Starting with Tales to Astonish #35 this comic book basically becomes Ant Man with a few other back up stories in it. The last time we encountered Henry “Hank” Pym in Tales to Astonish #27 he invented a formula that allowed him to shrink to the size of an ant. He also had a serum to allow him to grow back to normal size. His adventure remained confined to his backyard but it was enough for him to decide he should destroy his formula lest it end up in the wrong hands.
Well, here is the thing about Henry Pym – he’s a bit wishy-washy. In order for his story to continue he has to decide to make the formula again, this time deciding his discovery is too important to be forgotten entirely. He plans to keep the formulas locked in his safe where no one can get to them.
The issue and the idea of Ant-man takes a lot of suspension of disbelief to pull off but then again these comics are made for escapism so we’re already predisposed to just go with the flow here.
Hank develops a formula and locks it up before it can fall into the wrong hands. (Seriously Henry, do you think this is a good formula or a bad one??) He then invents his famous cybernetic helmet that allows him to communicate with ants. This is a major development in his suit and his capabilities. Having ants at your beck and call is more useful than one would expect and they are an abundant resource so they are not usually far away.
Soon after this, the government tasks Henry with inventing a gas “to make people immune to radioactivity.” A few weeks later, some cold war thugs try to steal the formula for this gas. I’m not sure why they wouldn’t have waited for it to be completely invented and then steal it but that’s not what they do. These guys are not very sharp because they leave Henry alone and search his lab for notes on the formula. They do tie his assistants up though. This of course gives Henry time to put on his new Ant Man suit and helmet. He also uses a rubber band stretched across an ashtray to catapult himself out of his office and is able to sneak into where his lab assistants are. With the help of some ants that Henry is able to control through his helmet, he gets the better of these criminals. He uses honey ants to jamb a gun, uses a different group of ants to chew through the bonds of his assistants and uses a host of ants to attack the criminals. The day is won and Henry is able to sneak back to his lab without his assistants ever knowing how he helped them.
There are a few notable things in this issue. One, we see that the cold war continues and this backdrop provides inspiration for literally hundreds of stories in the 616 universe. The cybernetic helmet is also hugely significant. This is often times the true power of what Hank Pym can do. Another notable bit about this story is the costume Henry wears. We find out it is made out of “unstable molecules” that adjust with his size. If the “unstable molecules” thing rings a bell it should. This is the same thing they say allows The Fantastic Four to use their powers with their costumes. This establishes at least the possibility that Hank Pym is aware of and has possibly worked with the one and only Reed Richards. It’s small connections like these which build a connected universe.
At the end of the issue Henry Pym wonders if he will “ever be forced to become the Ant-Man again?” The question is immediately answered with the announcement that he will in the next issue of Tales to Astonish.
Other than the Ant-Man story there are two really forgettable stories and a prose selection. These do not count in the Marvel 616 continuity and are only significant because they appear in the same issue as the second appearance of Ant-Man.
Next on our reading list, things are about to get serious as certain god of mischief is about to give our good friend Thor some trouble in Journey into Mystery #85!