Saturday, July 13, 2024

‘Wasp’ #1 Review: Silver Age Villains Were Weird, Ok?

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2023 marks the 60 year anniversary of Tales to Astonish #44, where Janet Van Dyne a.k.a The Wasp made her debut. Since then, she named the Avengers, wore many many costumes, and adopted her step-daughter. She has never, however, had a solo title under her name. Until now!

The four issues solicited for the first ever adjectiveless Wasp title will follow both of the Van Dyne women through a new story with flashbacks to continuity. Unlike Al Ewings recent Ant man series where each issue was focused on a single person who had held the mantle, this story intertwines the two Wasps from the start. I love both Wasps greatly but part of me does wish that Janet did get her solo time to shine when Nadia has had two solo books but the two characters are so enmeshed in each other that a Wasp book without both makes little sense.

Wasp #1 flashback

We open with a flashback, way back. Janet’s first story arc in which she becomes Wasp after her father mysteriously dies in his laboratory is also where she meets Hank Pym and where we learn of Hank’s first wife, Maria Trovaya. Back in the present day we find Janet with Edwin Jarvis in the newly renovated bar located in Avengers HQ where she is struggling to find a name for this new business enterprise. There are several references to “avenging” in the flashback and we are reminded that Jan named the Avengers with this interlude with Jarvis. 

When Janet leaves to meet Nadia for lunch we get a look into the current superhero politics under Mayor Luke Cage and Jan reports her flight across town lest anyone think that she is on active duty. As she flies into GIRL headquarters we see a familiar antagonist Fantasma spying on her and reporting that she has arrived. Nadia tells Janet that she is looking into information on her biological mother and family (hacking into government data to do so) and that both Maria Trovaya and Maria’s father Janos were both killed the same day and never avenged. 

Jan and Nadia from Wasp #1

The Van Dynes are interrupted by Whirlwind who has updated the saw blades of his costume to be tipped with acid. While Nadia formulates a plan, Janet keeps Whirlwind occupied and startles herself when she threatens him with harm and actually means it. The two take him down and ask who he is working for, revealing that he has “Find me” branded onto his forehead. We then cut to Fantasma reporting back to a man who claims to be Janos Trovaya, but on the last page it is revealed he is a puppet for the Creature of the Kosmos.

It’s obviously no secret that I love both Van Dyne women and any book featuring one or both of them will automatically be a read for me. When this series was first announced, though, I really wondered how Al Ewing was going to tackle it. Whirlwind is the closest thing that Janet has to a rogue and Nadia has been mostly a team player outside of her solos. As always, the mad lad Ewing brings in something out of left field. Nadia’s biological family has been somewhat of a dangling plot thread since her introduction, waiting for the right person to pick it up and do something with that story. Tying the two Wasps together with the Creature of the Kosmos (Silver age villains were weird, ok?) gives this book a through line that I would not have expected. 

Janet hugs Nadia in Wasp #1

While it is maybe a bit heavy handed with the repeated mentions of “avenging” I appreciate that this book forcibly reminds the reader that Janet IS the Avengers. To use her own words “I’ve been here since the start sweetie, worry about yourself”. Janet is tied to the name and title of Avenger from her first story where she avenges her father to this issue where she pledges to help Nadia do the same for her mother and grandfather. The flashbacks cement the story into Wasp canon while also retroactively giving Jan a bit more agency in those stories. I don’t think anyone will disagree that Stan Lee was not always the best at writing strong female characters but I noticed the same thing with Al Ewing’s Ant Man series, that he gave Janet a few lines here and there that just really changed her voice in those early stories. 

I also love that the past few years have established Edwin Jarvis as a very Wasp-centered character. Janet and Jarvis have known each other for a very long time considering he had been the Avengers butler from the start and it is great to see that their friendship is not just a professional one. I loved in Unstoppable Wasp where Jarvis mentions to Nadia that he watched her father Hank struggle with his Bipolar Disorder for years and that her going to therapy and taking medication made him proud. We can see here that they have remained close and that closeness with both Wasps is a great character beat for Jarvis. 

If you’re not a Wasp fan (why not?) this series is easy and fun to jump into. Kasia Nie is not an artist I’m familiar with but I am obsessed with the art so far. It feels in character with Janet’s moniker The Winsome Wasp. Flashbacks to a more retro art and coloring style in the middle of modern books is always something I enjoy and here is no exception. If you are a Wasp fan this series so far is a treat and certainly one we have been waiting for for a long time.

Images via Marvel Comics

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