Marvel Adventures Avengers #20

Background

Marc Sumerak takes over the writing duties on Marvel Adventures: Avengers as the guest star parade continues, this month featuring classic Ant-Man.

Whee...

Story 'A Mountain from an Anthill'

The Avengers—all seven of them, for once—are mixing it up with some alien insects. For some reason, Giant-Girl thinks this is a good time to take a phone call. As the other Avengers batter the giant flying critters, Janet holds the phone to ear and gabs with her dad.

Man, if you're going to take your calls in battle, at least get a Bluetooth headset.

Eventually the battle is over (the Avengers win) and Giant-Girl excuses herself from mission debrief to visit her father at Van Dyne Industries. Dad, with whom she was just speaking, needs her to look into Hank Pym's disappearance. Spider-Man tags along, just so he can score a free limo ride.

At Pym's lab, the two Avengers split up to solve the mystery: Janet exploring Pym's office, Spidey exploring Pym's lab. Spider-Man receives a grudging tour of the facilities from Pym's assistant, Erik Josten. Attentive readers familiar with 616 continuity just figured out the mystery right there, as the 616 Josten is the alter ego of size-changing supervillain Goliath. And Marvel Adventures Josten appears to be cut from the same cloth, ranting about how he (Josten) was the true brains of the lab, and making creepy stalker-ish remarks about Janet Van Dyne. Spider-Man is too distracted to take this all in, as he's following a trail of ants to an anthill outside, where he finds the missing Dr. Pym, dressed up in Ant-Man togs, hailing him from an anthill. Seems Pym is conducting an experiment, or something, with his ants, which is why he hasn't been around lately... although he has been sending status updates to Josten. "Then why," asks Spidey, "is he telling everyone you completely disappeared with no trace?" Good question, Spider-Man, even if awkwardly put.

Giant-Girl is asking the same question, having found the traces of those deleted e-mails on the Van Dyne servers. Confronting Josten about this, Josten tries to get tough with her, and prove he's the man she should be interested in, but Janet's not buying. Not knowing how else to respond, Josten rips off a lab coat to reveal a size-changing costume, and grows to giant size. So he's going to impress her by beating her up? That is plausible, unfortunately. Luckily, Janet can take care of herself, and she grows also, leading to a giant brawl.

Things are going Janet's way, until the Avengers Quinjet blunders onto the scene, which Josten grabs and whips into Giant-Girl's face, knocking her down. With the Avengers out of commission, it's time for Ant-Man to save the day! Growing to giant size himself, he and Josten tussle briefly, and Josten seems to have the upper hand, until Pym plays his trump card: he grows all of his pet ants to giant size and turns them loose on Josten. Josten's will to fight evaporates, and the Avengers claim another victory!

And Janet, already impressed with Dr. Pym before he risked himself to help her, puts the moves on Hank but good. So everyone's a winner!

General Comments

It's paper-thin: the mystery, the villain, the villain's motivations and behavior, and so forth. And the opening exposition is accomplished at the price of making Giant-Girl look like a complete ditz (taking phone calls in battle?), such that, in an issue that's devoted to her, she has to spend the entire thing earning back her credibility.

On the other hand, Hank Pym defeats his foes by making ants grow to giant-size and making them do his bidding. That's clever and unexpected, but totally natural: why has 616 Hank Pym never done that?

For finding a new twist on a character that's more than 45 years old, on his first spin on this title, Marc Sumerak takes the win, despite how two-dimensional the rest of the issue was.

Overall Rating

Three webs. Sumerak respects the established tone of the book—light banter, Avengers who seem to like each other, new twists on old characters, general breeziness—and puts the unpleasantness of the Templeton issues behind us. He appears to be a worthy successor to Jeff Parker; long may Sumerak reign.

Footnote

Okay, that's six issues in a row with guest Avengers. That's enough for a trade paperback.

Happy now, Marvel Editorial? Can we get back to telling stories with the core Avengers now, please?