Following his sixtieth anniversary Ant-Man miniseries last year, it only makes sense that Al Ewing would return to write another one for the sixtieth anniversary of his partner-in-crime-fighting, the Wasp.
Much like how the Ant-Man mini focused on the different generations of Ant-Men, Wasp is both about the original Wasp (Janet Van Dyne) and the new one (Nadia Van Dyne). Ewing cleverly uses existing continuity to strengthen the connections between these characters, specifically utilizing multiple flashbacks to the events of 1963’s Tales to Astonish #44. This issue is notable not only for introducing Janet, but also revealing that Hank Pym originally had a wife named Maria. Maria is kidnapped and unceremoniously murdered off-panel in Tales to Astonish #44, but The Unstoppable Wasp later retconned that she was actually Nadia’s biological mother, further making the Pym family tree one of the most convoluted ones in comics. To put it simply, the origins of both Wasps can be traced back to a single issue, but no one has emphasized that until now. Maria Pym isn’t the only parent to die in Tales to Astonish #44, as Janet’s decision to become the Wasp is spurred by her father being killed by the extraterrestrial “Creature of Kosmos”.
In the present, Nadia wants to avenge the unresolved murder of her parent, and it just goes to show how brilliant Ewing is in the way he treats decades of continuity. Rather than viewing it as a monolithic thing that can only either restrict stories or be ignored, he playfully uses it as an additive element and clicks moments in Marvel history together like LEGO bricks. You don’t even have to read the original issues that Ewing is referencing to enjoy his comics: all of the critical components of what he’s working with are transplanted directly into his writing.
Ewing’s recontextualization of the events of Tales to Astonish #44 is greatly helped by Kasia Nie’s art and KJ Díaz’s coloring. In the flashback scenes, they take inspiration from Jack Kirby’s art in the original issue, but they rarely try to copy it. Instead, repeated scenes are viewed from new angles with previously unseen details thrown in. For example, Vernon van Dyne’s lab is noticeably messier in Wasp #1, as if to suggest that Janet is more likely to notice the small ways that her father’s work demanded his attention than Hank would. Also, the “Creature from Kosmos” is restored to the eldritch horror that it was originally described as in Tales to Astonish. While Kirby’s monster may have been suitably scary for young readers in the Sixties, it admittedly looks a bit silly now. However, Nie makes subtle little changes to the design that make it horrifying again, such as tiny needle-like teeth and holes reminiscent of rotting flesh. When this makeover is combined with the sinister way the creature speaks, it feels like something straight out of Ewing’s Immortal Hulk.
Wasp #1 is a fun little comic that simultaneously looks to the past and future to explore the intertwined destinies of two heroines. I’d highly recommend picking it up and seeing what the buzz is about.