Wednesday, February 17, 2010

28: Tales to Astonish #39

Tales to Astonish #39
October 2, 1962


  • Good gravy, but this is a fun comic! See, when Larry Lieber's not on his game, the results are eye-rolling. But when he throws off all sense of restraint or good sense? The results are so ridiculously over-the-top that they're just a blast! Case in point: The Scarlet Beetle. When a regular beetle was mutated by one of mankind's atomic experiments (as if you hadn't guessed), it gains extraordinary intelligence - and thus rallies all the other denizens of the insect world, apart from the ants, to topple humanity in a series of coordinated attacks. This includes termites bringing down telephone poles, bees attacking policemen, and numerous public officials being suddenly bedridden from spider bites.

  • Once again, Jack Kirby uses Ant-Man's tiny size to show us entire worlds we've never visited, simply due to a change in perspective. When the beetles first knock out Hank Pym and throw him down a hole, he tries to climb out - in vain - and it really does seem as if he's been trapped in some insurmountable underground cavern. Later, an outdoor park is the staging ground of a battle between an army of ants and the other massed insects, with a drinking fountain being the towering pinnacle on which both sides converge. And the scene of final confrontation for these tiny combatants? A wondrous toy store, of course!

  • Happily, for what seems like the first time Ant-Man gets a fight that's fantastically inventive without abusing (too badly) the bounds of either science or plausibility. At the park, honey ants have created a sticky boundary to delay the oncoming horde, right before Pym leverages the spray of the fountain to repel the attacking grasshoppers. In the toy shop, he avoids the Scarlet Beetle's sudden strike by speeding away in a toy car, before winning the day by hurling the lance from a miniature knight and then capturing the beetle in a rubber balloon. By the end of the story, Hank Pym has cured the beetle by counteracting its radiation, set it free, and gone on to his next case ... all in just 10 pages. If only every Ant-Man story could meet this extraordinary level of goofy, crazy charm - what a comic that would be!

    Hank Pym, friend to the little creatures.
    Even those that wage war on mankind.