Nick Spencer’s work runs the gamut in terms of topics, style, and tone. He went all dark and Burton-meets-Templesmithy with Bedlam, Morning Glories puts the mystery of Lost into an evil boarding school, Superior Foes of Spider-Man went high action with low characters, and that’s really just beginning to crack the shell. But if there’s one motif that pervades Spencer’s writing, it’s a focus on the heroism of the schlub – or, more accurately, someone that others see as a schlub. That’s the secret of Nick’s work: he invites us in for an intimate view of the things that most people overlook in folks they see as… well, the Zeppo. There’s a lot of that in Morning Glories, specifically the first few arcs, and then that idea became both the theme and kinda even the plot in Superior Foes of Spider-Man and Spencer’s glorious Jimmy Olsen one-shot (woe that Spencer never wrote a follow-up Jimmy Olsen series, freakin’ woe).
So who better to give us a microscopic view of Scott Lang as Ant-Man?
Now, don’t get me wrong. I know that Lang is a kick ass hero. But in Ant-Man #1, Lang’s take on the mantle covers the elephant – or, you know, not-elephant – in the room: “I’ll be the first to admit it, the whole ‘Ant-Man thing,’ it maybe doesn’t wow people as much as you might hope. You’re at a superhero party, guy’s like, ‘I’m an immortal god who controls thunder and lightning’… Woman turns to you, what do you say? I can make myself really small, talk to ants. Also, divorced.” That irreverent, self-aware narration sets the tone for what Ant-Man is going to be: a funny superhero drama with Scott Lang juggling his decidedly piss-poor personal life with his role as a protector of the innocent… and how the fact that his ex-wife doesn’t even trust him to take care of his daughter the few times he sees her has an impact on both of those.
The majority of the issue shows Lang jumping through hoops that Tony Stark has set up (if I’ve got my chronology right, this is the “Superior” Tony Stark, whose newish series we covered for Avengers month) for him. Lang is trying to land a job as Stark’s new head of security, and he’s in competition with a unique array of some of Marvel’s cooler characters that don’t often get the attention they deserve… which kinda seems to be another theme of Spencer’s work – making A-list books for characters that have never gotten a fair shake from the big publishers, like Cloak and Dagger for example, but I digress. Anyway, the Lang’s competition includes Prodigy (genius mutant, recently from the pages of Gillen/McKelvie’s Young Avengers), Runaways’ Victor Mancha, and (yesss) Beetle, introduced by Ed Brubaker in his acclaimed Captain America run, and recently featured as a lead in Spencer’s own Superior Foes. With that series over, it’s great to see that she’s not fading into the shadows of the Marvel Universe. The way that the competition goes down is fun, and the resolution had me reevaluating everything I expected from this book. It’s a hell of an ending to an excellent first issue.
The art by Ramon Rosanas and colorist Jordan Boyd is perfect for Lang’s adventures. Somewhere between cartoony and Marvel’s “house style,” the two work incredibly well together to establish the book’s off-kilter tone.
With all of the changes coming up at Marvel, I don’t know what the future has in store for this Ant-Man series. But with the movie coming up and Spencer writing the hell out of this, it would be a colossal mistake not to let this team do their thing. However it all goes down, I’m in!
PAT SHAND writes comics (Family Pets, Robyn Hood, Charmed: Season Ten) and pop culture journalism (Sad Girls Guide, Blastoff Comics). He thinks Ant-Man’s power is way, way cooler than people give him credit for. Except the bug thing. Who wants that?