Comic: "Secret Invasion Requiem"
Published by: Marvel Comics
Written by: Lee, Shooter, Slott
Artist: Kirby, Hall, Pham
Reviewer: Max Burbank
Plot: Henry Pym, (the real one, not the Skrull who apparently replaced the real one quite some time ago), and Jocasta, (whose shown up inexplicably from who knows what attic corner of unused continuity) visit the Van Dyne estate to tie up some loose ends left dangling by The Wasps death, including:
-Cleaning out Jan’s closets
-Getting Hank a new Identity
-Creating an excuse to reprint two classic Hank Pym stories Marvel owns the rights to and doesn’t have to pay anyone for.
Review: I’ve made no secret of how much I hated Secret Invasion. I have no doubt at all that I’m going to hate the follow up, Dark Reign, where control of shield is given to Norman Osborne, a known wacko criminal, just because he showed up at the very end of Secret Invasion and shot the Skrull Queen in the head. But that’s not what I’m here to write about.
Buried deep within the crap mountain that was Secret Invasion were some very nice plot and writing nuggets that in the end only served to make me hate the whole mess even more by letting me know it might have been done well had someone in charge taken their Ritalin.
Requiem is a gentle reminder to angry readers like me that Marvel has often been this way during its long and impressive history. A few really great ideas and premises underneath a great deal of rapidly ground out smelly pulp. These are after all, Superhero comic books we’re talking about, and diamonds in the rough are still diamonds.
The first repeat is “Tales to Astonish” #44, the Lee/Kirby Twelve Cent book that introduced the Wasp. It reads like some god awful fifties B movie, the kind of stuff MST3K used for fodder in comic form, which is just what it is. It’s easy to dismiss, and that’s pretty much what has happened to the early run of solo Ant Man stories and the Ant Man / Wasp stories that followed. There are mountains of books and articles at this point detailing the birth of The Fantastic Four, Spiderman, Iron man and the Hulk, how they gave rise to the Marvel age of comics, how the superhero genre and eventually pop culture were changed. A lot of folks, myself included, have neglected the question of why Ant Man and Wasp were used as founding members of the Avengers comic franchise. Put simply, they were popular. They were a big part of that early marvel breakout. For the most part, comic historians have treated them like the slew of characters (many of them quite good) created specifically for, or used almost entirely within, the context of the avengers. Hawkeye, the Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, the Vision, those guys.
Reprinting Tales to Astonish #44 serves to remind this isn’t the case. Henry Pym and Janet Van Dyne are like Pete Best. There at the beginning and then left behind. Pete Best. Pete Best? Drummer for the Beatles before Ringo? Okay, that’s not fair either. Pete Bests had no career at all after the Beatles. Ant Man and Wasp just became permanent second stringers. They’ve never been re-evaluated, and maybe they should be.
Yes, the Stan Lee dialogue is SHOCKINGLY bad, but most comic book dialogue was back then. “Call it woman’s intuition if you wish, but I know that it was his experiment to reach outer space, to communicate with other life forms on other planets that was the cause of his death! Somehow I’ll find out... if it takes the rest of my life to do it!” Okay, that’s pretty bad. But if you push aside the tin ear, you’ll find it hid some impressive themes.
Hank Pym, like Reed Richards, is originally conceived as an older man with a past. He’s a bitter widower, bent on using his scientific genius to avenge his wife’s murder. Also he’s more than a little nutty. I’d always thought Pym’s mental problems were added on to his character in the early seventies when he first took on the Yellowjacket identity, but right here in this 1962 book, it’s spelled out that he has a mental breakdown when he realizes he isn’t man enough to bring justice to his dead wife’s killers. Think of the reams written about how groundbreaking it was that Stan Lee gave Peter Parker real teenage problems. Well this is Stan Lee too, and right from the go he wrote Hank Pym as a fragile personality constantly plagued by feelings of inadequacy. That’s pretty cool, and it shouldn’t be overlooked.
The second reprint is Avengers #213, which I specifically remember buying, reading and hating. Mostly remembered as the issue where Hank Pym gives his wife a shiner, re-reading it reminded me of a host of other things I didn’t like. I can’t recall if Yellowjacket as wife beater predates Iron Man as alcoholic or vice versa, but at the time I thought it was just writer Jim Shooter being a pretentious prick. Well over a decade passes between Lee Hank Pym and Shooter’s, so theirs just no excuse at all for dialogue like: “It’s a good thing I found you to think for me darling... you’re so strong... so smart... so sexy! All I want to do is melt in your arms... be yours! I need you to protect me and keep me warm, lover!”
The awfulness of that aside, I was wrong to reject the entire book as a sort of comic book version of a very special episode of your favorite sit com heroically taking on the issue of Spousal abuse Norman Lear style.
Seen from the long view, Henry “Hank” Pym is a fascinating, worthy part of the evolution of modern comic book heroes. As much as Peter Parker, probably more so than Reed Richards, he’s three-dimensional. He’s always been unsure, neurotic, self conscious and unreliable. He can never decide if he’s an adventurer or a researcher. He’s constantly changing his name and size, shrinking to hide, growing to overcompensate. He’s a fascinating mess, a beautiful character hobbled by the fact that no one has ever taken the time to write him very well. Batman, Superman, Iron Man, Cap, Daredevil, Spider-Man... time after time good writers have said, “This character has great roots. He should be dusted off and reintroduced and shown in his best light.” No one has ever done that with Hank Pym, and it’s there to be done, and maybe now it might be. So thanks, incredibly shitty Secret Invasion, for getting me to look twice at the unjustly overlooked charter Avenger, Dr. Pym.
Now here’s the flip side. You know both those horrible bits of dialogue I quoted? They’re both written by men and spoken by a woman, Janet Van Dyne, the Wasp. Of all Marvel’s women, she’s gotten the shortest shrift, constantly written by over grown pock faced boys who wouldn’t know what a woman thought or talked like if Lillian Hellmann insulted them, drank them under the table, broke their jaw while they were unconscious and left with their wallets. And now they killed her. Fifty bajillion heroes appeared to be dead in this stupid ass Secret Invasion shell game, a whole mess of ‘em women who’ve had been treated much better writing wise than the Wasp ever was. Spider Woman, The Invisible Woman, Elektra, Nick Fury’s high-class Italian Lady friend Valentina whatserface, shit, even Mockingbird, mockingbird who we have blissfully believed dead for what, twenty years? Even Mockingbird has been written better than the wasp, and now she’s alive. Whose Marvel’s dead chick? Janet Van Dyne, who has been along for the ride since 1962 and ever once got good treatment. That is some cheap ass shit. And it gets cheaper.
SPOILER ALERT! It isn’t enough to kill off the girl who was always there but never got the star treatment and then pretend like you thought she was awesome when obviously every writer who ever worked for Marvel thought she was useless. No. No. Lets desecrate the remains.
Hank Pym’s new Identity? The guy who was Ant Man, Giant Man, Goliath, Yellowjacket? Yeah. He’s the Wasp now. I shit you not, true believer. Marvel may have plenty of diamonds in the rough. But the longer they keep dropping them into bottomless sinkholes of crap, the fewer spelunkers there will be.
(Scored on a 0.5 - 5 pickles rating: 0.5 being the worst and 5 being the best)
Follow us on:
Want Your Ad Here?
Send us an email!