Friday, November 07, 2014

Marvels: Tales to Astonish #54

"No Place to Hide!" by Stan Lee & Don Heck
(April 1964)

You know, I don't relish getting to the end of each month and reading Tales to Astonish. It's not that there haven't been fun issues, but when it doesn't fire, it really doesn't fire. Even at only 13 pages, there's a lot of filler in this story, which isn't really that exciting to begin with.

It's a missed opportunity, too, because the whole thing starts with Jan wanting to take a vacation, and ends up on an island where an adventure happens. That was the setup of one of my favorite Ant-Man stories from the short-lived spy-fi era, "...When Cyclops Walks the Earth." But that was a story that had more adult characters, and Don Heck was given time to establish local color and flavor before diving into the adventure. Here, we have Stan Lee writing that childish, flirty Jan that he's so fond of and there's so much filler before we get into the story that there's no time for Heck to really establish the setting... not that Stan really seems to care much. Really, the whole thing is filler and it just takes place in yet another Cuba expy.

Here, it's the island of Santo Rico (not to be confused with Santo Marco, which just appeared in X-Men #4, but which is more or less the same thing). A strongman named El Toro was elected in what turns out to be an election rigged by communist agents, and the CIA sends Giant-Man and the Wasp down to try and gather proof. And they do. That's pretty much it. El Toro's gimmick is that he wears what appears to be a wrestling cap with bull horns on it.

The bulk of the story tries to give us some suspense by having Giant-Man get cut off from his size pills, so that he's stuck in his giant size, but it's basically like what happened when Hank fought the Human Top: he just runs into power lines and trips over awnings and stuff like that. He only manages to escape El Toro's forces by hopping onto a freight train and riding it out into the country. It's an interesting effort, but Hank still mainly comes off like a buffoon to me, and El Toro is never really much of a threat.

It's so forgettable that I'm bored recounting it. Honestly, I expected to like this character a lot more than I do.

Stray notes:

:: Hank and Jan actually get into a physical tussle over the vacation issue, and, insultingly, it all turns out to be a ruse. Jan has no idea where she wants to go on vacation, but figures this fight will soften him up for the next time she asks.

:: We waste almost an entire page on Hank's fan club, which busts in on him. And that turns out to be Jan getting back at him for the fight she started. Stan, I know she's supposed to be young, but she's not 10. If this were 2014 instead of 1964, she'd be making fake Twitter accounts and bullying Hank. Jan, I know you're better than this. (Also, once again, why does Hank have a fan club, why do they keep pestering him, and why does Hank greet them without a mask? Does he even have a secret identity anymore? Remember when he didn't even want anyone to know that Ant-Man could become human-sized?)

:: Interesting that Hank can still communicate with ants while he's giant-sized. I never thought about the cybernetics in his helmet. Do they expand also, or do they still work while remaining the same size?

Next: Spider-Man unmasked!

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