Or – “Back When Princess Python Was A Credible Threat… To Pastries.”

reviewbubble.jpgaemh10.jpgThere are few conditions in the English language that have more entertaining (and insulting) euphemisms than mental instability… Going ape, barmy, batty, berzerk, bonkers, certifiable, crackers, cuckoo, daft, delirious, demented, deranged, flaky, flipped out, haywire, insane, lunatic, mad, mental, moonstruck, nuts, positively fourth street, psycho, screw loose, screwball, touched, unbalanced, whacko, and let’s not forget “speed-dialling the bozophone” and “full-blown-wackaloon.” Granted, these are all very insensitive to anyone who has these sorts of imbalances, no matter how much fun they are, especially since the reality of the breakdown is often what good ol’ Jim Ross would call “bowling-shoe ugly.” Now, take that discomfort, and multiply it exponentionally by a super-powered size-changing cyberneticist/geneticist/entomologist, add heavy cream, simmer for 39 years, and return to a rapid boil…

aemh1.jpgIf you’ve been reading along with AEMH II (or my recaps) you know that Henry Pym of the Avengers has had a bit of a mental prolapse after a chaotic battle in which he was forced to destroy a horde of Adaptoids. Eschewing his Giant-Man identity in favor of calling himself Yellowjacket, Hank then went so far as to claim that he killed Hank Pym for being a loser. That’s weird, certainly, and indicative of a pretty enormous instability, sure. But then, on the advice of SHIELD’s top psych operative, The Avengers chose to play along with his delusion. But then he attacked his Avenger teammates with hordes of wasps and yellowjackets, kidnapped his own girlfriend The Wasp, and ran off with her, Hank crossed a the line from “Strange Tales” to “Bizarre Adventures.” That’s absolutely over-the-top Grade-A “Uh oh, overflow, population, common food, tournament, a tournament, a tournament, a FIGHT!” right there, and Mrs. Fury’s li’l boy Nicholas (can’t you imagine him as an eight year old, with an eyepatch and trenchcoat, drinking apple juice out of a whiskey bottle?) can’t believe it’s come to this…

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Fury agrees to help keep a lid on the Chairman’s problems, in order to keep Agent Murch of the NSA from shutting the Avengers down and sending the members back to whichever carnival/lab/African nation they call home. Hawkeye carefully tries to ask Fury about the status of his on-again off-again girlfriend The Black Widow, but Nick tells him her whereabouts are classified. Hawkeye is left alone to consider his situation, and we cut to a hidden cyber-treehouse, apparently the Yellowjacket’s nest. Janet Van Dyne, the Wasp, is actively ignoring Dr. Carver’s advice, and working to help her beloved regain his senses. Janet tries to tell him that he’s not telling her the truth, that she doesn’t believe that he’s a killer…

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Yellowjacket suddenly whiplashes back to anger, telling her that he’s not some “pathetic loser” she can emasculate whenever she wants, not like Pym. He suddenly kisses her, and realization dawns on The Wasp. Something about the kiss almost brings him back, but it also gives Janet an idea of how she must proceed… and it’s an idea that’s even crazier than pretending to kill yourself to get the girl you already have. 36 hours later, SHIELD agents, super-heroes, and the media have gathered at Avengers Mansion for a gala event: the society wedding of Janet Van Dyne and the man called Yellowjacket! Former chairman Captain America can’t believe what his former teammates have come to.

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I so love the acerbic, angry Hawkeye character. It’s sad that he grew up, kind of. Janet is lividat the team’s reactions, and when Cap asks for a moment to speak with her alone, she takes the time to explain. Fury’s psych evaluations aside, playing it safe and supporting Hank’s various delusions aren’t going to help her boyfriend regain his senses. She believes that only by going through with this wedding can she heal the rift in Hank’s fevered brain. To everyone else on the team, Hank is just a comrade in arms, but only she is in love with him…

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Janet has always been the emotional center of the Avengers, and she’s trying to fix the problem from her particular perspective. If it was Cap, he’d fight it, Hawkeye would make sarcastic comments until the problem cried, The Vision would proceed logically, and Iron Man would fire it into the Negative Zone for the rest of it’s life, then nail it’s mother and sisters, while explaining that it’s all for the best, and tomorrow is a shiny new day. The next day, when the guests arrive, the spandex industry holds it’s breath in fear that fifty percent of it’s income will evaporate, should Dr Doom attack…

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I especially like the old-school Kirby-esque Thing-with-a-big-eyebrow, though I hadn’t realized how INCREDIBLY ugly The Angel’s old suit was. The guests are both bemused and confused, as Yellowjacket’s true identity is not public yet, and most of them recall Wasp’s long-term relationship with Giant-Man. The Avengers founders meet with the new team, and Iron Man tries to throw his weight around, but The Black Panther shuts him down quickly. Go, T’Challa! Speaking of the King of Wakanda, the assassin hired last issue to find him approaches the mansion, only to find himself at the mercy of SHIELD.

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This doesn’t bode well… for the agents. After the wedding (shown in Avengers #60, before most all of us were born), Hawkeye heads to the kitchen for a snack. Unfortunately, The Circus of Crime has Jarvis at gunpoint, planning to attack and destroy the assembled superheroes and pillage New York at their leisure. The main problem is, they can’t even handle Hawkeye BY HIMSELF, much less the likes of the Fantastic Four, Thor, or Doctor Strange. He dodges an attack by the high-flying Gambonnos, and takes out Cannonball (not the one from X-Men) with a flare arrow to the face. Owtchie!

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Okay, putting a gun to the head of butler is just about as low as you can go and still call yourself a super-villain. Poor Jarvis faces this kind of indignity all the time, and you wonder why Tony “I do what’s best for ME!” Stark hasn’t made him some sort of forcefield device, or perhaps an ‘Iron Majordomo’ armor? Hawk puts down his weapon first, realizing that the Mexican standoff doesn’t prove anything, and that Maynard and his band of circus peanuts won’t stand a chance against the wedding party and guests. “By all means, go for the gold, fellas. But don’t say I didn’t warn you… you’ll be sorry.” The Black Knight offers The Wasp a replica of his sword (though I think in the old story it wasn’t identified as a replica) to cut her giant cake, suitable for feeding the entire state of West Virginia, or harboring a couple of ecdysiasts… or even a herpetological anomaly.

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According to the Official Handbook of The Marvel Universe, Princess Python (real name: Zelda DuBois) has a pet python, and that this is it. I’m wondering where she got a seventy foot python with a head the size of a motorcycle and ripsaws for teeth. I suspect Howard The Duck’s homeworld. In any case, the cliffhanger comes here, and since this series is a kind of “Behind The Music” look at the events of the Avengers, I won’t spoiler much by letting you know that Janet doesn’t become Python lunch.

This issue has all the neat little character and continuity bits that have made this series such fun, and the art remains awesome, clear and simple like the Silver Age books the story comes from, with a modern sensibility. The subplots about Black Panther, The Vision and Hawkeye get name-checked, but the spotlight is all on Janet here, and it’s the Wasp-moment I’ve been hoping for since issue one. This miniseries is expanding and finally explaining one of the legendary “WTF” stories of Marvel history. I mean, c’mon, if your friend, even a casual friend, puts on a mask and pretends to be someone else, wouldn’t you recognize SOMETHING? Voice, body language, his club foot? The revelation/retcon that everybody knows but they’re trying not to make Hank any crazier is pretty clever, and the characterization is dead on, from wise-cracking hipster Hawkeye, to displaced Bogart-movie character Nick Fury, to the gruff humor of the Thing. This issue keeps up the excellent, and nets three point five stars.

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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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