In a time before Janet Van Dyne, the size-changing super scientist Hank Pym was briefly married to a Hungarian geneticist, before she was taken away from him and killed. As we’d find out in the pages of Mark Waid’s All-New, All-Different Avengers, though, much like Itsu begat Wolverine’s son Daken before she died, Hank’s bride also brought a child into the world. Nadia (which means “hope,” movie fans!) was similarly raised in harsh conditions, specifically in the Red Room that trains Black Widows. But unlike Logan’s brat, Nadia took it all in stride and maintained a positive attitude until she escaped in search of her father, still not succumbing to sadness even after she discovered his fate.
And while Nadia clearly gets her smarts from Dad, she’s taken her step-mom’s codename as the new Wasp. As Marvel Comics continues to take chances and reach out to potential new audiences, issue #1 of her own ongoing series is here, written by Princeless author Jeremy Whitley and drawn by former Starfire artist Elsa Charretier. For someone who isn’t intimately familiar with all that backstory, is it good?
The Unstoppable Wasp #1 (Marvel Comics)
If there’s one thing Nadia Pym likes, it’s donuts. Pakistani donuts, introduced to her by Ms. Marvel! Truthfully, there isn’t much the whiz kid doesn’t like — food, experience, people or bringing them all together at the immigration office, with her infectious enthusiasm.
Danger strikes, as it often does, giving Wasp, Ms. Marvel and another sciencey fighter, Mockingbird, the chance to bond over kicking butt. After a game of “Dance, Dance Automaton” and a five-berry smoothie, Nadia is sufficiently inspired to make a difference in research, and to find other ladies to help her. Just try and stop her.
Is It Good?
The opening pages of Unstoppable Wasp #1 are a master class of introducing a character’s personality through their actions, not through narration or description. As we see her raid the deli’s dessert counter, make friends with strangers and fight crime with a smile and a Dazzler record, we figure out for ourselves how effervescent and filled with a joie de vivre Nadia is, despite her brutal upbringing. Even the necessary one-page info dump of her history is artfully done.
That trend sadly reverses near the issue’s end, however, when Mockingbird flat out tells Wasp she should be considered one of the smartest people on Earth — as if we didn’t already know that from the previous 17 pages. Then there’s some slogan-slinging that’s one step shy of Scary Spice shouting “GIRL POWER!” in your face. The book had done such a wonderful job of showing that a woman could do all these great things, the idea really didn’t need to be dumbed down to an after-school special soundbite. Strangely enough, the following interviews with actual women scientists feel well-placed and less heavy-handed in comparison.
The art provided by Elsa Charretier and colorist Megan Wilson is also subject to both triumphs and tragedies. It fits Unstoppable Wasp‘s general tone well, but much of the action sequence is unclear and hard to follow. The presentation does manage to evoke a Silver Age aesthetic, when superheroing was fun and bright, while still grounding the story with modern-looking street corners and fashion.
But altogether, Wasp’s depiction as someone bettered and not burdened by her gift, a “happy scientist,” in her words, is just the kind of thing that’s often absent but desperately needed, not just for girls, but for any child who’s not sure if it’s cool to know things. There’s no denying that Nadia Pym is a-freaking-dorable in her enthusisam. Unstoppable Wasp is off to a great start, and could provide science-minded girls with a well-rounded role model if the creative team can let her actions speak louder than her words.