Comic Review – “Essential Ant-Man Vol. 1”

One of the founding members of the Avengers began as a loner, and eventually picked up a partner.

General Information

Title: Essential Astonishing Ant-Man
Credited to: Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Don Heck and Friends
Original Publication Date: 2002 reprint of material first published
from 1962-1965
ISBN: 0-7851-0822-X
Cover Price: $14.95 US, $23.95 Can
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Hank Pym discovers a way to change his size, and uses these abilities
to battle the forces of evil.

The Issues

This contains the entire run of Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne in
Tales to Astonish. The relevant issues are numbers 27,
35-69. Several issues in the 50s have a back-up story that focusses
on the Wasp. Most of the time, she tells a story with a moral to
orphans. I won’t be summarizing those. The breakdown is as

27: The origin of Ant-Man. At this point, he’s a scientist who has an
accident, not a super-hero.
35: Communist agents try to steal his anti-radiation formula.
36: Comrade X tries to defeat Ant-Man.
37: Ant-Man stops a man running a protection racket.
38: Egghead’s first appearance.
39: A super-intelligent beetle tries to take over the world.
40: A hijacker repeatedly steals from a payroll truck.
41: Ant-Man is transported to an alternate dimension to act as a
42: A man hypnotizes the city with his voice.
43: Ant-Man meets an opponent who can age others rapidly.
44: The Wasp is introduced as Ant-Man’s partner.
45: Egghead returns and sets up a series of booby traps, such as fly
46: A Cyclops terrorizes sailors.
47: Trago the musician hypnotizes people with his music. This issue, based on the cover dates, should be the one published the same month as Avengers #1.
48: The origin of the Porcupine.
49: Ant-Man becomes Giant Man in time to face another villain who
takes people to alternate dimensions.
50-51: Giant Man and the Wasp face the Human Top, who has the power to
spin really fast.
52: The Black Knight is introduced.
53: The Porcupine returns.
54: Giant Man and Wasp are sent to a foreign nation to prove that El
Toro, who wears bull horns on his helmet, fixed an election to be
elected non-democratically.
55: The Human Top finds a way to grow like Giant Man.
56: The Magician robs from people at parties.
57: Egghead tricks Giant Man and Spider-Man into fighting each
58: Giant Man faces Colossus, an enemy who is not the X-Men, but a man
even bigger than Giant Man.
59: Giant Man fights the Hulk. The Hulk took over as the second half
of Tales To Astonish in issue 60. (The Hulk’s run in this
title is collected in the two Essential Hulk volumes.)
60: Communists develop a ray that grants intelligence to apes.
61: Egghead battles Giant Man vicariously through a robot.
62: A thief steals Giant Man’s costume, and inherits his
63: Giant Man faces off against a man who runs a protection
64: Attuma tries to take over the surface world. (I believe Attuma is
an Atlantean; it seems his origin story was told in Fantastic Four
65: Giant Man accidentally creates a huge spider.
66: Giant Man meets a protege of the Mandarin.
67: A man with a green ray steals knowledge and powers from scientists
and Ant-Man.
68-69: Giant Man faces the Human Top, who can now fly.

High Point

This is the only hero I’ve ever seen who defeated the villain by tying
the guy’s shoelaces together. It sounds cheesy, but the early issues
are a lot of fun because of things like this.

Low Point

The massive continuity problems. His origin was rewritten part way
through, he’d lose his powers to shrink and then use them again later
in the story, and so on. He even claimed to maintain a secret
identity a few issues after the Giant Man fan club showed up at Hank
Pym’s door, and he greeted them with most of his costume on, but the
mask off! Some of these problems may not have been as obvious in the
original four year run, but it stands out pretty well in a single

The Scores

This volume feels very original, until he becomes Giant Man.
Instead of coming up with creative ways to win the day (such as tying
the villain’s shoelaces together), it began to degenerate into the
traditional “beat up the other guy.” By the end of the book, it was
repeating identical plots to those used in the beginning of the book.
The first half deserves a 5 or 6, and the second half deserves a 2 or
3, so I’ll give the whole thing a 4 out of 6.

The artwork seems to showcase virtually every artist working
for Marvel at the time. There’s Kirby, Romita, Heck, and an
assortment of others. Most of it is very good, but some issues seemed
to be rushed, with other artists filling in a page or two. It results
in a pretty uneven presentation. I give it 4 out of 6.

The early stories are great, but the later ones are
disappointing. The creativity just went away when the character
became just another bruiser. Again, this category averages to 4 out
of 6.

The characterization was done very well throughout the book.
Hank Pym has a consistent arrogance that starts to give way as he
develops stronger feelings for Jan, and the recurring enemies have
consistent personalities. (The Human Top even has a unique
personality!) I give it 5 out of 6.

The emotional response is another category that varies
through the book. The first half had me very drawn in with some truly
creative stuff, but the later portions began to bore me. I give it 4
out of 6.

The flow is the typical conversation-heavy stuff we see
throughout the Stan Lee era, with ten seconds of dialogue occurring in
a time frame the panels describe as taking exactly three seconds. I
give it 3 out of 6.

Overall, the first half of this collection is a lot of fun,
while the second half is some hum-drum stuff that is important to the
history of two of the major Avengers. I give it 4 out of 6.

In total, Essential Ant-Man Vol. 1 receives 28 out of 42.