Monday, November 26, 2012

1981-1983: Avengers Sorta Disassembled part IV: Ant’s For The Memories, Man!

By Jef Willemsen (

In this fourth installment, Hank Pym finally gets his day in court… but not before he’s subjected to an ultimate insult or two whilst still behind bars. No, not from his fellow inmates necessarily, the hurt’s a bit closer to home.

Unfortunately, the road to Yellowjacket’s big story was a rocky one. By mid 1982, Jim Shooter was no longer writing the book due to his other full-time job as Marvel Comics’ Editor-In-Chief. That’s why he intermittently plotted some issues, hoping the general direction he had set out on would still be followed.

Avengers #223 however, was written by former Avengers scribe David Michelinie who indulged himself with a story about Hawkeye and Scott “Ant-Man” Lang teaming up to save Hawk’s friend Marcy Carson from the Taskmaster. This Michelinie-created baddie was out to take over Marcy’s travelling carnival so he could have a mobile training academy. While it is a perfectly well written and absolutely non offensive issue, it might as well have been a Marvel Team Up stock story.

Still, it coincidentally served  the larger story arc, as it emphasized Scott Lang’s ties to the Avengers…  Which was all the more convenient when Scott put on his Ant-Man costume an issue later and decided to break out Hank Pym so he could clear his name. Hank forcefully declined the offer, choosing to have his day in court instead of incriminating himself even further.

Speaking of # 224, the cover promises ‘the most off beat Avengers tale ever’ and for once, there might be some truth in advertising. The tale is plotted by Shooter, but scripted by one Alan Zelenetz. His work for Marvel is limited to having (co)written some issues of Thor, Conan the King and Moonknight and his most recent claim is advising on movies as an ordained rabbi. In retrospect, this makes him an interesting choice for the issue that features the budding romance between… of all people… Iron Man and the Wasp.

During a rather pedestrian mission clearing out a collapsed subway tunnel, Tony first notices just how ravishing the newly divorced Janet van Dyne is. Over the course of the issue, he pursues her in his civilian guise as Tony Stark and sparks fly between the two wealthy socialites. But there’s one slight problem: Janet doesn’t know Tony is Iron Man yet… which really complicates their budding romance.

Captain America isn’t too pleased about it, either.

Hank’s archenemy Egghead is over the moon however, when he reads about it in the society pages… one would think sinister evil geniuses would skip those sections, but hey.

Wrecked with guilt, Tony eventually decides to reveal his dual identity to the Wasp who, quite understandably, breaks off their romance. She simply cannot deal with the notion of dating a team member who also happens to be one of Hank’s oldest friends. Tony decides the best thing to do is quickly start dating another girl so the press will forget all about his fling with Janet. Naturally, that backfires big time.…

The letter column to Avengers #224 broke the news: Jim Shooter had officially left the book. This meant #225, aka the big anniversary issue, was written by Steven Grant who crafted an okay-ish two parter that saw the team  transported to Avalon by Doctor Druid to fight the demonic Fomor for the life of the newly resurrected Black Knight. This tale really meant the end of an era of transference for the Avengers.

By the time he left, Shooter had brought the Avengers into the 80s. His jarring storylines had pulled both the team and the readership out of their silver age comfort zone. By showing just how far a founding Avenger might fall, the entire team was forced to change and mature.

For the first time, seemingly infallible heroes like Thor, Cap and Iron Man engaged in some serious soul searching over Hank’s fate. And while Hank’s character also evolved considerably, no one was more changed, and was the better for it, than the Wasp.

She emerged from her divorce a new woman, no longer a mere one note throwback to the ditzy air headed dames Stan Lee used to write. Janet van Dyne reinvented and reasserted herself, by taking over as Avengers chairwoman and proving her worth, while still retaining her fun loving personality. A new wind was blowing and with the arrival of Roger Stern in # 227, the ship was finally headed into its new direction.

And if you’d permit me to continue the ‘Avengers as a ship’ analogy a bit further. If Roger Stern’s the ship’s captain plotting the course, the figurehead has to be Monica Rambeau, the second Captain Marvel. Stern opens # 227 with Monica joining the Avengers, only a few short months after she made her debut in The Amazing Spider-Man Annual # 16.

After an impressive display of Captain Marvel’s powers, the Wasp launches a precursor to the Avengers Initiative: Avenger-in-training, a superhero internship of sorts which allowed young heroes like C.M. to train with experienced Avengers. They’d also get first crack at any open slots in the roster To his credit, Stern masterfully finds the voices of the team and sets up a number of subplots that would pay off nicely… But before he could fully embark on his own course, Stern had to deal with the curious court case of doctor Hank Pym.

Handling this task with appropriate aplomb, Stern used most of # 227 to have Pym recap his life’s story for the benefit of new readers, all the while keeping things interesting for long time fans by peppering this history lesson with plenty of Hank’s wry personal observations. With everyone on the same page, Hank’s court trial began in # 228.

While the trial got underway, Egghead was having trouble furthering his research into immortality. Luckily, he had a plan… A plan that required flunkies. That’s why he freed most of  his Masters of Evil from jail,  trading Scorpion for the Shocker and the Beetle and even adding original member Radioactive Man.

The ‘next bold move’ Egghead refers to is have the Masters barge into the courtroom to kidnap Henry Pym, while making it appear they were actually there to rescue him as per Pym’s own orders. The Avengers were present to beat the Masters back, but they still managed to get away with Pym.  Only the Shocker is captured, but even that turns out to be part of Egghead’s plan, as the villain reveals to his furious guest.

With the whole world against him, Henry Pym has no choice but to join his greatest enemy. Egghead has Hank work on a way to become immortal for days, while the Avengers fret and fume impatiently at the mansion, biting each other’s head off at every turn…

That is until Scott Lang arrived to deliver a little present from Iron Man: a handy dandy mind scanner Tony had been working on ever since their repeated run ins with Moondragon. Not only does the scanner detect mind control, it also breaks it. Deciding to use the device on the Shocker, they learn the truth: Egghead really is alive and Hank is innocent after all.

As the team rushed to the villain’s secret base in a quiet, suburban neighbourhood  Hank Pym called in Egghead and the Masters to tell them he solved the mystery of eternal life. In under two days.
Rightfully suspicious of this extremely early success,  the villains decided to test this ‘immortality device’ on Hank first to make sure it isn’t a death trap. They strap him into the contraption and active the device.

Well, was it a deathtrap? Find out why the issue was called Final Curtain  in the fifth and final part of Avengers Sorta Disassembled: All We Are Is Pym Particles In The Wind.


  1. Exciting stuff! I wasn't alive back when these were written. I grew up reading big, thick hardcover books that described Marvel history, but didn't actually include any stories. Sure, they might mention that Hank Pym slapped Jan, but the fallout is NEVER explored enough (although you may read the words "court martialed" once in a while). This series is excellent, Jef. I can't wait for the next part, because I actually don't know what happens. Looking forward to it!

  2. Discovered your blog today. What an awesome job you're doing discussing these old comics! Thanks for the trip down memory lane, #224 was an early back issue purchase of mine, before my town even had a comic shop. Got it at a hospital gift shop I believe! Can't wait for part 5. Keep up the good work.

  3. Hey Jason, you're more than welcome. Thanks for stopping by!



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