For a book telling a story that only required one issue the first time (or seven pages in the hands of Ralph Macchio and Walt Simonson as in the story from "Avengers" #300 reprinted in this week's "Avengers Prime" #1), "Avengers: The Origin" is managing to find plenty of interesting points to draw out and focus upon. The latest issue, though, doesn't have quite as many as previous issues, but it does have Joe Casey showing that if Marvel wants to bring back Hank Pym as Ant-Man, he is the man to tackle that book.
With Thor off to Asgard to track down Loki, the not-quite-yet-Avengers are just Iron Man, Wasp, and Ant-Man, with Ant-Man using Stark technology to boost his powers of communication with ants. Those scenes present an interesting side to Pym as Casey explores the idea of what communicating with ants would be like in a little more depth than we're used to seeing. His depiction of Pym and Wasp in these early pre-spousal abuse days is actually pretty fun and allows Casey to show a side of the characters that just isn't possible anymore, for better or worse.
Despite his strong work on those characters, the rest of the issue isn't as strong. The scenes with the Hulk in the circus are done very low key and subdued, which works, but doesn't really play up the absurdity of the situation as you'd expect. Instead, Casey relies on artist Phil Noto to get across the Hulk posing as a robot. Even then, those scenes fall mostly flat.
Noto continues to knock this book out of the park. My favorite page of his is the splash of the futuristic Asgard. It has that right mix of older characteristics in the design, but a very technological-based sheen to it. It's very much a Kirby sort of idea and an interesting take on the location. I only wish we were able to see more of Noto's Asgard (someone at Marvel make that happen, please!).
Throughout the rest of the issue, Noto's work is strong as he handles all of the characters well. His Hulk looks tired and annoyed all of the time. He really gets across the idea that the Hulk just wants to be left alone through his facial expressions and body language. You can't help but feel sorry for him. A close-up panel of his face while acting the part of the robot in the circus is heartbreaking.
Some may consider books like "Avengers: The Origin" a waste of time, paper, and talent, but Joe Casey and Phil Noto bring a strong level of craft to the material and manage to introduce a few moments that make it rise above the 'expanding on a story everyone knows' level. Casey's Ant-Man or Noto's Asgard are great things that wouldn't happen were it not for this project. I can't wait to see what other intriguing or stunning moments that come out of the two remaining issues.