Title: Ant-Man Volume 1: Second-Chance Man
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Writer: Nick Spencer
Artist: Ramon Rosanas
Colorist: Jordan Boyd
Letters: Travis Lanham
Cover Artist: Mark Brooks
Spoiler Warning! This review talks about the plot of the graphic novel being reviewed. I try to avoid mentioning anything I see as a major twist or reveal, but I don’t guarantee it. Read at your own risk!
Just in time for the new movie, the first collection of the current Ant-Man ongoing series is now on stands. Like the movie, Ant-Man stars Scott Lang, the second character to use the Ant-Man name. Scott became Ant-Man when he stole the equipment of Hank Pym, founding Avenger and the original Ant-Man. He eventually reformed and became a respected Avenger. Lang died in 2004 during Avengers Disassembled, but thanks to time travel, he returned in 2011 in Young Avengers: The Children’s Crusade. Now in 2015, he has an ongoing series, and it’s a real winner.
Ant-Man #1 opens with Scott breaking into Tony Stark’s apartment, which turns out to be part of a plan to get the job as head of security for Stark Industries. Scott gets the job upon stealing Stark’s master security code from his Iron Man helmet – it was all a test. However, Scott gives up the luxurious penthouse and sizable salary when he finds out his ex-wife Peggy is moving his daughter Cassie to Miami, away from the messy superhero nonsense of New York. In Florida, Scott starts a private security firm, hires D-list supervillains the Grizzly and Machinesmith, runs into Taskmaster, and saves Cassie from abduction by Cross Technological Enterprises, whose superpowered CEO Scott defeated in his first outing as Ant-Man.
The greatest strength of the current volume of Ant-Man is that it isn’t afraid to have fun. Its tone is similar to that of the recent Hawkeye and She-Hulk titles, as well as Spencer’s own work on The Superior Foes of Spider-Man. Though very much a part of the Marvel Universe, it also has its own little corner colored by the creators’ specific vision for the book. Ant-Man takes some loving potshots at the wondrous silliness that is superhero comics, and that’s its charm. During the job interview with a Stark representative, Scott is required to explain that a large gap in his resume is from when he was dead, to the surprised confusion of the interviewer. The Grizzly attacks Scott because he lost a fight to Ant-Man during Siege, only to have Scott explain that he was dead, and Grizzly therefore has the wrong Ant-Man. Scott refers to Taskmaster as his archenemy, but Taskmaster doesn’t consider Scott his, and finds the idea laughable – each time they fought, Taskmaster was there to battle the heroes Scott was with, never Scott himself.
Scott Lang was dead when I started reading superhero comics religiously, so I don’t have much experience with him. I have very little knowledge of his character, so I can’t speak to this interpretation’s consistency with Scott’s history, but I can say that it feels like a new, different direction that I find interesting, fun, and compelling. Scott’s line of thinking in running a security company is “Who knows how to not get your stuff stolen better than the guy who used to steal your stuff?” I think it’s neat to place him in that mode for two reasons. First, in my opinion, the logic, for all its humor, is fairly sound, if only because Scott has been a superhero for years. Second, Tony Stark originally turns Scott down for the security job, hitting on something Scott said to the interviewer: that nothing really sticks for him, whether it’s the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, Stark International, or the Future Foundation. It reads like it could be a meta-textual observation about writers at Marvel using Scott intermittently wherever they want him, so by giving Scott this specific direction, Spencer pushes against this a little bit.
Scott’s best point, which comes across strongly in the book, is his love for Cassie, and his desire to be a good father. Even though he has a somewhat rocky relationship with his ex-wife, she recognizes that Scott loves Cassie and tries hard for her. They just have different ideas about what’s best for their daughter, which can happen in divorced families. Peggy thinks Cassie needs to be away from superhero craziness after her own recent return from death, which ended her career as the Young Avenger Stature. If I can pick on one weakness in what I think is otherwise an incredibly strong book, while Scott’s death is referenced frequently, the characters seem to sort of gloss over that Cassie was dead. It’s never explicitly referred to, though its effects are clear, and maybe that’s for the best. I suppose I would have personally preferred at least some small acknowledgement.
One thing I cannot fault the book for, however, is the art team. Ramon Rosanas, Jordan Boyd, and Travis Lanham are an all-star assembly that mesh really well with Spencer’s writing. Rosanas’ lines are smooth and stylized, and Boyd’s colors are a warm and inviting complement to them. Lanham’s letters lend a lot of character to people yelling, sound effects, and Scott’s snappy, conversational internal monologue. Rosanas has an excellent grasp of shifting perspective when Scott changes size, and he draws a great ant army. There are a number of great panel sequences where Scott moves quickly through a continuous environment while having a single thought. His new costume takes elements from the movie while retaining that superhero flair I think a comic book costume needs, and there are plenty of chances to show it off, as Scott never once takes the suit off.
As I mentioned previously, I didn’t have much experience with Scott Lang prior to this series, but this creative team has given me a lot to like about him. This volume of Ant-Man is part loving satire, part comedy, part superhero action, and part family drama. All of the elements work together to make a wonderful book, and I can’t wait to read more. I highly recommend it to readers who are new to Scott Lang, or anyone interested in the movie. If you’re a Scott Lang fan who’s been waiting for the trade on this series, while I can’t say whether or not you’ll be happy with his characterization, I can say this comic is just plain good. With the reality of an Ant-Man movie, there’s no time like the present to pick up this book.