Wednesday, March 3, 2010

34: Tales to Astonish #40

Tales to Astonish #40
November 8, 1962

  • Admit it: As titles go, "The Day the Ant-Man Failed!" is dramatic enough, and surprising enough, that you're instantly intrigued. Unfortunately, this is an instance where the length of the story is somewhat at odds with the intent. The conceit comes about when Pym feigns a sudden attack of appendicitis (!), and is unable to protect the armored truck he's supposed to be watching, in a bid to lure the villain of the story to attack. The problem is that in an 11-page story - requiring the typical amounts of setup, development, twists, action, and resolution - Ant-Man's "failure" only lasts for about a page, before he reveals it as the trick it was.

  • The other thing the story potentially has going for it is the identity of the mystery villain. (And, all else aside - isn't that a fantastic visual? Imagine that mask looming over you, giant-sized. Creepy!) But the shortness of the tale, and the law of economy of characters, makes the question rather obvious. Also helpful: If you've read any other Larry Lieber comic ever.

  • This time we get both inventive use of the shrunken-down setting AND Goofy Silver Age Writing. For instance, after bunking off the job sick, Ant-Man loads himself into a catapult rigged out of a rubber band and some wooden boards, which shoots him to a nearby rooftop - holding his "tiny model plane, complete with gas engine"! (Just imagine the sight of tiny Ant-Man in his tiny plane, flying through the air. Pretty cute!) And after confronting the villain in the truck, he jumps into the ignition, wriggling out of the way when the villain tries to crush him by inserting the key, and then makes his way down towards the engine block. No sooner has he taken a breather, however, than the villain attacks again by - honking the horn! A lot. But the kicker comes when he's standing on the windshield, and his ants manage to turn the dashboard control ... thus propelling him through the air, to take down the villain once and for all. Sometimes, you've just got to shake your head and go with it....

    Actually, for a Larry Lieber script, that's fairly witty!