“Ant-Man” isn’t exactly a name that inspires confidence. It doesn’t have the sense of power that names like “Wonder Woman” or “The Incredible Hulk” have, nor the shadowy intrigue of “Black Widow” or “Batman.” “Fire Ant-Man,” perhaps (fire ants are terrifying!), but “Ant-Man”?
And yet – believe it or not – Ant-Man was a founding member of the Avengers way back in 1963. He may not be as household a name as Thor or Iron Man have become thanks to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but he’s more or less been a constant, if not dominant, presence in Marvel Comics since the ‘60s.
He’s also a character that Marvel is determined to do justice – the Ant-Man film comes out in July this year, pride of place as one of Marvel’s summer blockbusters. The first trailer for said film dropped earlier this month, and to go with it, Marvel kicked off a new Ant-Man comic series written by Nick Spencer and illustrated by Ramon Rosanas.
And it’s good. Really good, in fact. Going in with no expectations, I was taken quite by surprise.
The first issue introduces us to Scott Lang, aka Ant-Man. He’s not exactly your gold-star superhero, with a history of crime that never seems to stop following him. Even trying to make amends as a superhero – thanks to a hi-tech helmet that lets him shrink himself to the size of an ant, without any loss of strength – he lives in the shadow of other, more popular costumed saviours. To top it all off, he tries to do right by his daughter, but a rocky relationship with his ex-wife makes that difficult.
Scott Lang is a complex, layered character, and this is something that Spencer has an expert handle on. Ant-Man #1 is a fun ride, with lots of action and a self-aware sense of humour that reminds me of Geoff Johns’ run on Aquaman – Ant-Man’s status as something of a joke is a constant source of laughs, but without ever undermining the character himself.
At the same time, Lang’s story is a sad one. His struggles to make it as a superhero in a city with an abundance of them and his efforts to get time with his daughter really resonate, giving Scott Lang a compelling sense of humanity. Spencer perfectly straddles the line between over-the-top action and grounded, emotional character drama.
If there’s a weak point in Ant-Man #1, it’s the interior art. It’s not that it’s bad, it’s just fairly unremarkable. It does what it needs to, but doesn’t stand out in anyway. This is a comic you’ll read for the writing, not the visuals. Having said that, Mark Brooks’ cover art is a treat.
I went into Ant-Man with little in the way of expectations, drawn to it more by film hype and general curiosity. What I found was a superhero who quickly burrowed his way into my heart, at the hands of a talented young writer.