SPOILER WARNING: Major spoilers ahead for Marvel’s Infinity Countdown and Tony Stark: Iron Man #4, on sale now.
Romance is something you’ll always find permeating your favorite comic books. In the Marvel Universe, it’s established relationships like Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson, or budding ones like Thor and She-Hulk. There’s always something juicy and, at times, controversial to talk about.
Tony Stark’s latest relationship falls into the latter category for a couple reasons. He’s now publicly dating Janet van Dyne, the Wasp, in Tony Stark: Iron Man #4, which could be a bit shocking for fans accustomed to seeing him on the arm of Pepper Potts. Apart from reader judgements, and those of his Avengers teammates, there’s a potentially bigger problem lingering with this romance, as it could turn an ex-member of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes into a villain for good: Janet’s ex-husband, Hank Pym.
Hank had quite a storied career, whether as Yellowjacket, Ant-Man or Giant-Man. His domestic troubles with Janet are well-documented, but he has tried time and time again to redeem himself, which is why this new romance could feel like a knife through the heart from Janet, and one in the back from Stark.
In 1982’s Avengers #224, Hank was in prison, trying to mend his wicked ways. He was still obsessed with Janet and hated the idea that she had embarked on a romance with Stark. Hank despised seeing the usually arrogant Stark beloved in the public eye as Iron Man. Simply put, he was jealous of Stark’s success. The fact that Janet was drawn to him ticked Hank off despite her quickly ending the relationship, as she didn’t want to be with Hank’s ex-teammate. She felt it could cause friction, which Captain America even warned Stark about.
Over the years, Hank seemed to move past this. He matured, managing to rekindle on-again, off-again romances with Janet. But being the father of Ultron and momentarily replaced by Skrulls in Secret Invasion, well, let’s just say matters always got complicated for Hank. Janet died in Secret Invasion, only to later return from the Microverse, but as time elapsed they found their relationship couldn’t be salvaged. Hank struggled to accept this and, after merging with Ultron, it seemed like all hope was lost for him. In Secret Empire, he tried to unite warring Avengers, but at that point you could tell Hank was dead and the robotic side of him was in control.
Jump to the present, and in Infinity Countdown #5 we saw the uncorrupted half of his soul in the Soul Gem that Ultron tried to weaponize, deluded and thinking he could make his way back to Earth. In his hallucination, he succeeded. His first act was to proclamation his love for Janet, kissing her. It was highly apparent then and there that she was his tether to humanity. Sadly, Hank’s soul was on the verge of being eaten by Devondra (the monster within the gem) after his robot hybrid form died thanks to Silver Surfer and Galactus. Now, we don’t know if Hank was indeed devoured, but it’s comics, so it’s not a matter of if but when he’ll return.
Whether it’s via another Ultron bot or his soul escaping the Stone, Hank will find his way back to the real world. Seeing as he has lost the love of his life, though, there’s no reason for him to be a hero anymore. This could result in him embracing Ultron’s philosophy permanently, believing mankind (through Jan and Stark’s actions) cannot be trusted.
It’s a selfish, entitled and egotistical mentality but these are traits Hank has displayed in the past. Ultron has objectified mankind repeatedly, viewing them as a virus to be wiped out. Now, this personal blow might see Hank aligning with him for good. Losing Janet to Stark like this isn’t just the ultimate rejection, it’s also something he might misconstrue as the ultimate betrayal from both parties.
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