The Irredeemable Ant-Man Vol. 1: Low-Life (Marvel Comics)

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antheaderThe new Ant-Man, Eric O'Grady, is an unmitigated prick. Why, then, are his misadventures such a gas to read?

 

 

144 pgs. FC; $9.99

(W: Robert Kirkman; P: Phil Hester; I: Ande Parks)

 

The cover to Ant-Man #1 by Phil Hester & Ande Parks. Click thumbnail for a larger image.Superheroes, for the most part, fall into three basic categories. First, there are the likeable heroes, boy scout-types whose never-ending battle for truth and justice is their main draw, your Supermans and your Captain Americas. Then there are identifiable heroes, not-so-perfect characters who are appealing in spite of their flaws because they're "just like us," like ultimate everyman hero Spider-Man. Lastly, the anti-heroes are the rebellious, ends-justifies-the-means types, a la Wolverine or Punisher.

 

Eric O'Grady, a.k.a. the Irredeemable Ant-Man, is none of these. As a low-level operative in the Marvel Universe's government boogeyman organization SHIELD, O'Grady works neither hard nor particularly well at keeping the Free World safe. Instead, he tries to steal his best friend Chris' girlfriend, telling her that Chris is cheating on her. Because of some of Eric's shenanigans, Chris ends up "accidentally" stealing a prototype Ant-Man suit (created by former Ant-Man Hank Pym), but when Chris ends up at the business end of a HYDRA laser blast, Eric does what any grief-stricken friend would do: he steals the suit off his friend's corpse, then uses it to pick up girls and spy on the showers in the SHIELD women's quarters.

 

The cover to Ant-Man #2 by Phil Hester & Ande Parks. Click thumbnail for a larger image.Not especially "heroic," is he? And this only scratches the surface of the kind of degenerate behavior Eric exhibits in this first volume (just wait until you see what he does at Chris' gravesite - whatever you're thinking, this is probably worse). The lead character in Irredeemable Ant-Man is an unmitigated prick. Who would have thought, then, that reading about him would be such a gas?

 

It seems impossible, but in the able hands of writer Robert Kirkman, it is most definitely a reality. Kirkman's Invincible series (with artists Corey Walker and, later, Ryan Ottley) is easily one of the best things to happen to superhero comics in the last 5 years. But where Invincible is simply a traditional superhero epic done right, ­Ant-Man is the superhero turned on its ear, starring a guy who's barely super and not a hero by any traditional definition of the word. What keeps readers blazing through this first volume's pages isn't the superhero battles, it's the witty, often hilarious dialogue, and the increasingly insane situations Eric causes by his own repulsive behavior. Letterer Rus Wooton also deserves special consideration for his work on the series; Kirkman packs the words onto nearly every panel of every page, but Wooton's flawless balloon placement keep the snappy back-and-forth flowing smoothly so the reader can keep moving through the book at a fast clip. Lettering is at its best when its invisible to the reader, letting them get entrapped by the story and art, and Wooton accomplishes just that here..

 

The cover to Ant-Man #4 by Phil Hester & Ande Parks. Click thumbnail for a larger image.Speaking of art, Phil Hester and Ande Parks, the team behind Kevin Smith's 2000 relaunch of Green Arrow, are no slouches in that department, either. The pair's artwork on Ant-Man isn't particularly showy, but that's to its benefit: it's clean and mildly cartoon-y, yet Hester's angular design style give the book a unique flavor that makes it obvious without reading a word that Ant-Man is quite unlike any other book on the stands. Story-wise, the book is quite dense, but Hester's layouts remain clean and easy-to-read, at times echoing the crisp, classic storytelling of classic Spider-Man artist (and current Amazing Spider-Girl artist) Ron Frenz.

 

The emphasis on relentless plot development, clear storytelling, and larger-than-life characters makes the book seem like it'd be far more at home in the Marvel glory days of the early 1980s than the grim landscape of the MU post-Civil War. This may explain, then, why the book has had such trouble finding an audience in the current market. Marvel has stated that unless sales of the monthly series improve, or this first digest-sized collection becomes a success, that the book will end with its 12th issue. Being, hands-down, one of the finest (and funniest) books in Marvel's entire publishing line, this would be an absolute crime. I implore you to hunt down a copy of Irredeemable Ant-Man Vol. 1 and maybe, just maybe, Eric O'Grady can wreak his unique brand of havoc on the Marvel Universe for many more months to come. | Jason Green

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