With his daughter’s life on the line, Scott Lang shrinks into action to fight a reanimated Darren Cross, as the first arc of the latest “Ant-Man” series reaches a strong, emotionally resonate conclusion.
Written by Nick Spencer
Illustrated by Roman Rosanas
The explosive first arc finale! There aren’t actually any explosions – but there IS a big showdown with our poorly lit villain, and plenty of heartbreak to go around.
Nothing will be the same again! Except you’re still aging. That’s not going anywhere.
At the end of the previous issue, Scott Lang found himself caught between a rock and hard place. To be more specific, between the floor and the foot of his reanimated arch-nemesis Darren Cross. Fortunately this isn’t the first time some has tried to crush Ant-Man like an… ant, and Scott knows how to get himself out of a jam while quipping the whole time. There’s little time for joking, however, as he soon finds his daughter Cassie strapped to the operating table without a heart. Scott has to fight off Darren Cross and his incredibly needy son while his daughter undergoes a dangerous heart transplant. And his sidekick is still dressed like a grizzly bear.
Marvel should take the first page of this comic and stick it right next to the poster for the “Ant-Man” movie. With one image and seven boxes of dialog, Nick Spencer crafts a near perfect refute to ever one who snickers at the thought of a shrinking superhero with ant in his name. Scott quickly takes charge of the situation without panicking, and uses his powers to take out Cross without breaking a sweat. Ant-Man might have a goofy name and helmet, but he can still save the day and knock the bad guys on their butts.
The big fight between Cross and Lang isn’t over just like that, of course, but Spencer manages to work real character moments into the melee. Lang isn’t just fighting to defeat the bad guy, but to save his daughter who is now just feet away from him. Cross isn’t just a mindless pink Hulk either, but a cunning villain with a weird family dynamic. Augustine Cross has spent the first four issues of this series using assault, kidnapping, child endangerment and good old fashion blackmail to bring his father back from the grave.
The second that the elder Cross is back on his hot pink feet, Augustine drops all visages of being an imposing evil mastermind and turns into a wisp of a person desperate for his father’s approval. Augustine craves the attention of his recently-dead dad that he gets in the way of Cross’s finishing move and gives Lang the minute he needs to regroup and come up with a plan. It’s a fun way for Spencer to subvert traditional bad guy stereotypes, while proving that it’s not only the superheroes who have issues with their parents.
Spencer has infused “Ant-Man” with a great deal of humor, which helps to counteract the whole kidnapping-a-girl-and-stealing-her-heart storyline, and this issue continues this trend. There are fewer on-the-nose moments, give or take a Zoolander reference, and just when it feels like jokes are threatening to overtake the issue, Spencer reigns it in and focuses on the emotional core of the story.
The one area where the ball gets slightly dropped is with Ant-Man’s recently acquired sidekicks. Grizzly and Machinesmith quickly became major players over the past couple issues, as Lang assembles his own team of D-list former Avengers villains. Spencer’s previous work on “The Superior Foes of Spider-Man” proves that he is greatly skilled at balancing quirky characters without turning them into complete laughing stocks. Their brief appearance in this issue is disappointing, especially considering how great the Lang/Grizzly partnership has been. The character themselves even seem to be aware how little of a role they play, but meta-references don’t make for keeping them on the sidelines.
Ramon Rosanas spends a good chunk of this issue drawing a fight between a giant pink monster and a guy wearing an helmet shaped like an ants head, and the whole thing looks great. Despite Cross’ cartoonish appearance, Rosanas manages to infuse each a really sense of power and danger into the character. It looks like it hurts when his fist connects with Lang’s face, which helps to keep the fight from feeling goofy or inappropriately humorous.
The climax of the fight features Lang calling in some reinforcements in the form of his namesake creatures. As the swarm of ants covers Cross in a thick, dark blanket, Rosanas fills the creepy-crawlies with enough detail to make it look like they could crawl off the page. He manages to create a real air of menace around the miniature insects. When you see the way that Rosanas pencils the insects just engulfing Cross, like they are devouring him, the name Ant-Man seems a little less silly.
The emotional peak of the issues features Scott shrinking to microscopic size and entering his daughter’s blood stream to prevent her renegade white blood cells from killing her. Rosanas alternates panels of Lang dissolving the attacking cells with flashbacks to the times that Scott has spent with Cassie. It’s a tender sequence, and he doesn’t rush the images or overcrowd them. Rosanas gives the image space to breath and the emotional moments time to sink in. They are simple moments, and that’s why they are so effective.
“Ant-Man” #5 is the conclusion of the first arc from the creative team of Nick Spencer and Ramon Rosanas, and highlights the main themes of the series. Scott Lang has every indication of being a roguish adventurer, but here he is forced to deal with the consequences of having a family while being a superhero. The team have crafted a story that shows how Scott is stretched between two worlds, and he come to the conclusion that if he doesn’t choose one of them, both will fall apart.
Final Verdict: 8.5 – Nick Spencer’s story is funny and emotionally charged, while Ramon Rosanas art is full of all the detail you’d expect from a pint-sized hero. “Ant-Man” #5 is a great summation every that has made the previous four issues such a joy to read.