Earlier in 2015, Marvel launched a brand new Ant-Man series from Superior Foes of Spider-Man writer, Nick Spencer. The idea, I assume, was that since Scott Lang had a new film coming later in the year, there should be a comic to get people hyped and interested in this hero. After all, Ant-Man isn’t as big of a name as Captain America, Hulk, or Iron Man are.
However, Secret Wars popped into existence and the series was cancelled five issues in to only be relaunched later this year in their big relaunch/reboot thingy (that and I assume their fear of comics going longer than 10 issues). Despite all that, how was this small little series? Is it good?
Ant-Man Vol. 1: Second-Chance Man (Marvel Comics)
Scott Lang, AKA Ant-Man, has been down on his luck in recent months and is struggling to keep his head above water. He has no job, no one seems to respect him as a superhero, and he has been trying to reconnect with his recently resurrected daughter, Cassie. Just when things seem be on the up and up at one point, life just keeps throwing monkey wrenches at him. Scott finds a job and then havs to leave it; his daughter moves to a completely different state; the list goes on. What is this poor man to do?
I have a feeling many people will be split on this trade. On one hand, it’s a pretty enjoyable comic with a strange downer ending about a hero who is trying to do his best at being a divorced dad while constantly trying to figure out ways to improve his life. This viewpoint would possibly be seen by people who are not that familiar with Ant-Man or fans of Nick Spencer’s past work. The other view would be that this comic is pretty bad with how regressive it is for the main characters, the screwed up continuity, and how much of a missed opportunity it became due to Marvel’s interference.
Also, that may be the case with the girl in the Thing costume there. I’m not sure myself, so I’ll never bring her up ever again.
To start with, Ant-Man Vol. 1’s story and general tone is very familiar and similar to a bunch of books Marvel has been putting out as of late. This comic feels like another attempt by this company at trying to capture that lighting in a bottle, like they did with Hawkeye. In a way, you could almost call this Hawkeye Lite or Diet Marvel Indie due to the similar tropes the comic contains, but also because how it’s not nearly as strong as the other comics similar to it. The comic is all about a character who is considered a loser, constantly makes things more difficult for himself, gets into weird scenarios with oddball and quirky individuals, puts emphasis into making itself a dramedy, and tries going for the Marvel Indie house style. It’s not very new or special in that regard, except for the fact that it is about a divorced dad and his daughter.
And in that regard, the father-daughter relationship about a superhero trying to reconnect with his kid and struggle with trying to do his best is the strongest part of the comic. You can really feel how much he cares about Cassie, going to great lengths to help her out or make sacrifices in order to be closer with her. He sacrifices his new job with Tony Stark so he can move to Miami, he tries to figure out a way to support himself and provide alimony to his family, and more. While a lot of his decisions and choices he makes backfire on him whether through his own stupidity or because of random bad luck, Scott is a character you can really root for in this comic and want to see come on top despite it all. Though when it comes to the relationship from Cassie’s perspective… it’s sadly really underdeveloped.
With all that being said, the story starts off potentially promising. The first issue primarily is all about setting up Scott Lang’s status quo: his relationship with his daughter and ex-wife and having to move to a new location after just snagging a good job with Stark. As a first issue, it’s great at introducing a new audience to this character and cast, even though the continuity and characterization is all messed up (we’ll get to that later). The second issue is pretty much like that last issue, setting up some subplots and introducing new characters into the series. It’s perfectly fine in that regard and the same can be said about the third issue, which starts the first and only story arc of this series.
But she’s already been in this superhero mess before. Hello? Doesn’t anyone actually remember that?
These final three issues are where things crumble. A major problem is the utter disservice and treatment of Cassie Lang as a character, who basically becomes a prop and damsel-in-distress for the remainder of the series. After being dead for several years and coming back, she is treated terribly almost immediately and has her heart ripped out so it can be used by the bad guy’s father. Her dad ultimately has to come in and save her life (in an admittedly pretty great and creative scene where he fights amongst white blood cells). It almost reminds me of Heart of Hush, but Catwoman was treated far better in that story and actually did things, including getting back at Hush in a magnificent way. Cassie gets jack shit in this story and it’s quite insulting to the character. Heck, even if you don’t know much about the character or her history, it’s still a quite insulting treatment of a female character and feels lazy.
However, the ending is the biggest problem with the story as a whole. Cassie is ultimately saved in the end and Peggy, Ant-Man’s ex-wife, even decides to be nicer towards him, implying he could visit their daughter more often now. However, he decides to outright let her go and abandons Cassie, because he believes he caused all of the problems in her life and caused this recent situation as well. Hell, he doesn’t even say goodbye to her when she is awake. This whole situation doesn’t remotely ring true even in the slightest after reading this volume twice now. At no point in the comic is there a moment where it feels like he is causing her grief or causing bad things to happen to her to make him think this way, even with the kidnapping (the bad guy was so batshit insane, he probably would have kidnapped her even if Scott was a deadbeat and didn’t care if he was still dead). Maybe in the past he caused problems for her or partially caused her death, but they are never mentioned or hinted at (it would be rather nice for newcomers to know that so they can believe in this decision more).
Secondly, this is not remotely the best thing for her. Outright ditching her because you believe she would be better off without you is only going to hurt her even more emotionally (and possibly even physically) after all that crap she just went through. Third and final thing about this decision is the fact that the bad guys got away at the end. They found her once and what’s stopping them from coming back to try to kill her to screw Ant-Man over? This ending is trying so hard to be emotional, but the writing and storytelling are just not good.
The last thing to mention about the comic’s story is that everything got cut short. The whole new security business that Ant-Man established? Barely explored and over with apparently. That new friendship with Grizzly and teaming up with Machinesmith again? Out the window. All that buildup to earning his ex-wife’s respect or that situation brewing with Superior Iron Man? No more of that. Heck, the comic didn’t even really make use of its Miami location and it could have honestly taken place almost anywhere. So many plot threads are dropped and many plot holes emerge due to Marvel cancelling the comic because of Secret Wars. A brand new change up is coming with this book’s relaunch and maybe some of these plot threads will be picked up again (I’ve heard Grizzly is coming back for the next series at least), but this ending as a whole is lackluster.
Oh Cassie, you have the emotional range of a wooden doll… and great ventriloquist skills.
Now let’s move onto the continuity of the comic, which ties into the characterization of Scott and Cassie Lang. Nick Spencer seems to be picking and choosing what he wants to use for this book, while also trying to make the book feel closer to the current movie. A lot of writers pick and choose what continuity and history they want to use with characters in superhero comics, especially with people like Kieron Gillen, Brain Michael Bendis, and Geoff Johns. That’s usually not a bad thing after all, since some aspects of a character’s long history, personality, and relationships work and others don’t (or are hopefully retconned over). The problem with this, at least for Marvel fans or Marvel history buffs, is that Spencer’s choices don’t really progress or make the characters great. Instead, his choices regress Scott and Cassie as characters.
Scott Lang was big part of Matt Fraction’s FF run from a few years ago and he underwent character growth and change in that series. He was a big mess in that comic early on and had some problems, dealing with Cassie’s death and wanting to get his revenge on Dr. Doom. However, he came into his own, got to beat up Doom, became a pretty respected character by the end of it, and even got a new girlfriend. This new series pretty much tosses almost all of that out and returns him to being a loser, not even mentioning his new girlfriend (which is really odd since Nick Spencer showed them still together a month before this series started).
Then there’s Cassie, who gets the worst and most insulting treatment. A former superheroine who could kick plenty of butt and was part of the Young Avengers years ago, her entire history as a hero is flat out ignored and disregarded by the writer and all of the characters. Heck, almost any time a character gets close to bringing up Cassie’s past, it’s treated as if it was a terrible thing (as if both her death and time as a hero were equally bad). She was someone who rebelled against her mom to be a hero, but now she blindly follows everything Peggy says and doesn’t even think of being a hero. The comic doesn’t even answer whether or not she still has her powers (The writer confirmed she does still have her powers, but the comic never does) and her whole real age thing is a nightmarish continuity mess at this point. It would be one thing if she decided after all the crap she’s been through that she decided to retire or put off being a hero, since that would be understandable. A moment or at the very least acknowledgment of it in a one off statement would be nice, but we don’t even get that. She barely has any character or personality in this comic outside of liking her dad and being a stereotypical teenage girl (though one who does like Battle Royale), which is bad since she is technically the heart of the comic. All of this is not really that big of a deal for people not familiar with either of these characters, but for those who are, it is a problem or at least the very least comes off as poor writing.
So with the loss of desire of being a superhero, so came the loss of her drumming abilities.
While there is a lot to be said about the main characters and the plot’s problems, the writing here fares much better. The pacing in the comic is very good, allowing for each of the scenes to have plenty of time to develop the story or characters within them. Nothing ever felt too quick or too slow in any of the scenes and the story flows naturally and smoothly with no awkward breaks or transitions. The characterization, besides for Scott and Cassie depending on what kind of person you are, is perfectly fine and there’s no real big problem with it. Well, except for one moment where Scott reveals that Avengers and Fantastic Four no longer take his calls and won’t help him locate his kidnapped daughter (how very nice of these “heroes”). The dialogue and narration are good as well, with no real big problems or anything that sounds that unnatural. The humor, one of the bigger points to the comic, is rather hit-or-miss for me at least. There are some pretty clever jokes and great gags that do get a laugh—like Taskmaster talking about using this new app to improve his self-mercenary business—while there are jokes that completely fall flat on their face, like with Machinesmith making a very dated and out-of-nowhere ‘It’s Tricky’ by Run DMC reference. Despite these various points, I don’t have too much of a problem with the writing in the comic.
Finally, we look to the artwork provided by Ramon Rosanas and he does some good work here. It’s got a similar look to Marvel Indie-ish style crossed with Cliff Chiang’s art. The characters are drawn pretty well and the facial expressions are excellent, with rare exceptions. The layouts are put together reasonably—easy to follow and read as the story and action flows from one panel to the next. Locations look nice and the majority of the panels do actually have backgrounds in them. The action is alright, looking good in some instances (like in the fourth issue) but rather static in others (the Taskmaster fight in particular). It does not have a lot of punch to it either way, since while the layouts are good, they are not that creative when it comes to the action in comparison to something like Hawkeye or She-Hulk. Jordan Boyd jumps in as the colorist for the entire run as well and he’s just as good at delivering the right tone and mood with his use of warm colors here.
Is It Good?
Ant-Man Vol. 1: Second-Chance Man is a comic that I’m of two minds on. On one hand, this comic is a pretty good introduction to Ant-Man and his world as a whole, delivering on small but fun adventures. On the other hand, this comic is a mess when it comes to its continuity, treating its lead and daughter terribly. Even taking that out of the equation, this comic is a mixed bag throughout. Overall, for people not familiar with the characters or are not that big in continuity, I could recommend this. For others, don’t bother honestly since I think you’ll be frustrated by what you see here. Either way, I would just say check out the film instead and wait for the new comic to see if things improve or not for Spencer’s run.