life leads to the obvious conclusion that Marvel are very much keen to make Ant-Man a central character again in the lead-up to the 2015 film, but it also reminds us of the giant contribution this small player has made to the Marvel 616 over the years. His cleverness at least matches the likes of Bruce Banner and Tony Stark, but his ambition was lacking. More than anything, it reminds us of what a compelling character Pym can be, perhaps for the first time since Mark Millar’s often negative portrayal in The Ultimates. We like the fellow, dammit!
Araujo’s art is classic stuff, sitting somewhere between Moebius and Gary Frank on the history of sequential art. His clean line work is one of the main reasons that this issue is such a joy to read, taking Pym from a state of collapses depression to super-powered renewal in a handful of pages. Frank D’Armata’s colours pop on both screen and page (depending on your chosen format), especially in a psychedelic splash page that depicts all of Pym’s lives laid out for him. Indeed, Araujo is pushed to draw at least three or four versions of Pym at various ages, not to mention his varied costumed identities, and his art will undoubtedly be one of the major reasons to pick up Avengers A.I. monthly.
Of course, if Age of Ultron simply pointed the way to this and other spin-offs, it would be remiss to not notice that this is also an effective zero issue for Sam Humphries’s Avengers A.I. However, unlike that predecessor, it managed to do so in a single issue and imbue it with more emotion in 22 pages than Age of Ultron managed in the ten previous entries. If this is a shape of Hank Pym to come, then an ongoing Ant-Man book with Mark Waid at the helm is something we should rise up and demand.
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