Friday, February 21, 2014

Marvels: Tales to Astonish #45

"The Terrible Traps of Egghead!" by Stan Lee, Ernie Hart & Don Heck
(July 1963)

It's only been seven issues since Ant-Man faced Egghead the first time in Tales to Astonish #38, but a lot's happened to the Marvel Universe since then. So, for the first adventure after last issue's retool, most of the first two pages are taken up with a recap of what happened the first time these two tangled. You could be forgiven for forgetting, honestly; it wasn't really that exciting. Egghead's big plan then was to turn the ants against Ant-Man, which didn't end up working out and didn't make for much of an exciting issue.

In this one, we catch up with Egghead in a flophouse, still muttering to himself about the ants, but he's finally snapped out of what I can only assume is a seven-month-long fugue state by hearing two disreputable characters called Ape and Twister talking about their own defeat by Ant-Man. Egghead is immediately filled with a need for revenge, and hearing about Ant-Man's new partner, the Wasp, is the key--he plans to kidnap her and use her as bait to maneuver Ant-Man to destruction.

The plan? First, scramble the electronic messages the ants send to Ant-Man (the same thing he did last time). Then, establish an identity as an insect expert, apparently for the sole purpose of giving a lecture at a zoo, so he can gain access to the reptile house. And finally, steal the Middleton Diamond and hide it inside a wasp's nest inside the reptile house. See, Egghead is giving a lecture on wasps, so how could the Wasp resist coming? And, of course, because she's a girl, or something, she'll see the sparkly jewel inside and decide to investigate further. This being an Ant-Man story, it works. The Wasp is trapped inside the phony wasp's nest and sends out a distress call to Ant-Man.

The endgame here is that Ant-Man is supposed to get trapped in a terrarium with a lizard that will eat him. It doesn't work. Then Egghead releases an anteater. Great idea, but that doesn't work. He fends off Ape and Twister, frees the Wasp, and they recover the diamond, but Egghead escapes to mildly irritate Ant-Man another day. And I'm sure that day is coming, yeesh.

Stray note: only that I dig Don Heck's work in this issue, inking his own pencils. I always think of it as looking like an international spy thriller from the time period, with little Atomic Age touches. It looks great; this is one of those occasions where a book that keeps trading off artists finally finds the right look. The stories still aren't top notch, and the dense story means there are a lot of small panels here, but I love Heck's style.

Lame issue, though. The next one is better.

But first, next Marvels: the FF are back from the micro-world, but so is Doctor Doom!

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