Real Talk: 'Age of Ultron' #10.AI Retools Hank Pym

A comic review article by: Shawn Hill, Sean Gonzalez, Jamil Scalese

Shawn Hill: So let me see if I get this right: due to being killed and then un-killed, thereby breaking time, and seeing all the shards of the possibilities at once, Hank is now the go-get-'em hero he was always meant to be? It all winds back to a childhood with unremarkable parents, a semi-remarkable grandma and the age-old dilemma between conformity and creative expression? Waid is bringing his current quasi-Silver Age approach to the heroes here (where Daredevil gets to live in a cynical world but be lighthearted about it; where Hulk gets to balance his split personality in government service), but not without both simplifying Hank's history and skipping over broad swatches of it. No mention at all of his complicated relationship to Janet van Dyne, arguably the more natural hero than he's ever been? That just strikes me as weird.

 

 

Sean Gonzalez: Definitely weird, but not too surprising coming from Waid. Unlike a lot of continuity loving writers like Bendis and Geoff Johns, I think Waid prefers to start from scratch whenever he can. The trope works alright, providing an entertaining enough version of Pym. I agree that his psychological complexity and his relation to Janet are real important aspects of his character but I think what really makes Pym great is that he embodies evolution and scientific advancement. Just consider all the times he's reinvented himself, not only in costume, but in disposition and goals (I believe Mighty Avengers and Avengers Academy being the most recent examples?) Ignoring all the progress he's made over the years to focus on a passion that he supposedly had as a child is a bit of a stretch that I don't feel really get's what the guy's about.

 

 

Jamil Scalese: My favorite recent iteration of Pym was the one we saw in Avengers: Earth Mightiest Heroes. His role and personality in that show played to his strengths and didn't have the burdening baggage of the source material. I'd say that Waid has taken a page from Chris Yost's notebook but that'd be crazy talk.

Is Mark Waid at the top of his game? The work he's produced in the last few years has been high grade. For Marvel he's taken three characters and made them great by boiling them down to certain essentials. Choice elements are celebrated while other more problematic ones are downplayed. I think that's why Jan is completely missing, Shawn. We're here to focus on a single person, and while his relationships are important the constant beckoning to Wasp kind of holds him back. 

This is an odd issue, kind of a one-shot, reading something like a Point One. It's a flyby of Pym's life, his achievements, and his limitations." Ingenuity mixed with intelligence is his gift, his contribution to the world. If he gets too creative he creates Ultron, if he relies too much on his latent talent he becomes "Lab Hank," which makes him miserable. He's looking to achieve the balance, striving to get back to his original purpose, to be comics' premiere scientist adventurer. 

 

 

Shawn: Well, his original purpose was kind of to be an Incredible Shrinking Man who didn't die or fade away; but Wasp isn't some later development, she's a part of the package and this version just glosses over that a little too dismissively for me. I felt like I was reading the overwrought Orson Scott Card origin of Iron Man for the first half of the story (poor tortured childhood geniuses, it's not like Card has the patent on that), and then I'm not sure exactly what Hank is doing or which personality he's wearing now for the second half. I'm not sure if I'm all for an optimistic Hank Pym: I like the flawed, insecure one who tries to learn from his mistakes, and overcome his personal obstacles. This story was a little too upbeat for me.

I sound like a should probably give it a lower grade, but I'm reviewing it in the context of the AU miniseries. Meaning, while I don't like the tone of parts of Waid's story, at least it was coherently told and entertaining on its own terms.

 

 

Sean: I just think the new Pym is unsettling. If he were a real guy, I'd have trouble trusting someone who's made such a drastic change in mood. I've also got a problem with Waid trying to make him the "premiere scientist adventurer." I just feel like that'll put him at odds with Richards and the like. I would say that this would lead to a crazy cool showdown with the FF, but then again, we've already seen that before.

So, we're all thinking it... this new Pym is definitely streamlined for the upcoming movies. I was kinda hoping he'd make it to the big screen with all his baggage in tow, but it doesn't seem like that's the path Disney wants to take. Do either of you guys think Ant-Man can work without the drama?

 

 

Jamil: For sure. I was actually really hoping this would be the approached they'd take for the movie. At least they're getting in front of it a little bit instead rolling all a more proactive Hank Pym out in 2015. 

Age of Ultron #10A.I. is little awkward but a wholesale retooling of Pym is needed, not only for a movie but for the utility of an important character. He's lacked an ongoing and thus has failed to really establish a mythos outside of the Avengers books. What's so weird about this comic book is that the big-time tragic event already happened, it isn't a constant or forthcoming dilemma, so it's simply a switch in state of mind. Be more creative. Be more proactive. Have fun at what you're best that.

I'm a little confused in the application. He's tinkering with A.I. again (Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.), sure, but what does this mean? I guess time will tell, but I really liked his role in the last few years as science advisor to various teams (the Thunderbolts and Secret Avengers come to mind). He's a little more "freelance" than Mr. Fantastic or Iron Man, maybe that's a way Marvel can differentiate him from the rest of the best?

We haven't talked at all about art. I guess that's because it's really standard stuff by Arajo. I read it thinking "He executed Waid's script and that's it," which is bold of me because I have clue of the duo's creative process. Hank, and others, are extremely emotive, and that helps in a story filled with clarity, levity and hope. It's literally the opposite of Age of Ultron.

 

 

Shawn: I guess to continue the positive spin, one could say that once Janet and Henry were linked (but it was always a star-crossed romance, with dead wives, immaturity, mental delusions and surprise weddings all getting in the way), but now they've both grown enough to be freed up to go their separate ways. This would be easier to take if she hadn't been "dead" for the last few years (and written horribly prior to her purely symbolic sacrifice), but she did get an exciting return to life in Avengers (or was it "New" Avengers?), and she's definitely speaking her mind these days in Uncanny Avengers. So maybe it's okay for them to no longer be a duo, but any solo ongoing involving him is going to have to clarify why that's best at some point. Despite their established history as a pair, it was highlighted again as recently as the Avengers cartoon. As to being the super-hero MacGyver Supreme, why not, dude, go ahead, live a little! Can't let Reed and Tony always be right!

 

 

Sean: As fun as that sounds, I worry that no matter what path Pym takes, he'll end up playing second fiddle to whoever else is in the room. In both the comics and films, Marvel has a bunch of smart people that like to talk. Adding Hank to the mix late can't possibly help him stand out from the crowd. That's why his connection to other characters was always what kept my interest. Still, it seems he's going in that direction anyway, so I will admit that there is one aspect I think Waid captures well, and that's hope.

Pym's always been a team player and he's always managed to turn things around and look forward. Obviously paralleling his scientific method, he's managed to retool himself, and the teams he's supported tons of times- with the latest being Avengers AI. I'm still not sure what I would think about an ongoing Ant-Man solo series, but I do know that Pym's the guy to call when a new team is starting up, and I'm excited enough for Avengers A.I. that I'm willing to overlook a few inconsistencies.

Jamil: Marvel billed Avengers vs. X-Men as the end of a multiyear saga and that would mean that Age of Ultron is the opener for a new world of stories. I look at this as the first of a bunch of new stories. The ripple started here will hopefully reverberate two years from now when it'll really matter. 

Well, amigos, my partners at the brink of oblivion, that does it. We've braved ruined civilization, hazardous time-travel, long winded plotting and an ultimately unsure conclusion that operates not close off ends but open new ones. At times I liked Age of Ultron, but most times I tolerated it. Let the next event be better, praise be Kirby, Lee, Ditko and all the rest! 

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