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Thursday, February 15, 2007

It's Craaazy, Redux: Earth's Mightiest Heroes

This may not be a shock to anyone, but I love Modern Age revisitations of older comics. It's not that I don't enjoy the originals, of course, but often I think that the stylistic elements of the time occasionally tend to make certain stories less emotionally resonant than they might be. Or there are throwaway ideas that I think are just so weird and warped that they could be a lot of fun with a second look, through the lens of modern perspective.

So imagine my glee when someone clued me in on the fact that "Earth's Mightiest Heroes" was retelling/modernizing/adapting/whatever Hank and Janet Pym's wedding.

(caution for spoilers for Earth's Mightiest Heroes #6)

Sometimes It's Fun to Think About It Now the original story was a cracked out, insane spectacle. You have some jerk of a guy show up, claim he killed Hank Pym, kidnap Janet Van Dyne, who later decides to MARRY him in a huge spectacle while the other Avengers look on in horror. Ultimately it's revealed that Yellowjacket (the aforementioned jerk) IS Hank Pym, and Janet gloats about having bound him to her legally.

How do you top that?

By making everyone on Earth, or more accurately everyone on the Avengers plus Jarvis, Nick Fury, and some psychiatrist helping out the Vision, recognize Yellowjacket as Hank Pym right away.

I mean, it makes perfect sense. By this point, Yellowjacket had been Hank's fourth costumed identity. If they could recognize him in the quite different costumes (and sizes) of the Ant-Man, Giant-Man and Goliath, why wouldn't they recognize him in the Yellowjacket costume?

Where the original story goes for surprise, this story bypasses that entirely. Everyone knows that Hank Pym marries Janet Van Dyne. And pretty much everyone who follows the Avengers knows about the Yellowjacket mess, heck, he's using that identity again now! Instead we get the story of how the Avengers try to deal with the fact that their chairman just showed up one day in a new costume (which wasn't really a new thing) and claiming that he'd murdered Hank Pym (which admittedly was a new thing.)

Jarvis's reaction in particular is priceless.

So they've all been advised not to tell him, for fear that it could cause a deeper mental break, so they're trying to play along for now while they figure out what to do about their crazy, crazy chairman.

This series goes a long way toward redeeming Janet, actually. She's not seizing on the opportunity of netting him into marriage, she's staging an event in a last ditch effort to snap him out of it. The marriage isn't real, the priest is really a SHIELD operative.

I'll admit, if this is supposed to be canon, (I'm still a bit confused about that, especially with Marvel), it goes a long way in making me sympathetic to Janet. In real life, a victim is a victim of course. But since it isn't real, as a reader, it was really hard to give much of the moral high ground to a woman who would entrap her lover during a genuine psychotic break and GLOAT about it afterwards.

Instead, this is a woman who's trying to play along to help her crazy, crazy boyfriend, while watching him verbally express tremendous amounts of self-hatred and scorn, worried that she might never get the real him back.

It's also, in a weird way, going a long way I think toward redeeming Hank himself. The abusive label was always, in my opinion, unfair. At least in the 616 universe, as he was clearly not in his right mind when the single hit happened and Janet left INSTANTLY after that. (I think the retconned idea of ongoing abuse actually does HER more of a disservice than it does him. While anyone can have their will beaten down, Janet's got a very powerful sense of self and has since the her introduction. Janet knows what she wants and reaches for it, but she also knew well enough to get out that moment Hank crossed the line. That's a tremendous amount of strength that not everyone possesses and I rather resent the later writers who've latched onto the domestic abuse angle for taking this away from her)

But as the domestic abuser label seems here to stay, this story goes a long way in adding a sympathetic element. Both the stories in the Ant-Man compilation and this one include reference to psychotic breaks, but they're very casual and never examined very closely. In the Ant-Man stories, a side reference is made to a period of disorientation and memory loss after the murder of his first wife, Maria. (Who really doesn't look anything like Janet, except for being both female, for the record), but it's not really revisited. The Yellowjacket thing was pretty quickly dismissed for quite a long time, until long after the fact.

This story takes the same premise, but makes it much more obvious that it's a serious mental break. For all the comedy inherent in the reactions, the characters are actually taking it seriously. The addition of the mental health professional legitimizes the break as a genuine mental illness.

I'm not saying of course that a history of mental illness excuses abuse, of course. But it gives him a little more room for believable redemption. If he's sick, then, he's got a chance to become better. He appears to be seeing a shrink, (as of She-Hulk), taking medication and making a genuine effort to gain mental stability.

And he was cool in Beyond!. I liked Beyond! a lot. He has labs in his pocket. That's just awesome.

(I admit, I was a bit annoyed though that they took out his apology after kissing her at the hideaway, as that was a pretty important moment in the original story. I guess though that Janet's "Okay, I get it now" reaction was more important. Still, it's annoying. At least he looked appropriately stunned.)

So yeah. I like this one. I want to read more modernized old adventures.

And I REALLY want Creature in the Velvet Cage. It's my dream project! It'd be fun!


  • At February 15, 2007 7:59 AM, Blogger Rich said…

    Hank and Janet are two of my favorite characters, and I agree that the retconning into their history of ongoing abuse does a disservice to both of them. I loved the original wedding - 'cracked out' descibes it perfectly! - and it kind of makes sense that everyone else knew Hank was YJ all along.

    So...if the priest is a SHIELD agent, does that mean it wasn't legal?!?!

  • At February 15, 2007 8:25 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    It ends on a cliffhanger. But my guess is once he's sane they'll have a legal marriage.

    Honestly, I like it better that this version isn't legal. That way we get to see him marry her in his right mind, darnit. :-)

  • At February 15, 2007 10:08 AM, Blogger SallyP said…

    Well dip me in honey, this actually sounds pretty good! Hank isn't my favorite character, but I'm starting to feel a little sorry for the poor guy.

    I did love Ben's comment about the free food though. Heh.

  • At February 15, 2007 11:04 AM, Anonymous Dan Coyle said…

    Man, I wasn't too interested in the original Earth's Mightiest Heroes but I think this will be worth checking out in trade.

    Kalinara, about a decade ago Marvel had a short-lived Remix line dedicated to modern age takes on old Marvel stories. There are three projects I know of:

    Fantastic Four: Fireworks, about the first meeting between the FF and the Inhumans, by Gerard Jones and Jeff Johnson.

    Silver Surfer: Loftier Than Mortals, about the time Dr. Doom stole Silver Surfer's power cosmic and his experiences in Latveria, by Michael Jan Friedman and Sal Velluto.

    Spider-Man Vs. Punisher, a retelling of the Punisher's first apperance in Amazing Spider-Man from mostly the Punisher's POV, by Joseph Harris and Michael Lopez.

    So you might want to check those out, but the third one is pretty awful IMO.

  • At February 15, 2007 2:49 PM, Anonymous green with wheelpower said…

    The first one is also redone in the cartoon in the 3-part "The Inhuman Saga" thats a fun arc :)

    Kalinara you would post this wright after I scaned X-MEN 9 to you (sigh) I gotta read it though, just to see Fury in a wedding:)

  • At February 15, 2007 6:24 PM, Anonymous David Lawson said…

    If you want to get technical, marriage is a contract. So even if the priest was legit, Hank's not being of sound mind would invalidate said contract. And I would imagine that even if he snapped out of it before saying, "I do," that he would be well-advised to take a break before making any type of commitment.

  • At November 28, 2011 2:12 AM, Anonymous said…

    It can't work as a matter of fact, that is what I consider.


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