Review by Frank Plowright
As this Masterworks volume opens it’s 1963 and Hank Pym is four issues into his Giant-Man identity, but still characterised by the woeful stories served up when he was Ant-Man. In the opener here he fractures an ankle, which it’s explained will shatter should he return to standard human size. The villainous Porcupine sees an opportunity to be exploited, but instead of attacking directly, secretes himself among the children from the Giant-Man and Wasp fan club who’re visiting disguised as Pym’s old enemies in home-made costumes. It’s the sort of ultra-contrived nonsense that characterised the Jimmy Olsen stories of the era, yet lacking their outrageous veneer.
It was Alex Ross in Marvels who created the first truly impressive looking Giant-Man, a lead followed by Bryan Hitch and Frank Quitely among others. They all realised that it’s not just scale that’s important, but the viewpoint also, which is something cover artist Jack Kirby grasped. Unfortunately it eluded the artists who drew the strips, Dick Ayers in particular, and they’re universally dull looking. In completely different sense, ‘dull’ isn’t a term that can be associated with the content, as the presentation of the flat, bright 1960s colour on gloss paper rather than newsprint can induce a hallucinogenic effect if stared at too long. Bright yellow is a favoured background colour.
It’s only in the dying days of the feature that Stan Lee appears to realise that farming out plots to lesser writers or dashing them off over lunch had impaired both comic and character. The final two stories see a re-envisaging that appears to be too little, too late, but which at least displays some spirit. Hank discovers that constantly shifting his size is affecting his long-term health, but if he adjusts to the single height, 35 feet, then he should be okay. Unfortunately he remains stuck at that height. Before this can be fully explored, Giant-Man’s feature is replaced by Sub-Mariner, and his continuity plays out in the pages of The Avengers.
Anyone who really wants to read this mundane material is now spoiled for choice. An Epic collection titled The Man in the Ant Hill combines half this content with that of the Ant-Man material from the previous Masterworks volume, and it’s also available in black and white on pulp paper as Essential Ant-Man.