There’s a lot of glamor in superhero comics, and I’m not just talking about the perfect bodies, cutting-edge tech, and spectacular plots. I’m talking about characters who seem immune to the ordinary screw-ups of everyday life. For sure, there’s a paradox to a person capable of superhuman feats yet making a total fail in common sense, but it’s one that applies to all of us. It explains how you can manage a vast load of children’s dependency cases on a daily basis, yet also eat a sandwich with the wrapper still on it fifteen percent of the time.*
Marvel has been bringing the awkward back to superheroes in a committed way with the last couple years’ worth of titles, and Ant-Man is part of that effort. Misguided supervillain attacks are a hazard of the business, but attacking a superhero because he happens to share the same name as several other superheroes? That I don’t think I’ve ever seen, at least not played with the acute embarrassment Grizzly has when he realizes his mistake or with the patience and humor Scott displays on the receiving end. It’s the kind of thing you expect people like us to do, so it’s a delight to see it in them.
A lot of Ant-Man’s humor comes from this relatable tendency of not thinking things through before acting. Combined with a healthy dose of superpowers, this makes for some excellent situational comedy, e.g., Scott making a point about a bank’s security vulnerabilities by demonstration (“Oh my God! He’s robbing the bank!” “What? No, no…”).
And then there’s always the reliable send-up of superhero tropes. Spencer runs through a few good ones in this issue, from Grizzly’s dread of going back to a life of D-list villainy (“Give it a month before I’m back in some gang, takin’ orders from Count Nefaria or Hammerhead or whoever. God, I hope it’s not Hammerhead—that guy’s a terrible manager) to Scott double-checking Grizzly’s job qualifications (“You’re not planning on revenge-murdering anyone else, are you?”).** Not that there was a shortage of humor last issue, but this one seems to be going all out with no Lang family drama to work on.
As with all comedies, Ant-Man has its share of misfires, unsurprisingly when Spencer tries way too hard. Some jokes fall a little flat from their labored attempt at satire; when Scott exclaims, “I can’t believe these guys ended up being so shady! I mean, they’re bankers! I guess the universe really doesn’t make sense,” it seems less like commentary and more like Scott being a naïve idiot.*** Other jokes simply belabor the point, pushing the punchline just a tad too far: “Guess my banter’s rusty… Kinda like this guy! Get it? ‘Cause he’s made of metal! Ba-zing! Yeah, still got it.”
Overall, though, Spencer shows he can reliably bring the laughs from month to month, though the jury’s still out on whether the superheroics will fare as well. Scott’s battle with a Nazi-era robot that spews gold is a trifling affair, sadly the least interesting part of the whole issue. With a thin backstory and a somewhat anticlimactic resolution (Scott expertly shuts down the thing in three pages flat), the robot is merely a fantastic means to an end, that end being the start-up of Scott’s security business. That’s still a pretty big deal, however. Ant-Man Security Solutions allows Scott to make good on promises to his ex-wife and daughter, and allows him to begin building his supporting cast, which besides Grizzly includes Mrs. Morgenstern, a frigid head banker who slyly reveals to be cut from the same cloth as Scott.
Speaking of which, I likened Rosanas’ art to Chris Samnee’s last issue, and while the similarities are still there, this issue (maybe because it features quite a bit more action) reveals where their styles diverge. What really stands out is Rosanas struggles a little more in getting the most dynamic image possible. When Grizzly breaks into Scott’s new office, the shattered glass looks flat, flimsy, tacked on after the fact rather than the result of the bear-man’s impact. Awkward positioning also drags on the action, as in a panel where Grizzly’s hefty body almost completely blocks your view of Scott’s kick. Rosanas has a lot of the comedic timing down pat, though, and for a humor-driven title like this one, that’s probably the most important takeaway.
* That’s never happened to me—obviously. I’m just saying it does happen and you should never judge it when it does because damn it, sometimes it’s just been that kind of day.
** As if anyone would ever say, “Yes.” I’m not that dumb.
*** I’m guessing that if he’d been alive during the housing bubble, he’d be dealing with a foreclosure now.
– “…least he’s not a mutant…” “…God you’re so racist Harold” Sounds like the mutant image is slowly but surely changing for the better.
– “Who knows how to not get your stuff stolen better than the guy who used to steal your stuff?” Worst slogan ever.
A solid issue of entertainment, even if Scott hasn’t quite won you over as a superhero just yet.