Sunday, October 27, 2013

Marvels: Tales to Astonish #40

"The Day That Ant-Man Failed!" by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Jack Kirby & Sol Brodsky
(February 1963)

The story here is mainly a set-up to show off Ant-Man's latest gadget, a gas mask made of unstable molecules that Henry Pym is creating for the US Army.

It's another one of those stories where Ant-Man decides to investigate a series of thefts, only to discover that the thief is the one person who has anything integral to do with the story. Looking for Comrade X? Comrade X is the woman who begged you to find Comrade X! Looking for a jewel thief? The jewel thief is the jeweler who begged you to find the jewel thief! Oh, and every time, Ant-Man knew their identity all along because of some clue that's circumstantial at best.

So it shouldn't be a surprise that the guy whose trucks are getting hijacked and begs Ant-Man to find the hijacker turns out to be the hijacker, right? And it also shouldn't be a surprise that Ant-Man "knew it all along," right? It's the same story over and over. This time, the truck drivers are falling asleep and waking up without memory of the incident after their trucks have been robbed, and Ant-Man knew it was the truck owner fom the beginning because he saw a bunch of Inca masks in the guy's office, asked the guy if he'd ever been to Peru, and then just happened to know that there was a tribe in Peru that made a gas that could knock people out.

It's kind of like that episode of The Simpsons where Steve Sax gets arrested by Springfield police because he's from New York and "I heard there was a murder in New York and it was never solved."

Oh, and Ant-Man uses his gas mask when the Hijacker uses the gas, because of Chekov's gun. And there's a neat couple of panels where he hides from the Hijacker inside the engine of a truck, which is one of those neat things that only Ant-Man can do.

The story's titled "The Day That Ant-Man Failed!" because, just before Ant-Man is supposed to ride along on the truck that's going to get hijacked, he suddenly gets appendicitis and has to leave. He tells his ants to take him to the hospital, which means he'll die en route, because these are ants and not, say, an ambulance or something that actually has the speed to get you somewhere fast. Not that it matters, because Ant-Man was only faking it to embolden the Hijacker; he doubled back in his tiny model airplane (for reals) and landed on top of the truck when he saw the Hijacker release the gas.

Two cops at the end say to each other, as Ant-Man inches lopes off into the sunset on antback, "And we thought the Ant-Man had failed us by getting sick!" "Mister, even when that guy fails, he wins! That's the Ant-Man for you!" It kind of makes no sense because Ant-Man didn't really fail at all, but, okay, that title's got to be made sense of somehow.

So... Stan decided to abandon the Hulk but not the Ant-Man. That's.... not the choice I would've made, I have to admit.

Next: At last! The long-promised Amazing Spider-Man #1!

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