By Jef Willemsen (clarmindcontrol.blogspot.com)
Three issues into his Avengers run, Jim Shooter had managed to turn longtime member Yellowjacket into an inept failure, both as a hero and a man. But the fun was only just beginning for ol’ unhinged Hank Pym.
If you thought systematically treating your wife like dirt, and shooting an unarmed woman in the back with your disruptor were despicable deeds, wait til you see what Yellowjacket did for an encore in issue # 213, better known as “the one where Hank hits Jan”.
Lets get it over with.
Now, sure, I know it looks bad, but hear me out… It wasn’t intentional!
At least, that’s what Jim Shooter claimed on his blog:
“Hank is supposed to have accidentally struck Jan while throwing his hands up in despair and frustration—making a sort of “get away from me” gesture while not looking at her. Bob Hall, who had been taught by John Buscema to always go for the most extreme action, turned that into a right cross! There was no time to have it redrawn, which, to this day has caused the tragic story of Hank Pym to be known as the “wife-beater” story.”So, accident or not, lashing out at someone is a pretty awful thing to do no matter what. And what was she even doing there in her nighties? Well, faced with the looming court martial and the prospect of being kicked out of the Avengers, Hank’s deranged mind came up with a plan that would prove he was a hero after all.
How? By building Salvation One, a sentient, adamantium clad killer robot programmed to recognize and beat the Avengers. He planned to have ‘Sal’ attack the mansion during the court martial and since only Hank knew its secret off-button, he’d casually swoop in and save the day once the robot had them all on the ropes. Yeah… fool proof. When Janet discovered his plans, she tried to reason with him, but their argument ended with the allegedly accidental slap.
Accident or not, it left her with one heck of a shiner she tried to cover up on the day of Hank’s court martial. Captain America started off the proceedings and inquired why Hank did what he did. After offering up a rambling, nonsensical explanation for his actions, even inferring he only got court martialed because Cap had the hots for his victim, Janet lost it and took off her glasses.
Even this wasn’t enough to keep Hank from going through with his plan. He summoned Salvation One who came crashing through the wall and knocked all the Avengers around. The robot proved unstoppable, just as Hank had planned.
Unfortunately for him, just when he was getting ready to act the part of the hero and stop Sal, his disruptors backfired and the robot started attacking him. In the end, Janet was the one to hit the Sal’s off switch. Defeated and broken, Hank left Avengers Mansion, disappearing into the night.
By issue # 214, weeks had gone by and when a disheveled, remorseful Hank turned up at the Wasp’s New Jersey home, she quickly booted him out right after announcing she wanted a divorce, causing feminists everywhere to yell ‘you go girl!’.
Meanwhile, the Avengers were having girl troubles of their own. Their newest member Tigra wasn’t exactly working out. She did okay against Linnea the Elf Queen, but after the Ghost Rider hits her with a blast of his soul searing hellfire, she completely lost her cool.
Unfortunately, Tigra’s scaredy cat act would continue into #215 and 216, which saw the Avengers and guest star Silver Surfer go up against the recently resurrected and always all powerful Molecule Man. The villain casually dismissed and seemingly destroyed both the Surfer and the male Avengers, keeping Tigra around as a pet while he worked out his latest scheme: conquer Earth by consuming it.
In the end, it was Tigra who saved the day. Not only managing to talk him into abandoning his plans, but also convincing the weak willed villain to turn himself in so he could get some proper psychological help. One might think single handedly saving the planet would give Tigra the confidence boost she needs to become a valued member of Earth’s mightiest. And one would be wrong because, well… This happens.
“And, lets face it, you guys mess with some heavy-duty opposition!”
Somehow, that line loses a lot of its impact when you see the ‘heavy-duty opposition’ Tigra is talking about. She only really went up against Ghost Rider. The swordsman Gorn was dead long before the Avengers even arrived, Yellowjacket never lifted a finger against her and Linnea the Elfqueen tossed her into orbit with a single spell. Still, Tigra went on her merry way and the number of active Avengers was reduced to three.
By the time issue # 217 rolled along, a lot of things had changed. For one, with her divorce finalized, the Wasp returned to active duty as Janet van Dyne. She immediately took charge of the situation when she dropped this bombshell on the team during their meeting.
Unfortunately, just as Janet was bouncing back, her former husband Hank was about to hit bottom again. After wandering aimlessly through New York for weeks, missing several shots at redemption, Hank was approached in a bar by his former arch-enemy Elias Starr, better known as Egghead because of his genius and, well, pointy cranium. Starr made him an offer he couldn’t refuse.
Egghead claimed he felt bad about his past crimes, especially because it cost his niece Trish Starr one of her arms. Feeling remorseful, Egghead had constructed an artificial replacement for her. But, figuring she wanted nothing more to do with him, he offered Pym 500.000 dollars to visit Trish and help her install the cybernetic limb. Hank agreed and, well, no good deed really does go unpunished…
Not sure if Shooter intended this particular parallel, but seeing Yellowjacket get slapped around after (accidentally) hitting the Wasp feels rather ironic and well deserved.
Turns out you can’t trust evil masterminds called Egghead. Who knew? The villain gleefully explains Trish’s cybernetic arm not only allows him to take over her body, it also contains powerful explosives that would kill her if anyone tried to remove it.
Forcing his cooperation, Egghead egged Hank on to steal two cannisters of Ad Resin X and Y, the main ingredients for creating adamantium. But as Yellowjacket infiltrated the military base that held the metals, he got the idea of triggering a silent base alarm that would bring in the Avengers. Unfortunately, by the time they got there he was already driving the getaway truck with Trish and the adamantium canisters in tow.
Threatening to kill Trish if he didn’t cooperate, Egghead forced Hank to go out and fight his former team mates. He was actually holding his own for a while, not realizing the others were holding back. When they finally did take him down, Hank hurriedly informed them of his predicament and begged them to help. But guess what…
Not only did Egghead lie about there being any explosives hidden in Trish’s arm, he also used his mental connection to give her a set of false memories. As a result, all Trish could remember was that stealing the adamantium was Hank’s idea all along. Given Pym’s propensity for using adamantium in his robotics, framing him for stealing the metal actually made a lot of sense. Not knowing any of this, the Avengers have no choice but to take Hank into custody.
By the time he is in jail the next morning, the media have already picked up on the story and Hank’s life is now officially ruined. And still, the worst was yet to come as we’ll see in part III of Avengers Sorta Disassambled: Kick An Ant-Man When He’s Down.