Written by Mark Waid
Art by Andre Lima Araujo
Colours by Frank D’Armata
Letters by VC’s Clayton Cowles
Cover by Sara Pichelli & Marte Gracia
£2.85 (£1.99 with SuperCard Go!)
Still smarting from the fact Age of Ultron didn’t quite end, it just sort of stopped? Honestly, me too. It’s both a pleasant surprise, and a huge relief then, to report that this epilogue issue is actually the best thing to come out of the crossover.
Waid’s script puts the focus entirely on Hank Pym and straight away, that’s a roll of the dice. Hank’s portrayal in the series has been as a sanctimonious boob, whilst his history is crammed full of violence, failure and, of course, Ultron. He’s not quite the least sympathetic man in the Marvel universe, but he definitely follows that man on Twitter, let’s leave it at that.
In Waid’s hands though, he becomes something I’ve never seen him be before; sweet, endearing. Waid starts off with Hank in shock from the temporal fracture at the end of Age of Ultron and thinking back over his life. As a result, we see him grow up in a resolutely normal family in, as he puts it ‘East Nowhere, Nebraska’. He’s clearly a genius from a young age and his grandmother, a science fiction writer, is the only member of his family who sees his true potential. Hank’s friendship with his grandma is truly endearing as she encourages Pym to dream, to be truly happy. She also, as she dies, teaches him that he can’t fix everything. The experience is almost completely damaging to the young Hank and Waid is painfully good at exploring the emotional impact of her death. She’s the only person who understands him and when she dies, his freedom to dream goes with her. This in turn leads to the years of academic drudgery that in turn lead to his decision to become Ant-Man. This is a fascinating, nuanced relationship that’s central to the character and Waid sets it up and tears it down in three pages. Amazing work.
The moment he cracks at work is where things get interesting. Not only does Waid take us on a whirlwind tour through the early years of Hank’s superheroic career, he looks straight at the thing few other writers have; Hank was unbalanced from the start. The ‘Ahhh screw it’ moment where he empties Pym particles over his head for the first time is so blasé it somehow makes the danger even more apparent. This is a man so brilliant the simple moral constraints of scientific method actively irritate him so he ignores them. He’s a genius, with a good heart but absolutely no hint of the balancing factors Reed Richards and Tony Stark has. In other words, he’s dangerous to himself at least as much as he is to others.
Which brings us back to Hank, sitting comatose after stopping his homicdal AI son from killing the world, and, in doing so, realizing that time is splintering around him. Which let’s face it even for the most well balanced person in the room is a Bummer of kaiju-like proportion. This is where Waid pulls his third rabbit out of the hat, as we’re shown Hank’s thinking as to how he can go on with his life. It’s solid too, if a little feverish and Waid finally gets to cut loose with the superheroics as Ant Man, and Giant Man, are both back in business. This is Hank’s finest hour, the moment where he finally makes his peace with his demons and steps forward into a brave new life. It’s a truly sweet moment, the first peace Hank seems to have had since childhood and Waid absolutely lands it. Things will be different now he’s finally past Ultron. Things will be better.
And then you get the last page. If I’m right, then what’s happening there shows that Hank isn’t just damaged, he’s broken in a way that may never be fixed. If who he’s talking to is who I think it is then things are going to get ugly, fast. Even if not, the final image of the book is wonderful, equal parts Shakespearean and pure pop lunacy.
This is an excellent book, Waid’s script perfectly meshing with Hank Pym and making me care about him for, frankly, the first time in years. His lightness of touch is matched by Araujo too, who’s open, expressive lines remind me of Steve Dillon at his best. D’armata’s colours are also top notch, building on the pragmatic, everyday approach of Araujo’s art work to give Hank’s amazing abilities a grounded, real world feel. His work on the page showing time splintering is especially good too. Together, they give Age of Ultron the definitive finish it desperately needed and set Hank Pym up as a major player in the Marvel universe. The only question is; has he cracked again? Because if so things are about to get very interesting…