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CSBG Archive

Month of Cool Avengers/X-Men Comic Book Moments – The Redemption of Hank Pym

All month long we will feature brand-new Cool Avengers and X-Men Comic Book Moments in celebration of their fiftieth anniversaries this month. Here is an archive of all the past cool comic moments that I’ve featured so far over the years.

Today we look at Avengers #229 and how Roger Stern, Al Milgrom and Joe Sinnott tried to redeem Hank Pym a bit…

At the time of Avengers #229, Hank Pym is a disgraced former Avenger (he quit after he slapped his wife, the Wasp, during a rage) who was framed for murder by one of his old foes, Egghead. Egghead has now broken him out of prison while publicly pretending that it was Hank’s plan and that Hank was in cahoots with Egghead and his newly formed Masters of Evil.

Egghead figures that Hank is such a broken man that he can make Hank work for him. Hank seemingly goes along with the plan…or does he?

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Awesome stuff!

Hank then gets a chance to give a little speech about how he’s been redeemed….

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Good stuff. And also the beginning of the “Dr. Pym” take on the character that lasted for the next 10 years or so.

18 Comments

Awesome stuff. I was just thinking about this sequence this morning as a candidate for your Cool Moments selection, Brian!

Stern did a great job of turning around the dangerously unstable Hank Pym we’d been given by Shooter, and making him a hero again. And his farewell to Jan at the end of #230 is genuinely touching.

And let’s not forget the VERY satisfying punch that brings down Egghead a few panels after the rest of the Masters are defeated! :-)

I miss the days when people would have science-measuring contests.

Very fond memories of this issue. I was a big Hank Pym fan and just hated Shooter’s whole Trial of Yellowjacket stuff, so I was super happy when Hank got redeemed in this story. Even today, looking at the bit here and the one for the best court martials, I think the Stern story is so much better written – even if the Shooter one is better remembered / more consequntial.

First issue of Avengers i ever read! Did have a clue about what was going on but this issue & the next [with one of the coolest covers ever!] made my love Henry Pym and i still do.

If only they would let him stay redeemed. There is always some writer or other who thinks Henry Pym hadn’t suffered enough for the mistake he made. Funny thing is, you have had heroes who killed people, and villains who have murdered thousands and then turn into good guys, and no one bats an eye at that.

It makes me sad that all anyone remembers about this arc is the one panel where Pym strikes his wife, and not his ultimate redemption as a hero. The conclusion to this arc sent chills up my spine and had me rooting for Pym, it was great stuff! Pym was a great character with a long history with both the Avengers and the Defenders up to this point, I’m still waiting for someone to remember that and make better use of him.

I’d like to get this issue slabbed by the CGC just so I can track down Chuck Austen and bonk him over the head with it! :)

Okay, I’m just kidding. I would never, ever advocate any form of violence against any comic book creator, no matter how much I disliked his work. That said, a decade ago, when Austen dragged out this whole ugly episode out of the closet during his (mercifully brief) run on Avengers, I was literally disgusted. I mean, Kurt Busiek had, I thought, just recently done a thoroughly excellent job of resolving all of Hank Pym’s lingering guilt over having given Janet a black eye, and after that character arc was finished up I was well and truly hoping that it would never, ever be mentioned again. Then, what do you know, Austin digs up that dead horse and starts pummeling it with his shovel.

In any case, probably the two best writers to handle Hank in the last few years are Dan Slott and Christos Gage, who made me enjoy the character more than ever before.

The final pages and subsequent cliffhanger are even better. I once sent the following issue (#230) out to Joe Sinnott and he kindly autographed it for me. This is the Avengers equivalent of the Phoenix Saga in terms of character development. I also liked the particular roster chosen for this version of The Masters of Evil and seeing Hank take them down like that was an awesome experience.

Roger Stern wrapped up Hank’s story so nicely, that I actually wish Hank had gone into comic book limbo after this. Let the guy live out his life in peace as Roger intended. He’d gone through so much to regain his health and dignity.

Instead, Hank’s retirement lasted about two years. Following that, Steve Englehart placed him in the West Coast Avengers and ran the guy through the emotional wringer once more, shortly before John Byrne turned Hank into the Wackos’ answer to Reed Richards.

Oh, well.

The whole Fall and Redemption of Hank Pym makes for a great story on it’s own, but unfortunately you get hack writers like Millar and Austen who only remember the “Fall” part and that’s what seems to stick. In one of PAD’s first issues writing the Hulk he has Banner hulk out and put Betty in the hospital, yet that’s not the characterization that has stuck with Banner/Hulk for the last 30 years. I’m sure there’s plenty of other examples where similar things have happened.

The whole Fall and Redemption of Hank Pym makes for a great story on it’s own, but unfortunately you get hack writers like Millar and Austen who only remember the “Fall” part and that’s what seems to stick.

One of my least favorite Avengers stories is Busiek’s Ultron story, because to me it does so much damage to the Pym character that Pym’s original fall pales in comparison. A robot that Pym created malfunctions and becomes a villain. Okay, that’s bad enough. But that robot kills millions of people in a single attack? Now Hank Pym is responsible for the death of millions. No one seems to explore this. To this day, in-story and in real life, people still act like the worst thing Pym ever did was slap his wife. The amount of atonement he needs to do for creating a faulty mass killing machine like Ultron far outweighs any atonement he needs to do for Jan.

The Ultron thing is another reason why I think Roy Thomas was one of the worst Avengers writers that ruined much of the good work Stan and Jack did. He fiirst planted the seeds of Pym being crazy, and he came up with the terrible idea of giving the Avengers a murderous archvillain that one of them created himself. So now, whenever they stop an Ultron plot, they aren’t doing a net positive act for the world because Ultron exists because of them in the first place. If they stop Ultron from killing 20 million people for example, the net effect is zero because it’s their fault those 20 million people were threatened by Ultron in the first place. But if Ultron kills even one person, that’s one person who would not have died that day if not for the Avengers inventing Ultron. A big reason why I hate Ultron stories.

But no, slapping one’s wife is the worst thing a person can do apparently.

Roger Stern was really a great Avengers writer. I wonder if he has chosen retirement or if the Big Two won’t give him work anymore because he’s too old-school? Because that writing up there is by far better than anything new I’ve read in any recent comic I’ve tried from either of the Big Two. I’d love him to be the regular Avengers writer again.

Stern did just do a Captain America Corps mini a couple years back which I really enjoyed, but that’s about all I can remember recently from him. I’d also love it if he was writing more comics. Especially if he was writing more Avengers comics.

I got that mini from the library last month. It was great, but it just depressed me in the long run because it reminded me how much I miss his writing.

One of my least favorite Avengers stories is Busiek’s Ultron story, because to me it does so much damage to the Pym character that Pym’s original fall pales in comparison. A robot that Pym created malfunctions and becomes a villain. Okay, that’s bad enough. But that robot kills millions of people in a single attack? Now Hank Pym is responsible for the death of millions. No one seems to explore this. To this day, in-story and in real life, people still act like the worst thing Pym ever did was slap his wife. The amount of atonement he needs to do for creating a faulty mass killing machine like Ultron far outweighs any atonement he needs to do for Jan.

The Ultron thing is another reason why I think Roy Thomas was one of the worst Avengers writers that ruined much of the good work Stan and Jack did. He fiirst planted the seeds of Pym being crazy, and he came up with the terrible idea of giving the Avengers a murderous archvillain that one of them created himself. So now, whenever they stop an Ultron plot, they aren’t doing a net positive act for the world because Ultron exists because of them in the first place. If they stop Ultron from killing 20 million people for example, the net effect is zero because it’s their fault those 20 million people were threatened by Ultron in the first place. But if Ultron kills even one person, that’s one person who would not have died that day if not for the Avengers inventing Ultron. A big reason why I hate Ultron stories.

But no, slapping one’s wife is the worst thing a person can do apparently.

Age of Ultron is pretty much ALL about Hank’s creation of Ultron. I think you’ll really enjoy the epilogue issue, where Waid gives us our first real origin of Hank Pym (until now, the stuff we’ve seen about him was always right before he became Ant-Man, never what he was up to BEFORE that).

I guess it could be argued that Hank Pym is to blame for any damage Ultron does. But, it does seem that a typical heroic story is one where the hero creates his villain. Superman caused Lex Luthor to be his greatest enemy because he outshined him. Batman created Joker because he threw him in a vat of chemicals. Thor created Loki as his villain because Loki perceived his parents loving Thor more than him. The Abomination and the Leader both got hold of Bruce Banner’s technology and made themselves into villains. So, are these heroes also to blame for whatever damage these villains do?

Really, Lyle? I wouldn’t say any of those situations are close to Hank Pym creating Ultron. Lex Luthor became a villain because of his own personal failings…he couldn’t handle Superman’s greatness. The Joker was already a criminal before he was thrown in a vat. How can Thor be blamed for Loki’s perceptions and jealousy? Bruce Banner is maybe the closest but again, both Abomination and Leader were villains (in some form) before becoming gamma powered.

Ultron didn’t exist in any form before Hank Pym created. No comparison.

Batman never “threw” the Joker in the vat of chemicals. Joker (as the Red Hood) was attempting to rob the chemical plant and FELL into the vat as he was being pursued by Batman.

There are two points that often get forgotten in these “how much is Hank to blame for Ultron” discussions. First, Hank was trying to create something that had never existed before (true AI), and not even in any organized way — it was just a pet project. It seemed perfectly harmless at the time. (Call me crazy, but when I write a program, I rarely consider the danger that it’ll evolve into a robot Hitler.) Second and more important, the current Ultron is a long, long way from Ultron-1. Every time he loses a fight, he rebuilds and reprograms himself, trying to finally get rid of the traces of humanity in his design.

There’s a reason the parent/child metaphor is so often used for Hank and Ultron. When you have a child, you can only do so much to steer him or her in the right direction. If your kid turns out to be Dexter, then sure, he wouldn’t have existed without you — but that doesn’t mean you’re responsible for his murders. (Unless you teach him how to get away with it, of course…) You probably will blame yourself sometimes, and maybe others will too, but the fact is, the buck stops with the killer himself.

Oh, and one more thing: if Hank is responsible for Ultron’s murders, then isn’t Ultron responsible for all the lives the Vision has saved? Maybe he’s an okay guy after all!

(T., I can think of at least one exception to “no one seems to explore this”. Bendis is not my go-to guy for Avengers characterization, but in #501, after some fake Ultrons have injured Jan, there’s a pretty good scene with Hank at her bedside, beating himself up. “No matter what I do in this life, Giant-Man, Yellowjacket, Ant-Man, doesn’t matter. Accidentally creating Ultron will be the only thing I am ever remembered for.” I may not blame Hank myself, but it’s completely in character when he does.)

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