Sunday, 3 January 2016

Ant-Man, Volume 1: Second-Chance Man Review (Nick Spencer, Ramon Rosanas)


Scott Lang is divorced, jobless, and middle-aged in a ruthless job market full of younger, more qualified people who don’t have a criminal record. More than anything though he wants to be a good dad to his teenage daughter Cassie, so he goes for the job of head of security at Tony Stark’s company to get back on his feet. Except that’s the start of Ant-Man’s BIG problems, wha whaaaa!

The effect of Matt Fraction and David Aja’s Hawkeye on Marvel can’t be understated - it was a game-changer, the effects of which we’re still seeing. Without it we might not even have titles like Ms Marvel, Squirrel Girl, Howard the Duck, Guardians of the Galaxy, She-Hulk, FF, Hellcat, Vision, All-New Hawkeye (of course), and numerous others - yes, I know these titles existed prior to their run but Hawkeye showed a new angle and approach to superhero comics they didn’t use before. Street-level characters often overlooked and barely known to readers given a shot in the arm by finding the humour in their underdog charm and freedom to reinvent themselves as (somewhat) relatable to ordinary people. 

Nick Spencer and Steve Lieber’s Superior Foes of Spider-Man was probably the closest thing to a clone of Fraction/Aja’s Hawkeye. Superior Foes mimicked the visuals, tone, and storytelling approach of Hawkeye to a T and, in its short three-volume run (it was never intended to be an ongoing), did well because of it. 

Take away the powers and the father/daughter angle and Nick Spencer’s Ant-Man is a new Fraction Hawkeye book in all but name - until about halfway through. Spencer writes Scott Lang’s voice as identical to Clint Barton’s wise-cracking, down-on-his-luck schlub who gets laughed at by everyone for being a lame hero. 

What Spencer does after the halfway point though is turn this into another version of Superior Foes with Scott in the Boomerang role and a couple of Z-list villains in tow (a guy in a Grizzly outfit and another who eats AA batteries) as his compadres who have to break into a bad guy’s lab - the new Beetle even cameos at the Stark interview! It’s surprising how blatant a copy it is! 

All of which is to the good. I loved Fraction/Aja’s Hawkeye and enjoyed Spencer’s Superior Foes. Sure it’s derivative but Spencer - or anyone - channelling those titles is very welcome to this reader. The story itself though is a bit boring to me. Scott wanting to be a good dad and setting up a security business? Ehhh... 

Maybe it’s because I don’t have kids that I didn’t really give a fig whether he and Cassie got along, but that whole “doing right by his kid” stuff just felt corny. It’s a big part not to like though and more often than not I found myself reading something else after just a few pages of this one - Spencer just couldn’t hook me (though I eventually finished it). 

Otherwise Second-Chance Man is a strong first new outing for Ant-Man. Great art from Ramon Rosanas, inventive use of Ant-Man’s powers (both as a struggling single dad and a superhero), good sense of humour, and the story has some moments throughout. It just doesn’t have a very compelling storyline to hold my attention for long. 

Hey, at least it’s not Eric O’Grady Ant-Man, right?

Ant-Man, Volume 1: Second-Chance Man

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