“Astonishing Ant-Man” #1 is a fun, entertaining superhero comic book that engages in the type of story that made Marvel a powerhouse in the industry. Scott Lang — a man with fantastical powers trying to juggle real-world problems with the fantastic — is a modern-era Peter Parker, struggling to keep his head above water while waiting for his luck to finally break his way. Nick Spencer and Ramon Rosanas, picking up their plot threads from the previous volume of the series, deliver a bright, funny installment that reestablishes the status quo for returning fans while showing new readers the lay of the land.
The grounding of the action is what sets “Astonishing Ant-Man” apart; Spencer fills the pages with forgotten lowlifes like Grizzly, Machinesmith and Whirlwind. The former two, now under the employ of Lang’s Miami security agency, pull laughs from their characters’ games rather than at the expense of the characters themselves. The writer utilizes the entire cast to keep the action moving forward rather than stopping to deliver talking head punchlines, an important element of keeping the action-comedy balance. Lang, a reactionary character in the issue, faces the challenges thrown at him as best he can, which is to say not very well. Spencer uses this first issue as a good base for the cliffhanger that teases readers.
Rosanas’ clean and bright style is perfect for the setting of “Astonishing Ant-Man.” His facial expressions really drive home the characters’ emotions, from the contemplative opening page of the issue to the hilarious joy on Augustine Cross’ face as he excitedly chirps for his back-from-the-dead “Daddy!” Since much of the issue establishes setting and scenario for the rest of “Astonishing Ant-Man,” the artist doesn’t really cut loose on big splash images or page-breaking panel layouts. Though it’s not flashy, the work is effective, doubling up punchlines like the results of Power Broker’s “Hench” app, an incredibly clever idea worth exploring in the greater Marvel Universe. Jordan Boyd uses the color palette to accentuate the plot of the issue, guiding readers down a slope from bright colors to darker grays and muted tones as the story winds down from the outdoor Miami sun to the gloom of Ant-Man’s beatdown at the hands of Whirlwind.
From the cover and the solicitation, it sounds like Spencer will be reprising some of the vibe from his irreverent hit “Superior Foes of Spider-Man.” This issue plants those seeds and the ending certainly entices fans to stick around to see how Scott Lang ends up where he does. Cassie Lang, Scott’s teenage daughter, has done an about-face in regards to her feelings about her father since the last series, heightening the stakes of his sacrifices.
The book reads like a breeze and is an excellent jumping-on point. It’s a mission statement wrapped in a sequential story and, in that regard, it’s very successful. Spencer has found a nice niche as the comedy guy with lower-tier characters of the Marvel Universe and, with “Astonishing Ant-Man,” the writer is poised to help establish a stronger voice for the newly-minted box office star.