Friday, September 29, 2006

Irredeemable Ant-Man #1

The first issue of Robert Kirkman's new Marvel series, The Irredeemable Ant-Man, hits comic shops next week. Ant-Man's alter ego, Dr. Hank Pym, has long been the Rodney Dangerfield of the Marvel Universe, so it stands to reason that the cover of #1 would describe Ant-Man as "The World's Most Unlikable Super Hero." Pym don't get no respect... from anyone. Not from his one-time teammates in the Avengers or the Ultimates, not from comics fans, and certainly not from Marvel's scribes.

Over the years Pym has been portrayed with a variety of mental problems, including amnesia, acute paranoia, and some sort of multiple personality disorder (besides Ant-Man, he's also fought crime as Yellowjacket, Giant Man, and Goliath). He's a wife-beater, known in the regular Marvel Universe for verbally abusing and eventually striking his wife, Janet (The Wasp), whereas his counterpart in the Ultimate Universe once attacked Jan while she was shrunk-down to her Wasp form, spraying her with insecticide and sending an army of ants after her during a final round of domestic violence. Oh, and he also invented the supervillain Ultron, a psychotic, genocidal android. Not surprisingly, Pym was eventually expelled from both the Avengers and the Ultimates in disgrace. I'm guessing the reason for termination listed in his personnel file was "all-around douchebaggery."

So clearly the writers at Marvel have not been kind to Hank, but Robert Kirkman (The Walking Dead, Marvel Zombies, Invincible) takes Pym-dissing to a new level by relegating him to the status of a supporting cast member in the Irredeemable Ant-Man series. That's right -- Marvel launches a new Ant-Man book and Pym only gets a bit part. Like I said, no respect, no respect at all.

The new Ant-Man is a low-level SHIELD agent who stumbles across the newest ant-themed super-suit in Pym's lab on the SHIELD Helicarrier after bashing Pym's skull in with the butt of a rifle (adding injury to insult, you might say). Indeed, the majority of the supporting cast is comprised of low-level SHIELD agents, operatives so out-of-the-loop that they spend a poker game debating whether or not Nick Fury might be nothing more than an urban legend created to give the agency a cooler image.

Irredeemable Ant-Man #1 is enjoyable and amusing, though honestly I thought the best gag of the issue was the cover (see above; click to enlarge). Of course, while I initially expected this series about a self-centered protagonist who uses his powers irresponsibly and for personal gain to be played strictly for humor, Kirkman promises that the series will get "very dark." As a major fan of his Walking Dead series, I find that prospect intriguing and will follow the book to see where he takes it.

The art is by Phil Hester and Ande Parks, a penciller/inker combo I last remember seeing on Kevin Smith's run of Green Arrow. I find it a little bit on the cartoonish side, but so far it seems to be a good match for the characters and subject matter.

Ant-Man: The Movie

It doesn't look like Hank Pym will be garnering any more respect when he makes the jump to the big screen. Just as the new Irredeemable Ant-Man comic is about what happens after a SHIELD agent steals Pym's Ant-Man suit, Ant-Man director Edgar Wright (writer/director of the awesome Shaun of the Dead) announced at this summer's Comic-Con that the movie will be about what happens after Scott Lang steals Pym's Ant-Man suit. It would seem the denizens of the Marvel Universe have no more respect for property rights than they do for Hank Pym.

Update: Ant-Man is also scheduled to make an appearance on Cartoon Network's Fantastic Four cartoon in October. From Comics Continuum:
"WORLD'S TINIEST HEROES," airing Saturday, Oct. 7 at 8 p.m. and Saturday, Oct. 14 at 11 a.m.

One of Reed's experiments goes awry, causing the Fantastic Four to begin shrinking. Within hours, the Fantastic Four will shrink out of existence, unless Reed can reverse the effect. But at miniature size, even a trip to the lab becomes a challenge, even more so when the security systems recognize the action figure sized Fantastic Four as an infestation of rodents and begins to hunt them down. Even with a helping hand from the Astonishing Ant-Man, the Fantastic Four are in for a giant-sized challenge.

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