Oct 15, 2012

Back Issue Ben: Mighty Avengers, Part 2

Back Issue Ben is a column written by Ben Smith for the Comics Cube! See his archives here.

Hank Pym Is Your God
by Ben Smith
I told you last time I would continue on with my examination of (superstar Spider-Man writer) Dan Slott's underrated but completely fantastic Mighty Avengers run, but you probably didn't believe me. I find your lack of faith in me disappointing. Almost as disappointing as most of you find my writing skills. But nowhere near as disappointing as I am to my mother. Sigh. Moving on! I also told you it only gets better as we go, and while at the time I was basing that solely on vague recollections, after re-reading it, I can say it with absolute certainty. Or at least with partial sobriety and a fair amount of conviction. Regardless, I say we kickstart this donkey on down the road.

Last time, things happened. Read about them here.

#24. Writer: Dan Slott; Pencils: Rafa Sandoval; Inks: Danny Miki

The story begins with Dark Reign Cabal members Norman Osborn, Doctor Doom, Emma Frost, Loki, and The Hood having a meeting on a psychic plane projected by Emma. The group bickers with each other, much to the seeming delight of (female) Loki. Loki returns to her (his?) private quarters, with intent to further rile Osborn through the Avengers.

Stature and Jonas Vision discuss how they are going to tell the other Young Avengers about the return of the Scarlet Witch. Before they can get the chance, they find themselves transported through a "Pym Pocket" to the rest of Hank Pym's Avengers team.

Following intel received from Loki disguised as the Scarlet Witch, the team heads out to fight the good fight.

Meanwhile, Quicksilver still scours the globe searching for his sister, who he believes has returned from hiding.

Next, we are treated to this magnificent splash of the team fighting Nazi bees. (If you're not on board after nazi bees, then please do me a favor and find another hobby. Quilting maybe.)

During the battle, Pym takes a moment to cut Stature down to size.

Love it. If this were a Batman comic, maybe she would be the only smart one in a room full of dummies (DC has this annoying habit of always making Batman the smartest guy in the room, even if it means making the rest of the Justice League look like bumbling idiots basking in his glorious glow), but no, thankfully, this is a Marvel comic. (Incidentally, while this run cemented Pym as one of the best characters in comics, it also solidified Cassie Lang as one of the most annoying. This is only the beginning, friends).
Quicksilver jumps in full steam and handles the fascist bees with a couple arm whirlwinds. Unfortunately, Pym is stuck in the blast. Fortunately, so is Cassie. Fortunately, Pym is okay. Unfortunately, Cassie Lang exists.

Pym gives Quicksilver a good stern talking to, which marks the second time in as many pages that he's told someone off. Go Pym.

Cut to Avengers Tower, where Osborn has H.A.M.M.E.R. working full-time on tracking down Pym and his team. Osborn brings them Black Goliath's clavicle, which he exhumed from his grave, for his scientists to examine for Pym particles.
Osborn is just in time to catch a reporter interview Pym about their recent activities, and their right to call themselves Avengers. Pym's reply is classic.

"The way I see it, I'm currently the only founding Avenger running one of these. By our charter...that makes us the real Avengers." (For those of you that may not know, Mrs. Back Issue Ben is the world's biggest Hank Pym fan. I know some of you may be thinking you've got her beat, but you don't, just give up now. Anyway, she absolutely loved this line. With good reason, it's a great line.)

Osborn is less than pleased.

  The team moves on to the southwestern coast of France, to fight Titan.

Elsewhere, H.A.M.M.E.R. has tracked Pym particle emissions to the Chicago entrance to Pym's lab. Jocasta takes drastic measures to avoid them getting inside. Jocasta cast off the lab's "anchor", cutting its tether to the real world, effectively giving them less than 48 hours before the lab is lost for good.

Back in France, Quicksilver arrives to help the team take down Titan. Pym finally agrees to let Pietro join the team. Two agents offer to let Pym and his Avengers become part of their Global Reaction Agency for Mysterious Paranormal Activity (G.R.A.M.P.A.).

Quicksilver, while being interviewed by a reporter, announces that he was abducted by a Skrull, and that the Skrull was responsible for all his nefarious deeds in the (at the time) recent past. Upon returning to the lab, Jarvis and Pym discuss Quicksilver's seeming lie. Hank prefers to let it go, as he knows everyone deserves a second chance from time to time. (It's such a shame that so many "fans" seem to be unwilling to give Hank Pym a chance as a character. They really are missing out on a complex and interesting hero. I have to admit, I was never a fan of the character until my wife surprisingly developed such a strong appreciation for the character. Whether he's Ant-Man, Giant-man, Yellowjacket, Goliath, or The Wasp, it doesn't matter, she loves it all. Besides being the greatest wife and mother in the world, she knows a thing or two about what's awesome, so you should listen up. Her enthusiasm helped me to see the joy in Pym, and together, we will smite the enemies of Pym that troll the internets. Woe to the man or woman that comes under the ire of House Smith! Sorry, too much Game of Thrones. Where were we? Oh yeah, comics...)

Quicksilver being around full time complicates things for Loki, as he definitely might see through his (her?) disguise as the Scarlet Witch. During another meeting on the psychic plane, Norman Osborn unintentionally lets his recent troubles get the better of him mentally. Again, much to Loki's delight.

My brain thoughts: Slott does what he does best here. Using the Dark Reign status quo at the time, he has (female) Loki purposefully manipulating the formation of a team of Avengers, just to stick it to Cabal "leader" Norman Osborn. Hank Pym's confidence is really soaring after the events of the previous issues, putting characters in their place left and right. Sandoval takes over ably for Khoi Pham in this issue, providing solid superhero visuals. Having the team become the global Avengers team really carved out a solid niche for them existing, when there were already two other Avengers teams out there. Slott really took what could have been your usual cash-grab third Avengers book and made it into something special.

#25. Writer: Dan Slott; Pencils: Stephen Segovia; Inks: Noah Salonga

Flashback to Hank Pym and Bill Foster (Goliath) working on something called a dimensional wave inducer. Methinks this will be important going forward.

The team arrives back at Pym's lab. They continue to lose dimensional doors left and right as a result of Jocasta severing the lab's link to the real world in the previous issue.

Quicksilver and U.S. Agent depart for Tibet on orders from G.R.A.M.P.A.

Cassie does some more whining, leading Pym to almost lose his cool about his "pym pocket" being ruined. (My wife had become a Pym fan pretty much right before this run had started, so this was her first time reading a book with Pym in it from month to month. I remember her being worried that they were going to start making him look bad again, because of this scene.)

Hercules, of all people, calms Pym down, giving him the time to formulate a plan. Pym calls the Baxter Building to talk to Reed Richards, to get the dimensional wave inducer (I knew it would be important!) that came into his possession after the death of Bill Foster. Reed declines to give it to Pym, saying that he's too unstable right now to have such a powerful device.

Reed starts bringing up all of Pym's old mistakes, leaving Pym to reply back with all the mistakes Reed has made in recent events. (Just a few minor things, like giving the Skrulls the means to invade Earth, and helping to build a clone-cyborg Thor that murdered Bill Foster. Reed Richards is a drag.)

The argument reaches a boiling point here.

"It's on, bitch."

Sue tries to convince Reed to stop being a jerk, as she has been known to do. He refuses, as he has been known to do. Leaving Pym to set sights on the team's next target....The Baxter Building. (Aw yeah! It's on, bitch!)

Pym starts to lay out his plan, which involves image inducers and Skrulls. In Xining, China, Quicksilver and U.S. Agent run into G.R.A.M.P.A. agent Ban-Luck.

Cassie and Jonas Vision contemplate if Pym's lab is truly so important that they should attack the Fantastic Four to save it. Jocasta hears them talking and shows them both what Pym is trying to save, Salvation Two. Jonas Vision immediately sees it for what it is, instantly swaying him to the cause.

Cassie runs into Amadeus Cho in the hall, who clearly has a crush on her. Cassie whines some more about attacking the FF, since her dad subbed for Reed on the team at one point. (Hmm, I wonder if this will also come up again.)

After Pym finishes some final preparations, we join the Thing in a youth center over on Yancy Street.

Check out the Easter Egg of a certain boxer in the background.

The FF signal flare goes off, but before the Thing can get too far, he's decked by who he believes to be the Red Hulk, but is really Hercules with an image inducer.

My brain thoughts: Slott continues his run of classic lines in this series. "It's on, bitch" had House Smith chuckling for quite a while. Segovia's art is quite a bit different from Pham and Sandoval's styles, but I don't believe it distracts from the story. I'm looking forward to Pym and the Avengers getting the best of Reed and his Fantastic Four. (I've never been a big fan of the Fantastic Four. I just can't get into them on a regular basis, despite the fact that I like the Thing and Human Torch well enough as characters. It's all Reed Richards' fault. He's just unlikable. And he drags poor Sue down with him. This is what makes Jonathan Hickman's FF run so remarkable though. He actually got me to read the book on a regular basis. Miraculous. Buy those books after you buy these.)

#26. Writer: Dan Slott; Pencils: Stephen Segovia; Inks: Noah Salonga

Hank Pym's lab, 30 minutes ago, the team gets ready to attack. Jocasta takes one last moment to berate Cassie Lang.

(I love you Jocasta. Thank you for saying what I am unable to say, because it is impossible to say anything to a fictional character. But if I could, the first thing I'd say, is "No, Black Cat, that costume isn't too revealing." But the second thing I'd say, is "You're acting like a whiny little brat," to Cassie Lang. Then I'd erase her with a big giant eraser like in that Bugs Bunny cartoon, but then Segovia would draw me wearing a dress.......this train of thought took me to a dark place. Let's move on.)

Just when you think she can't top that one, Jocasta gives us the essence of Pym in five lines.

"You make things appear out of thin air. You talk to animals.
You open magic doors. And when you wish to fly, you grow wings.
Because of you, I believe in the impossible."

(Side note: Pym is the only character delightfully twisted enough to kiss an android with the brain patterns of his dead ex-wife. Aw yeah comics!)

Cut to the Baxter Building, 20 minutes ago, where an alarm alerts Reed to the presence of Skrulls. He rushes Sue and the kids off in the pogo plane, and investigates the infiltration. What he finds isn't Skrulls, but four hundred ants with masking technology.

Across town, Johnny Storm is attacked by The Red Ghost, who is really Jonas Vision in disguise. While the Thing still battles with Red Hulk/Hercules in the streets. On the pogo plane, Cassie does what she's good at, sucking, by ratting out the Avengers to Sue.

Pym follows Reed to the room where he's keeping the device. However, his Zeno room presents problems for Pym that he didn't anticipate.

The Human Torch and the Thing figure out the deception, and head for the Baxter Building to help. Just when it looks like Reed may have outsmarted Pym, Hank figures out a way to grab the inducer.

"Typical Reed. Builds a room that nothing can cross...
except the sound of his own voice!"

Reed tries to grab the device, causing it to switch on and send them who knows where.

Cho gets owned by Valeria Richards.

Jarvis, apparently still upset about walking in on Pym and Jocasta kissing, attempts to scold her for her behavior.

"So when I do kiss him, it's more like I'm kissing God."

Reed and Pym join forces to get back to the right dimension, but not before Pym gets a chance to show Reed why he so desperately needs the inducer. Once Reed sees it, he immediately relinquishes it to Pym.

The two teams part ways, and Hank works feverishly against the clock to save his lab and his work. The final piece needed is Jocasta herself, much to the dismay of the rest of the team. She's plugged in, and Salvation Two is saved.

The team is upset, thinking Jocasta was sacrificed, but their fear was unfounded. Jocasta is fine. And Pym prepares himself for Phase Two.

What is Phase Two? What's behind that next door? To be continued!

My brain thoughts: Jocasta killed it in this issue. Go Jocasta! So many great lines. Reed is a bit of a bitch, and it was definitely on. Segovia's art was a little inconsistent in this issue, to the point where I wondered if some pages were penciled by an uncredited artist. Or maybe the inker did some of the heavy lifting on some of the pages. Who knows? Not me, that's for sure!

My final brain thoughts: Nazi bees, gender confusing Loki, "it's on, bitch," ants, the unfortunateness of Cassie Lang, Reed Richards loves the sound of his own voice.

Only three issues this time, but they're so packed to the brim with awesome, that we're going to have to stop here for now and continue this later. Dan Slott was doing masterful work on this series. Classic moments followed by even more classic lines. This series was basically a Hank Pym book guest-starring the Avengers, and it will go down as an absolutely essential reading for anyone interested in the character. Marvel has continued to try and give Pym a higher profile to this day, keeping him as a supporting character in more than one book, and making sure he was included in the equally excellent Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes cartoon. Not to mention all the cool collectible statues and toys that my wife buys as soon as they are released. I couldn't be happier about it.

So why are you still reading me droning on about it? Go buy it for yourself. Go ahead, I'll wait until you get back before we continue on with the rest of it. Go on, we're all waiting on you. Hurry it up!

This run can be read here:

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