Ant-Man Annual #1

The thirty-page "Ant-Man Annual" #1 gives readers plenty of size-changing adventure as writer Nick Spencer takes a look back at the last adventure Hank Pym and Scott Lang shared. That escapade involved an item Hank left behind in the Ant-Man helmet and one of Pym's oldest, most persistent foes.

The art chores are split between Ramon Rosanas, who handles the present day portion of this tale (which is equivalent to an extended framing sequence) and Brent Schoonover, who draws the middle two-thirds of the tale, leading up to and including Pym's appearance. The two artists' styles are wonderfully compatible, giving readers a subtle nudge when the shift happens but not disrupting the flow of their collaboration with Spencer.

Rosanas provides a few tight glimpses into the past, including some near-iconic images of Pym, Janet (Wasp) Van Dyne, Lang and even Ultron. The first flashback image, when Lang learns the news of Pym's apparent demise, begs to be enlarged and repurposed as it provides one succinct image that spans Pym's heroic experience. Schoonover's work is equally brilliant, as the adventure with Lang affords him a chance to draw not only Ant-Man and Giant-Man, but a handful of classic Avengers in action as well.

Justin Boyd's colors are the ratchet that tightens the artistic bolts of the issue. He doesn't shake the palette up between past and present, choosing to let letterer Travis Lanham lead the way. The colors, however, are bold and strong, heroically ideal and ideally heroic. The red and blue/black of Ant-Man and Giant-Man's uniforms emerge from the panel backgrounds and, when Wasp shows up, she virtually glows.

Visually, this comic is similar to Chris Samnee and Matthew Wilson's work on "Daredevil," while the writing is more lighthearted than the misadventures of Matt Murdock's alter ego. Spencer has used humor throughout his work with Scott Lang. Machinesmith complaining about stale batteries and Griz demanding a Bears game in Miami showcase the humanity of Lang's supporting cast, but also gives the reader a chance to chuckle, even if it's just nervous laughter to mask how closely Spencer's characters hit home.

In the first ever "Ant-Man Annual" #1, writer Nick Spencer does what Annuals were designed to do: tell an oversized story that has additional story potential and entertains the whole way through. This issue makes reference to the soon-to-conclude current volume of "Ant-Man" and also points readers towards the original graphic novel "Avengers: Rage of Ultron" without spoiling either and still applying the effects of each to the story here. Neither tale is necessary to appreciate this, but Spencer realizes the value in keeping connective tissue connected. With Ant-Man about to take over the spotlight cinematically, this comic is hitting at just the right time and provides plenty of pathways to explore in the near (and possibly distant) future, as Scott Lang continues to try to live up to the example set by Hank Pym.

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