Tuesday, January 10, 2012

160: Tales to Astonish #58

Tales to Astonish #58
May 5, 1964

  • Hank Pym and Janet van Dyne are busy at Hank's lab, when their Avengers teammate Captain America drops on in. And isn't it notable that such a thing's not even an event anymore, so much as something he can just do to casually hand out a mission to them? Said mission requires them to hop a plane to Africa, where the (archaically stereotyped) native population is being menaced by a gargantuan being calling itself "Colossus". Oddly enough, this isn't the same creature as from the Wasp's tale only five issues back - despite both of them being such central figures as to lend their shared name to each story's title. Strange that Stan would have chosen such an identical name after so short a time; was his famously shoddy memory so sieve-like even then?

    Aww - how sweet.  Even when he's saving their lives,
    he still has time to condescend!

  • And yet, despite the reappearance of certain identical elements, in other ways there are clearly changes afoot. For one thing, Giant-Man revamps his size-changing ability so as to obviate its previous need for pill-popping, becoming now able to trigger the change mentally, via his cybernetic helmet. And in the debut outing of what will in time become something of a character-defining trait, the Wasp changes her uniform for the very first time! (In this case, the adjustment is comparatively mild; future costume changes will be much less so.) Finally, in what's clearly intended to be a thoughtful gift, Pym also reveals that he's revamped her abilities so that he can mentally change her size at will too, and not just his own! - but note that he doesn't design it so that she can change her own size mentally. Indeed, what appears at first glance to be a nice surprise takes on a more troubling tone upon further perusal; after all, by implementing this new design, he's essentially taking away her agency of change and keeping it for his own use and approval. Might we catalogue this as another subconscious step in his growing paranoia?

    Somehow, I doubt this is an accurate portrayal of Africa circa 1964.

  • But at the same time as we see additions and expansions in our heroes' repertoires, the tale also takes pains to set specific limitations. When Giant-Man and the Wasp reach the 30-foot-tall Colossus, Hank decides to try matching the creature in height, despite not having attempted this size before. He's able to do so, but just barely and briefly; having stretched his mass so thin, he finds he's so weak he nearly passes out. Once he recovers, he realizes that he should never try growing taller than twelve feet ever again - answering, perhaps, certain reader questions on the fact? In the end, though, the Colossus is revealed as the member of an invading race, who is eventually scared into fleeing Earth - making the whole thing a pretty blatant retread of their equally globe-trotting adventure from TtA #46, "...When Cyclops Walks the Earth". (Also: Colossus? Cyclops? I suppose we should count ourselves lucky that Hank & Jan don't next find themselves tasked to Siberia to fight a giant wolverine.)

    Of course they've got a trophy room!  How else would their friends
    know they defeated such villains as El Toro and the Hijacker?

  • Meanwhile, in the backup story the Wasp finds herself pitted against their old bunny-wielding menace from two whole months ago, The Magician! Finding herself lured downtown by the promise of a line of clothing inspired by her superheroic look, the entirety of the battle therefore takes place in a department store - even allowing her a whimsical moment behind the wheel of a tiny car from the toy department, as the Ant-Man famously did in his fantastic encounter with the Scarlet Beetle! Though flawed, it's undeniably a fun 7-page story, and one that gives the enjoyment of showing Jan fully on her own. Sadly, this is the last solo adventure we'll see from her for some time ... but that's only because Very Big Changes are coming to this title! Kicking off, in fact, next month....

    Snagged by an escalator.  Small wonder he never again showed
    his face - not out of fear, but embarrassment!