Thursday, May 28, 2015

Marvels: Tales to Astonish #56

"The Coming of the Magician!" by Stan Lee & Dick Ayers
(June 1964)

There's a tiny, incremental gain in the continuously delayed love story of Hank and Jan this ish: he's actually decided it's okay to be in love with Jan and has an engagement ring all loaded up and ready to go. (A flawless diamond with a full 58 facets.) Unfortunately, when he goes to ask Jan for her hand, he gets nervous, and she takes that as a sign that Hank just "never thinks of marriage," so she decides to make him jealous by announcing her plans to go out to a party being thrown by social register member Sterling Stuyvesant. She even says that she thinks Sterling might propose.

Does this make Hank jealous? Indeed! Does it work in her favor? Of course not! He throws the ring across the room after she leaves and curses himself for a fool for even thinking she'd be interested in marrying him. He does the typical man thing of assuming she must want someone wealthier, and decides to throw himself into his work.

Did Hank wait too long to assert his interest in her? Yeah, I think so. He spent a lot of time in denial about his feelings, pushing her away whenever she brought up the subject of being together. But I don't think her attempts to make him jealous have really spurred him on or emboldened him the way she seems to think they will. It's pretty stupid. I think Stan Lee has forgotten by this point, but Hank is a widower and he's older than her, and now we see that he feels like he might not be what she wants because "I'm just a scientific adventurer," so the jealousy approach is just all wrong.

I kind of like this new shade to Hank because I think it humanizes him a little more. He's never lacked for confidence; hell, sometimes he comes across as just massively egotistical. So it's nice to see him second-guessing himself in some way.

Well, Hank's reverie is not to last, as a new villain emerges: the Magician. Dressed in top hat and tails, complete with cane and highly twirlable mustache, he comes to Sterling's party and robs everyone (after hypnotizing them) and even kidnaps Jan after she changes into the Wasp. The Magician is the latest in a seemingly endless series of lame Ant-Man/Giant-Man villains. How lame? At one point he sets one of his bunny rabbits on Ant-Man, declaring "Nothing can outrun a highly trained rabbit!!" As a rabbit owner, I wonder what the hell a highly trained one is. I mean, Princess is litter-trained, sure, but I've also literally never been able to stop her from ripping up pieces of carpet, chewing through wires, or getting into grocery bags. I think if Ant-Man showed up, she'd run in the opposite direction. One time, she got freaked out and hid under the chair because I put my glasses on the floor for a second so I could rub my eyes while I was petting her. Jeez, she runs and hides if I do yoga in the living room! Anyway, this rabbit rushes off when Ant-Man changes into Giant-Man.

Cornering the Magician involves a typically elaborate (and page-filling) set-up, something Hank Pym has always needlessly specialized in: he fakes a fancy society yacht party, knowing that the Magician will show up. The Magician has an airship that he secretly flies around in (because it's the same color as the sky, apparently no one notices it), and he's keeping the Wasp prisoner in a glass case like Tinker Bell. Hank frees her and she deflates the airship, sending it into the harbor, but Hank is nowhere to be found.

"I've killed the only man I've ever loved!" she laments, until suddenly Ant-Man appears, gliding down to her on a paper airplane in what is admittedly a pretty cool moment. Stylish, for Anty.

So, I guess we're finally on the same playing field. Jan loves Hank, Hank loves Jan... do they get married now? I honestly have no idea when that happens, but I do know they're fighting Spider-Man in the next issue, so... curious to find out what happened to the engagement ring. It sounded pretty expensive.

Next Marvels: enter the Goblin!

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