Just in time for Ant-Man and the Wasp (July 6!), Marvel has released a slew of Ant-Man-related books, including The Astonishing Ant-Man: The Complete Collection. While I’m sure Marvel’s other offerings are lovely, this oversized trade paperback needs to make its way to your bookshelf.
Ant-Man, specifically the Scott Lang version of the character, was always one of those superheroes who would pop up here and there (he’s been an Avenger and the leader of the Future Foundation), but was far from a comic book superstar. Of course, all that had to change with a big screen Ant-Man film debuting in 2015. So, with writer Nick Spencer at the helm, Marvel launched Ant-Man, starring everybody’s favorite divorced ex-con!
And then Jonathan Hickman’s Secret Wars came along and Ant-Man ended its super short run after just six comics (Ant-Man #1-5, Ant-Man Annual #1 and Ant-Man: last Days #1).
But then, Marvel gifted the world The Astonishing Ant-Man, a continuation of the prior series with a shiny #1 which, sadly, only lasted for 13 issues. But what a 13 issues!
Despite the fact that this collection is comprised of two separate series, you feel like you’re reading one giant story. Devour this book in one sitting and you’ll have an experience akin to binging a solid season of television. The credit is due largely to Spencer and the two series’ regular penciller Ramon Rosanas’ consistently pleasing storytelling. Scott’s heart is always in the right place, but being a true underdog, he can’t help but screw up.
From putting Iron Man on a billboard without Tony Stark’s permission to giving the Giant-Man costume and powers to a random dude with no training, Scott continuously proves he has the worst judgment in the Marvel Universe. Did I mention that he breaks Captain America’s Avengers rule to never sleep with super villains? Multiple times, with the Beetle. It’s this kind of comedic writing that has me more excited than ever to read Spencer’s upcoming run on Amazing Spider-Man!Beyond comedy (that’s actually funny), there’s a lot to love here, starting with the overall concept. Scott relocates to Miami so he can play a role in his daughter Cassie’s life, and ends up starting his own small business (get it?)–Ant-Man Security Solutions. And if you want your venture to be successful, you, of course, hire two super villains (Grizzly and Machinesmith) as your employees! You can’t not love a supporting character in a giant bear costume.
While Ant-Man faces off against an array of underdog bad guys throughout the series, his primary antagonists are the resurrected Darren Cross and the Power Broker. Cross is clearly there to tie in with the Ant-Man movie, which featured a very different take on the character played by Corey Stoll (though they become a lot more alike by the end of this volume). But it’s Steve Jobs-wannabe Power Broker who, in my opinion, truly stands out. This guy has a very modern approach to villainy–launching the Hench mobile app, which allows users to easily hire super villains to pull off a job. It’s like Uber, but the person you’re contacting is supposed to be a murderous creep.
Now sure, old-school Marvel purists may think Whirlwind getting excited over new Hench followers is silly, but as soon as you accept the fun ride Ant-Man’s taking you on, you’re sure to have a blast. I wish I’d known how great this comic was at the time, I definitely would have added it to my monthly pull list.
The writing is just so clever, and it upsets me that Spencer was put through the wood chipper for his Captain America run and the Secret Empire event it birthed. While Spencer’s humor seemed out of place at times in the Hydra-brainwashed Steve Rogers series, it’s right at home in his Ant-Man stories. Spencer truly shines when penning down-on-their-luck heroes and villains (see The Superior Foes of Spider-Man).As I mentioned earlier, Ramon Rosanas handles the bulk of this collection’s artwork. Rosanas’ smooth and expressive pencils bring to mind Kevin Maguire circa Justice League International, and help make characters like Scott, Machinesmith and Beetle so endearing. When you think about Hawkeye’s defining run, David Aja’s pencils probably come to mind. The same for the Silver Surfer and Mike Allred. Well, once you finish this collection, you won’t be able to think about Ant-Man without picturing Rosanas’ killer take on Marvel’s lovable loser.
Artists Brent Schoonover and Annapaola Martello also lend a hand here and there, while Mark Brooks is responsible for some of the series’ most memorable covers. Ever want to see Ant-Man Miami Vice cosplay?
So, in conclusion, I really have nothing but great things to say about this collection. I could go on and on, but you’re really better off heading over to Amazon and ordering a copy so you can experience it all for yourself. Marvel just announced the return of The Unstoppable Wasp’s series, which was brought back by popular demand. Who’s to say the same can’t happen to Spencer’s take on Scott Lang? Get to work, Ant-Man fandom (Ant-Mandom?)–the world needs more comics about small-time characters that pack a super-sized–and super-satisfying–punch!