Friday, September 13, 2013

Marvels: Tales to Astonish #37

"Trapped by the Protector!" by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Jack Kirby & Dick Ayers
(November 1962)

Boy, that panel kind of sums up how I feel about the usefulness of the Ant-Man at this point in Marvel history...

Now that Henry Pym has had his requisite "fighting commie spies" adventure, it's time to get down to the business of fighting crime. In this issue, Dr. Pym investigates the mystery of the Protector, an "inhumanly powerful criminal" who has been shaking down the local jewelry stores for protection money. Simple enough, but there's a skiffy twist: the Protector carries an electronic disintegrator ray gun that turns a jewelry store's inventory to dust if someone doesn't pay up.

A jeweler named Marsh breathlessly relates this story to Ant-Man, who is repeatedly stymied by the Protector. Usually in comic books they like to let the hero lose a couple of times to establish the villain as a genuine threat. But here it doesn't feel like the Protector is really a difficult villain; it feels more like he's just thinking clearly and realizing how lame Ant-Man is. I mean, the first time he nearly defeats Ant-Man, it's by splashing him with water that nearly carries Ant-Man into the sewer, which I don't think will kill a guy who often seems to forget he can just inhale a gas canister and return to human size. I think he panics just because falling into a sewer would be really gross. Later, the Protector just sucks Ant-Man into a vacuum cleaner, which Pym again panics over, but is really just a minor inconvenience, since he can easily punch his way out of it with his proportional human strength.

It's just a lot of filling pages and waiting--literally. At one point, Dr. Pym just rents a jewelry store (???) and waits for the Protector to come to him. And the Protector turns out to be that original jeweler, Marsh, and once again, Ant-Man knew it all along. Sure you did, Ant-Man. Sure you did. And also, riding an ant off into the distance is really cool and mysterious, what with the top speed of an ant being comparable to a horse, and all.

Just picture me rolling my eyes here.

Stray observations:

:: The Protector's disintegrator ray gun doesn't even work. It just spits out dust and sand to cover the Protector while he steals the jewels himself to create the illusion of disintegration. Which is just... so, so stupid. Marsh is an older man. No one hears him exerting himself or stumbling around in the sand?

:: Apparently Ant-Man can send a bunch of ants to the nearest police precinct and have them literally stand in a way that spells out a message to the police of where they should go. Because, as we've previously established, ants understand the concept of human numbers, letters, and directions. It all translates. Duh.

:: Off-topic a bit, but I noticed in one of the back-up stories, "The Star Raiders" by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, there's a planet called Zenn inhabited by a race of giants. I wonder if Stan Lee consciously or unconsciously recycled the name as "Zenn-La," the homeworld of the Silver Surfer.

Ant-Man is super lame.

Next up: the Fantastic Four face eviction!

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