Publisher: Marvel Comics
Writer: Jeremy Whitley
Artwork: Elsa Charretier, Veronica Fish, Ro Stein, Ted Brandt, Megan Wilson (colours)
Release Date: February 28th 2018
With Avengers: Infinity War now firmly in the rear-view mirror (and raking in cash at a record-setting pace), MCU fans will be focusing their attention on the upcoming Ant-Man and The Wasp movie, coming to cinemas this July (or, y’know, August if you’re in the UK). But if you’re looking for an added dose of Van Dyne fun to tide you over until then, you could certainly do a heck of a lot worse than picking up the latest volume of Marvel’s Unstoppable Wasp series.
Interestingly, the Wasp in question here isn’t our old favourite Janet Van Dyne, but rather Nadia, the daughter of Hank Pym who was brought up in the cruelly disciplined “Red Room” (of Black Widow fame) and trained as a lethal assassin. Nadia has since escaped the clutches of the Room and its menacing “Mother”, but now finds herself locked firmly in their sights as they dispatch Ying, one of her only childhood friends, to kill her.
The first couple of chapters in this four-issue collection are fantastic, with a fast-paced sense of urgency as Nadia puts out the call to her fellow girl geniuses to help disarm the “insurance policy” bomb that is ticking away inside Ying’s head. The story manages to blend humour and high stakes in the same way as Fraction and Aja’s Hawkeye or Waid and Samnee’s Daredevil, and the efficiency with which writer Jeremy Whitley introduces his diverse supporting cast is definitely worthy of a high five or two.
It also doesn’t hurt things that Elsa Charretier’s artwork absolutely soars in the first two issues, with an easy-going charm that feels faintly reminiscent of Colleen Coover’s work on the award-winning Bandette. There’s also more than a hint of Darwyn Cooke at play here in the wide-eyed excitement of the characters, and while Charretier is replaced in the subsequent issues by by Veronica Fish and the partnership of Ro Stein and Ted Brandt, the aesthetic remains suitably upbeat and lively throughout.
Colourist Megan Wilson also deserves a huge amount of credit for the visual side of the book, with an soft, warm palette that really helps to enhance the continuity between the different artists throughout the course of the volume.
The second half of the story slows things down a little as the “classic” Wasp takes centre stage, using her impressive connections to lend a helping hand to Nadia and her friends. Her inner monologue is packed with great characterisation, and provides some much-needed insight into a character I’ll freely admit to not being all that familiar with.
The level of threat here is dialled way back as the feels come out, and the interplay between Janet and Nadia where the latter discovers that there’s a whole new world outside the Red Room features just the right amount of gooey sentimentality. Granted, it probably presupposes some level of prior investment in the characters, and as such doesn’t have quite the same sense of immediacy as the early portion of the book, but there’s still a lot to like here – particularly for younger readers who may fantasise about one day becoming a superhero themselves (or older readers too, for that matter).
Also, as an added bonus which I absolutely loved, the collection also features the first appearance of Janet Van Dyne as she and Hank Pym unite to battle the “Creature from Kosmos” in the pages of Tales to Astonish #44. I always get a kick out of revisiting these classic debuts, and it adds an extra level of context to the character, particularly in light of Janet’s inner monologue about her early days as an Avenger in the preceding issues.
While it’s definitely pitched at the younger female demographic, there’s a heck of a lot to like here for comic book fans of all ages and genders. And while there’s a slight dip in the latter part of the book as the focus shifts to set-up rather than in-your-face drama, this trade paperback still provides a great introduction to a character who initially started out as a throwaway cameo, but who – based on this book at least – is more than ready to cement her own legacy in the Marvel Universe.