Wednesday, April 14, 2010

45: Tales to Astonish #42

Tales to Astonish #4
January 3, 1963

  • In "The Voice of Doom", uninspiring radio announcer Jason Cragg receives superhumanly persuasive abilities when the radiation from a nearby atomic laboratory escapes - into his microphone. Drunk on his new power, he then follows the long line of other lame villains who see the best route to success as confronting the nearest superhero directly, rather than leaving well enough alone and staying out of sight. Though he initially turns the crowd against Ant-Man, and even succeeds in making him walk off the edge of a pier, Pym is rescued by his loyal ants and later defeats Cragg - by infecting him with microbes which cause laryngitis.

  • Though the story is largely unimpressive, special note should be given to the unusually exciting opening. We begins in media res, with the already-powered Jason Cragg getting on a soap box (seriously) and imploring the city to drive Ant-Man from its midst, while Pym looks on, already having figured out that the man must be employing some degree of hypnotism - all on the very first story page. No protracted setup here! We then get a couple of pages filling in the details of Cragg's accident and misuse of his power, but it still illustrates why this tool is such an effective and instantly compelling way to begin a story; certainly it's somewhat more interesting than the standard, bland Ant-Man tale tends to be.

  • The re-appraisal of Don Heck continues. Don's first turn as the new Ant-Man penciller last issue was a bit of a rude shock, as the artwork looked crude, unpolished, and - in one or two panels - not quite of professional quality. Which is why it was such a surprise to be so impressed with the subtlety of his linework in the first Iron Man tale! Now, with his second Ant-Man story, a couple of things become apparent. First, Heck's art has a softer, finer line to it than what we see from Kirby; we can instantly believe that he was renowned for his work on Marvel's romance comics for a time. But even with that in mind, the art on display this issue is leagues above that of his debut on the title last issue. The evidence for his assignment there having been a last-minute rush job continues to mount!

    I love what Don Heck does with the texture of Cragg's beard here.
    It's such a small thing, but makes the character seem so real!