Reviews of trade paperbacks of comic books (mostly Marvel), along with a few other semi-relevant comments / reviews.

15 July 2008

Irredeemable Ant-Man, v. 1: Low Life

Collects: Irredeemable Ant-Man #1-6 (2006-7)

Released: June 2007 (Marvel)

Format: 144 pages / color digest / $9.99 / ISBN: 9780785119623

Ant-Man has always been a bit of a loser. The original Ant-Man went from a founder of the Avengers and the Marvel Universe to wife-beating wreck, heading through several identities and mental illnesses along the way. The second, working from that base, was a punchline for jokes about obscure heroes. (Now, thanks to Avengers Disassembled, he’s a punchline for jokes about obscure dead heroes.)

In The Irredeemable Ant-Man, v. 1: Low Life, Eric O’Grady becomes the third Ant-Man. Somehow, he manages to disgrace even the undistinguished name of Ant-Man.

Irredeemable Ant-Man cover In short, Eric is an awful hero — he would probably deny being a hero, but there is a legacy that comes with the name. He’s an even worse human being. He lies to his best friend’s girlfriend, telling her her boyfriend has a girl on the side. He steals the Ant-Man suit from his friend’s dead body, then puts the moves on the girlfriend, leading to a one-night stand and a pregnancy. He uses his new-found powers to spy on naked women. He even invites a woman he saves from a mugger out to an expensive restaurant, then sticks her with the check.

If writer Robert Kirkman is going for thoroughly unlikable, then he has nailed it perfectly. Now, you can get away with this approach; making the bastard a victim of physical comedy or insults or comeuppance is the most common way. Making Eric charismatic or witty could also work, but Eric has neither charisma or wit. At times, reading about Eric is uncomfortable. Eric deserves some sort of comeuppance for being so awful, but he doesn’t really get it. His friend dies, but from Eric’s actions, he doesn’t seem too broken up about it. Eric goes through life causing misery and pain to those closes to him, and he gets away with it. It is unsatisfying to say the least.

Artist Phil Hester does a good job, although the reduction in size to digest doesn’t really do his artwork any favors. (Does it help anyone, I wonder? I suppose John Byrne’s clean pencils in the slightly larger Avengers: Nights of Wundagore were fine, but I can’t remember anyone else doing extremely well.) Hester’s storytelling is strong, and the characters — despite most of them being in identical SHIELD uniforms — are easily identifiable. But good artwork can’t save a story as unlikable as this one.

Frankly, there’s little to recommend the Irredeemable Ant-Man. It’s painful to read about such a horrible person who stars in a story with no moral grounding. Kirkman hits what he’s aiming for, but that’s not a story worth reading.

Rating: Marvel symbol (1 of 5)

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