Thursday, June 17, 2010

61: Tales to Astonish #45

Tales to Astonish #45
April 2, 1963

  • It's hard to believe it's only been seven months, but ... Egghead is back! See, Hank Pym never really develops many nemeses or archenemies - not until he starts building them, at least - so, as ridiculous as this villain may be, he's about as good as it gets. The story starts with a recap of Egghead's last outing, when he was so shell shocked by his defeat that he ended up living as a mumbling bum at a dingy old flophouse. And there he has stayed, a broken man - until two small-time crooks rush in, talking about their narrow escape from the Ant-Man. Stunned by this, Egghead snaps back to reality, and he immediately enlists them in his clever plan for revenge.

  • Unfortunately, in this instance "clever" means "mind-bendingly convoluted". First Egghead sets himself up with a new identity as a brilliant professor and goes on the lecture circuit, giving highly-attended talks about the wonders of the insect world. After countless (Good God, how many?!) such events, he's gained enough fame to be invited to lecture at the city zoo - just what he'd been waiting for! He and his new henchmen then steal the Middleton Diamond, newly in town, with the aid of "an electronic dewelding gun" to burn out the alarm wires and a sleeping-gas gun to knock out the guards. But see, they only stole the diamond as bait to lure Janet Van Dyne! When Egghead next gives a lecture on wasps at the zoo, Janet attends (as he knew she would) and is stunned to see the stolen Diamond hidden about, badly. Attempting to retrieve it herself, she is soon captured and has to call in Ant-man to save her (again, as Egghead knew she would). And when Pym arrives, the mad scientist - at this stage, what else would you call him? - attacks Hank with a combination of zoo animals, electrified boundaries, and "water pistols filled with liquid gas!" Um. Liquid gas? Man, I don't even know what they're going for!

  • Sadly, what should have been the funniest weapon in the arsenal is a bit deflated, simply by virtue of having been telegraphed on the cover. (Look above if you missed it.) Yes, Egghead is such a brilliant strategist that he figured out what none of Pym's enemies to date have been able to put together: That if you want to catch an Ant-Man ... you have to use an anteater! Unfortunately, by the time it shows up we've been waiting for the (unintentional?) joke for a dozen pages, and it's about as funny as it is threatening: i.e., not very. However, an unexpected boon is that Egghead having set up headquarters in the Reptile House means that Don Heck gets to draw an unusual array of animals this time out, including the anteater, an iguana, and even some snakes. As you might expect, they're not subjects that Heck usually gets to draw, and his elegant renditions of them are some of the highlights of the entire piece.

    The lizards are ignorant of the buffoonery going on behind them.
    And that's just how they like it!