Or – “This Is The Story Of Doctor Jekyll & Mister Pym…”

aemh4.jpgreviewbubble.jpgWhat’s that, you say? TWO issues? Can we BE so lucky? Is it a Christmas miracle? Well, yeah, for some values of miracle, anyway. Specifically, the miracle that is Marvel’s bi-weekly schedule, combined with my own foolishness in not checking said schedule, combined with the natural delays of the holiday season, all conspiring to give us a hearty double dose of classic Avengers in a white wine sauce with a fried egg on top and spam. Never let it be said that the Major Spoilers reviewing staff don’t love yas… Think of it as a present that you didn’t have to unwrap. When last we left our heroes, The Vision was in custody, the Adaptoid was on the loose, Nick Fury was in the hizzouse, Hawkeye had a breakup, and Hank was verging on a breakdown. Grab a sammich and a comforter, cause there’s miles to go before we sleep…

aemh1.jpgStarting out with issue #3, we see the mighty Avengers in their Quinjet, on their way to the South Pacific to help control the Adaptoid outbreak. AIM, as you may recall, was trying to make more Adaptoids, but learned to be careful re: the granting of wishes. Hank Pym is caught in his reverie, thinking back to how he convinced Nick Fury to leverage his SHIELD lackeys into allowing them to go in full-strength. It’s actually a good moment for Hank, showing how he isn’t quite as big a loser as his “Cap/Thor/Shellhead” complex would have him believe.

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Take note of this moment, folks… Because Henry is acting strong, confident, and wearing the mantle of leadership rather comfortably in the face of a very intimidating Fury, never letting them see him sweat. Things are about to change dramatically, and it ain’t for the better. Of course, my “future sight” isn’t nearly as impressive when the future was thirty odd years ago, but I can also tell you what will happen after Civil War… (Things will be different for a while, perhaps a couple of years, then it will all be undone and we’ll look back and laugh like we do at “Secret Wars II” or “Operation: Galactic Storm.”) Anyway, back in the book, we see the results of AIM’s tampering…

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I grew up in Kansas, with Grandma’s stories of locust plagues during the dustbowl, and that (minus the helmet and bow and arrow) is about what I figure they looked like. The Avengers arrive on the island, only to run into the swarm of Adaptoids. Everyone quickly abandons ship, except for ol’ Br’er Hawkeye, who tries to land the ship. If “land” equals “crash into the AIM base and kill whatever element of surprise you might have had,” than Clint pulls it off with flying colors. He launches into AIM’s goons, with the line of the issue, (“Guess again, Professor Beekeeper.”) mocking AIM’s choice in headgear. The assembled scientists fight back, wondering what happened to the other four Avengers. The Vision and Black Panther appear out of nowhere to bust their caged heads, but Hank and Janet have other concerns.

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I always thought those things on his belt were meant to be speakers, maybe to amplify his voice at ant-size. Not so much a problem here, really. Hank is obviously troubled throughout this issue, distracted to see his beloved science perverted to such horrific ends, causing him to snap at his tiny wife, ordering her to join the others, and leave him alone against the horde of Adaptoids. When she protests, he has another mood swing, screaming that he can’t worry about her, then going all emo about how he has to be the leader, to be the strong one… Almost to prive his point, back at the lab, the other half of Hank’s plan is not going well, with Hawkeye and Panther running interference for the Vision.

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The big red V stops the reactor, taking AIM out of the equation, but leaving Hank muttering to himself about being an excellent driver, but only in the driveway, yeah… Definitely a good driver…

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aemh1.jpgAs we fade out on the thirty foot Avenger about to be overrun by swarms of bright green androids, our hanger seems sufficiently cliffed, and it seems our story is to be continued… right about now, funk soul brotha! Issue 4 picks up right where issue #3 left off, with the subtler group members racing to find the center of AIM’s hidden island base, searching for the original Super-Adaptoid, with Henry “Big Deelybobber Antennae” Pym out standing in his field, or jungle, whichever. Mere moments have passed for the man in the big bug goggles, and he’s officially in up to his neck. And that can be a little disturbing when your neck is twenty eight feet high. So, what’s our prognosis?

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Okay, it’s not going as well as it could have, I suppose. As Goliath fights a horde of Adaptoids the same way you or I might fist-fight a herd of cats, it is patently obvious that these ‘Dappers (while certainly powerful, don’t get me wrong) aren’t anywhere near as omni-bastard as the original. While the strongman gets strong, the subtler team members make it to the center of AIM-ville and find… nothing. Calling Fury’s SHIELD agents for backup, Hawkeye and company are told for certain that the prototype Adaptoid is no longer on the island. Where’d he go, you ask?

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They call him FLIPPER! FLIPPER! Faster than lightning! His power are FRIGHTENING! And he’ll rip off your head! Y’know, for a lifeless synthezoid, this guy seems calculating, maybe even plotting something we mere non-chromey lifeforms can’t understand. Time will tell… Back on the island, SHIELD has arrived, so the Vision and the Wasp go searching for Hank, last seen really f’ing up some robots’ days. They find a secen of utter devastation, the village nearly razed, piles of shattered manikins everywhere, and kneeling in the midst of the wreckage, beaten, bloodied, and nearly catatonic, is Goliath…

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Oh, my… He looks like Rorschach from “Watchmen…” All I can hear in my head when I look at that panel is Peter Venkman announcing “Okay, Hank has gone bye bye…” Nick Fury’s troops sweep in, returning the Avengers home, and sending them to their own subplots. Hank makes some cryptic remarks to The Black Panther before leaving, and Hawkeye mentions something about a date. All returns to semi-normal in the world of the Mighty ones, with The Black Panther resuming his “Josh Charles” role in the halls of Public School 76. Remember Delroy? The bookish geek that gets picked on because his skin is lighter than his classmates? Seems like Panther underestimated the depth of sociopathy in his high school.

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That is just disturbing, on multiple levels. I don’t want to see the Black Panther beat the crap out of a group of teenagers, but part of me needs to see that. Hawkeye and The Vision stop a bank robbery, but find nothing but resentment… We all know how it feels, the suspicious stares from the police, from the bystanders on the street as we walk, from the agents of SHIELD secretly watching them from across the street. Well, maybe not all of that. Hawk’s a hero now, but there’s one thing a former carny knows better than all else: the smell of a cop. He beats on the side of the van, and once again has the line of the issue:

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Why did they ever kill this guy again? Oh, right… Bendis likes to blow $#!+ up. That’s right. Goliath and The Wasp also aren’t feeling the love, sitting through another in an endless series of debriefings about what happened on Hydra island. Hank is distracted, to put it mildly, unable to focus on anything, which angers NSC agent Murch even more than the escape of the Adaptoid did. That night, Hank has a dream that pins the tail right on his insecurities, and calls it macaroni… He’s back in the village, about to face down the armies of Charlie– er, Adaptoids.

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Ouch. Punked out by dream robot bugs. That’s gonna leave an emotional scar. It’s disturbing to see the green blood running down his chin, and I hope that’s just the dream imagery messing with his head. He wakes from his nightmare, returning to his lab to try and calm himself. Instead, he sees a picture of the founding Avengers, reminding him once again how he’s the weak sister of the founding five. His head fills with the sound of taunting adaptoids, tellinghim he’s nothing, he’s a bum, there’s no way Janet would really love him… And Hank officially pops his cork. The moment that no one ever analyzed back in 1968 takes on new meaning here, as the Yellowjacket incident goes from cute plot point to full-on psychotic break. Hank destroys the whole lab, using his Ant-Man helmet as a bludgeon, falling to his knees in a haze of chemical fog. Goliath hangs his head in shame…

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…but it’s Yellowjacket who raises it again. And that is a VERY chilling moment indeed, all told with lighting and expression. Well done on the part of artists Rosado and Palmer.

This series has a lot going for it, and the plot has been a page turner, even when a good portion of both issues is head-knocking. The subplots cook nicely, and the character bits work for me. Being the middle of the story, I’m not as knocked off my feet as I was with issue one, but I’m not disappointed. Issue #3 is the slightly weaker of the two, at 3.5 stars, but #4 totally sticks the landing, earning 4.5 stars, and a cumulative score of 4.0. Not bad for an eight issue series that fills in the gaps between two issues that came out before most all of us were born…

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The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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