Tales To Astonish #67-69
Issue(s): Tales To Astonish #67, Tales To Astonish #68, Tales To Astonish #69
We are wrapping up the Henry Pym run on Tales To Astonish with these issues. We start with a story about an alien who can steal people's abilities with a green ray.
He steals Pym's shrinking ability.
At the end of the issue, Pym doesn't want to reveal to Janet that their adversary was an alien, thinking it's too ridiculous. Henry and Jan have met plenty of aliens before, in this series and the Avengers. I totally get the desire to tell a story where an alien life form is a significant, mysterious thing, but that ship has sailed. So it's a weird ending.
But not as weird as Henry giving Janet a pet bee to ride around on.
Why not a wasp? Because bees are "gentler, smarter, and easier to train than wasps". Janet is lucky that there wasn't a Bee Lady in the Marvel Universe.
Hank has a stamp collection. Just thought i'd mention that.
At the beginning of the next issue, Pym still does not have the ability to shrink.
On top of that, a man flying a plane tries to crash into him.
The man turns out to be the Human Top (the title page says that he's "an almost-forgotten villain" but it's not our fault Stan Lee has a bad memory. Whirlwind last appeared about ten issues ago, and he's got more appearances than any other Ant/Giant-Man villain to date), but Giant-Man passes out trying to save him from falling. The Top doesn't try to finish Pym off while he's unconscious (he considers bashing his brains in with a rock but worries it might only sting him), and just zips away instead thinking how the next meeting will be the last.
With his shrinking power seemingly gone, Hank has been working on trying to strengthen his giant form, but instead he makes himself groggy...
...and he realizes that changing to all different sizes is putting too great a strain on his body. So he's going to stick to 35 feet from now on.
While Pym is recalibrating his helmet for that, Whirlwind is busy lamenting that he can't fly (although i thought we saw him fly in Tales To Astonish #55). It seems his giant onion bulb helmet is holding him back...
...so he switches to something new.
It may look like he just wrapped himself in some netting, but those fibers actually contain helium gas. Yeah. Don't worry, he won't stick with this suit beyond this arc.
And since everyone's changing things up this issue, the Wasp swaps out her bee with a pet wasp.
Then the Human Top shows up again, this time disguised as a reporter with an assignment to check out Pym's newly renovated lab, but the Wasp recognizes his voice, so he attacks...
...and kidnaps the Wasp.
Giant-Man tracks her down by using her pet Wasp and his ability to grow other creatures (a power which Pym seems to have worked the kinks out of since the last time we saw it in Tales To Astonish #65.).
After getting trapped himself...
...Giant-Man rescues her, but not before being frozen in his giant form and then shrinking inside the resulting statue and getting a little pookie.
No mention is made of the fact that the power Pym used to escape his icy death was not working as of the beginning of the previous issue.
Giant-Man actually utters the title of this story at one point, and it's as cheesey and forced as you'd imagine it would be.
The editor box actually points out that this line is where the title came from. Another editor box comments on the fact that the Human Top is scum for karate chopping the Wasp in the face.
The Top's lovesick obsession, never really seen in this series, might have been inspired here.
In the last panel, Pym is talking like he never wants to put Janet at risk again, and so is considering retiring from super-hero life.
This is timed to coincide with the fact that beginning next issue Hank and Janet are replaced with the Sub-Mariner. According to Sean Howe's Marvel Comics: The Untold Story, Stan Lee was a big proponent of Ant-Man and pushed the character to Hollywood types over other more prominent characters.
"Stan Lee loved Ant-Man beyond all reason, and nobody ever gave a damn," said [New World Pictures' screenplay evaluator William] Rabkin. "He was always on about Ant-Man; he wanted an Ant-Man script in the worst way. I had been arguing against Ant-Man because let's face it, he can shrink down, go through a keyhole... and that's it. It's pretty boring."
That was in the late 80s (and an Ant-Man script did soon get greenlighted in a failed attempt to beat Honey, I Shrunk The Kids to the theater). But it's clear that Pym went through multiple iterations, even down to the very last issue of this run, and i wonder if Lee kept the series alive a lot longer than sales merited before finally giving up and giving the Sub-Mariner his first series since the Golden Age.
Going back to the Hulk portion of these three issues, Ditko draws issue #67 and #68-69 are by Kirby.
The Hulk, wandering around in Asia fighting communist tanks...
...turns back into Banner and is captured by bandits...
...who try to ransom him. The US sends Major Glenn Talbot to pick up Banner. Talbot assumes Banner tried to defect to China, and his orders are to bring Bruce home for trial.
They escape from the bandits and fall off a cliff. Banner turns into the Hulk...
...and saves them both but then he abandons Talbot and jumps home from Asia to the US, leaping "from isle to isle, from passing plane to passing plane...".
Really? He jumps on planes? Wouldn't that destroy them? Meanwhile the Leader has developed microscopic humanoids that emit sleeping gas vapors.
Bruce is let out of his cell to test his latest device, called the absorbatron, but the humanoids capture the Hulk and the device. They remind me a little bit of these little pink rubber toys called M.U.S.C.L.E. Men
Due to the old Hulk/Banner switcharoo he escapes and goes on a real rampage in the Leader's lair, foiling the Leader's plot. It's not clear if the Hulk is in his early "low cunning" intelligence state or his later childlike state.
He's referring to himself in the third person and using incomplete sentences but he also seems relatively purposeful and is remembering things that Banner knew.
While Avengers #17 showed what was going on simultaneously in this story, Tales To Astonish #69 does not return the favor. The issue ends with Banner discovered by Talbot and presumed dead.
Quality Rating: D+
Chronological Placement Considerations: Giant-Man and the Wasp are no longer Avengers as of Avengers #16, and the MCP has all three of these issues taking place after that. The Giant-Man/Wasp portions are context free. Issue #67 is a one-and-done story, and issue #68-69 are a continued story. All three Hulk portions are a continued story and Tales To Astonish #69 takes place at the same time as Avengers #17.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: Essential Ant-Man vol. 1, Marvel Super-Heroes #26, Marvel Super Heroes #27 (Tales To Astonish #69 is an original)
Inbound References (1): showBetty Ross, General 'Thunderbolt' Ross, Glenn Talbot, Henry Pym, Hulk, Leader, Rick Jones, Wasp, Whirlwind
Kinniku Suguru vs. the Hulk...I'd buy tickets to that fight. (sorry, your "M.U.S.C.L.E." comment made me think that randomly.
Posted by: Ataru320 | August 19, 2012 7:31 PM
It's amazing that the Wasp recognizes the Human Top by his voice here, but never does later on when he's her chaffeur.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | December 1, 2012 6:19 PM
Perhaps the Human Top is taking a page from Christian Bale when he's the Top?
Posted by: Chris | December 16, 2012 3:14 PM
It's taken awhile, but the ANT-MAN movie is finally on the way. I hope Stan's happy with it!
Posted by: Gary Himes | November 29, 2013 9:21 PM
I guess as long as he gets his cameo, he'll be happy! ;)
Posted by: Jay Demetrick | November 30, 2013 4:10 AM
Interesting that Hank and Jan get dropped here at the same time they leave the Avengers. Were they the first heroes in the MU to be languishing in limbo without a regular series showing what they were doing (not counting Sub-Mariner, who was only partially a "hero" at this point in the MU)?
It's the opposite of what DC originally did with the Justice Society back in the 40's. The reason Batman and Superman were only "honorary" members was because they had their own titles (as opposed to just appearing in Detective and Action) and as Flash and then Green Lantern would get their own series, they would also be dropped. And again, in the early Justice League, Batman and Superman rarely appeared because they were in so many other books. But here, Jan and Hank are just left out to dry.
Posted by: Erik Beck | January 6, 2015 11:37 AM
I've always liked Hank and Jan despite poor stories but I think this series needed to end. They were always better written in the Avengers.
Posted by: Bobby Sisemore | November 1, 2016 7:40 PM
Re: Erik's commment from 2015. If the Hulk counts as a hero, he had a year & a half between Hulk #6 and TOA #60. Between cover dates March 1963 and October 1964 he didn't have a regular series, though like Subby he popped up frequently in the other comics, probably not entirely missing for any 3-month period. The first Hulk Epic Collection does a nice job of gathering all those appearances. So, not exactly a hero, not exactly languishing, and maybe distinct from what Erik meant about Hank & Jan, but definitely the first modern Marvel character to have, then lose, his series for awhile.
Posted by: Michael Grabowski | December 27, 2017 6:56 PM
Posted by: Michael Grabowski | December 27, 2017 7:57 PM
The Human Top costume here seems like the basis of the redesign Whirlwind briefly gets as an agent of the Mandarin and Zeke Stane in Matt Fraction and Salvador Larroca's Invincible Iron Man series of the 2000s.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | July 12, 2018 12:32 PM
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