As a kid reading comics, I was always drawn to the stories of the Silver Age. They have such an innocence to them, uninhibited by the wider universe or darker edge later stories would bring. They simply exist to be entertaining displays of wild unfiltered creativity, in a lot of ways I consider them to be comics in their purest form. Ant-Man was one of those characters from this era that I was drawn to and he’s one of the first characters I think of when I think of the Silver Age. He’s very indicative of that time period with super science, mobster villains and goofy powers that can get around any problem. It’s now been 60 years since Ant-Man first sprung onto the scene in those original stories and Marvel has decided to celebrate with a new mini-series, and not just any mini-series. A mini with some of the best talent working in the industry today. Ant-Man #1 is written by Al Ewing with art by Tom Reilly, colours by Jordie Bellaire and letters by VC’s Corey Petit. An absolute powerhouse of a creative force. I was so excited to read the issue and totally thrilled to discover that it’s a wonderfully faithful Silver Age throwback.
This mini focuses on the three men who have been Ant-Man over his 60-year history, Hank Pym, Scott Lang and Eric O’Grady. This first issue follows Hank, but it also establishes an interesting framing device with an Ant-Man from the future who will presumably tie these characters together. So it gives this series an excuse to hop around to different eras of Ant-Man’s history, with this first issue set in the 60s. The story follows Hank and Janet (The Wasp) as they go out to see a movie, only to be interrupted by a cavalcade of supervillains. Each of these villains is pulled from an existing Ant-Man comic of the era that has since been ignored and discarded. Ewing is known for diving deep into a character’s history and picking up and developing pieces that have yet to be expanded upon. This issue here is a perfect example of that, as it ties together different characters who only appeared in standalone issues. It gives the world of Ant-Man more of a connective tissue that feels totally in line with the stories of that era and allows it to act as a sequel to several classic Ant-Man stories.
This is a loving celebration of those old comics. Many stories that emulate the Silver Age often have a snarky winking quality, they want to acknowledge that yes these stories are silly and make no sense. They can often feel like they are mocking or parodying the era they are harkening back to, with a notion that things have gotten a lot better and more sophisticated, but not so with Ant-Man. This is an achingly sincere comic that is head over heels in love with the stylings of this era. There are no in-jokes about how dumb it all is, it’s played straight and the creative team believes in the reality of the story. The authenticity to that era of Marvel comics is so wonderfully realized by everyone in the creative team. Ewing structures and paces it like one of those old issues. When Ant-Man is kidnapped he’s not taken to an evil supervillain lair, he’s taken to some random building in New York just like a Silver Age villain would. Each character has a distinctive old-timey voice, which is more difficult to pull off than you would think. Many writers who try to emulate the dialogue of the time can slip into parody but Ewing gives every word a great amount of care and believability.
Tom Reilly’s art and Jordie Bellaire’s colours likewise perfectly match Ewing’s sensibilities. Bright colours, clear posing and simple panel layouts all help to sell the issue’s aesthetic. Backgrounds are given simple strong colours and cityscapes are stripped back to blocks and simple shapes, just like the art of the era. This attention to detail even features outside the panels with the pages styled to emulate the paper stock of old Marvel comics. It doesn’t look like a Silver Age issue but it does look like what you remember a Silver Age issue to look like. The whole issue reads just like something out of the classic Tales to Astonish books. In fact, at the end of the issue, there are recommended issues that the story harkens back to and references. I’m convinced that if you read those and then read this it would feel like a natural and logical continuation. This is a comic that LOVES Hank Pym and it just makes it such a joy to read.
Comics will often have issues like this where they try to recreate a certain era of a character. These are often fun but can feel a bit perfunctory or disposable. Here however the creative team creates a story that is a genuine celebration of this Ant-Man. It’s an incredibly accessible first issue that I can recommend to anyone and if you’re an Ant-Man fan this is just a dream come true. I can’t wait to see what the rest of this series will bring because this is an incredibly strong start.
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[…] Last month I had the privilege of reviewing the first issue of Al Ewing and Tom Reilly’s Ant-Man, a miniseries designed to celebrate 60 years of Marvel’s pint-sized hero. That first issue was one of the most confident debuts I had seen in a good while and a perfect distillation of the style and tone of Silver Age comic books. This month, the story marches forward with the second issue focusing on another iteration of Ant-Man; Eric O’Grady. […]
[…] his sixtieth anniversary Ant-Man miniseries last year, it only makes sense that Al Ewing would return to write another one for the […]