On Tapestries

Spoiler Warning: If you haven't read Avengers World #16 yet and care about knowledge of twists ruining your enjoyment of stories, I'd recommend not reading any further.

I want to talk about Ant-man. Specifically, Scott Lang, the second Ant-man who is going to be played by Paul Rudd in a few months time. I want to talk about how his story has gone for the last decade or so and why it is the epitome of the reason I love comics as a medium.

Scott Lang is an interesting character in comics because he has been allowed to change. A-list, big name superheroes tend to be fairly static. They have a status quo that the will revert back to sooner or later. Spiderman is always going to be a down on his luck character even if he runs a business right now. Clark Kent tends to be a journalist, even though he spent time as a news anchor. Bruce Wayne will be a wealthy playboy with a big house, even though right now stately Wayne Manor has been taken over to house Arkham Asylum inmates. The A-listers get the illusion of change. Scott Lang is not an A-lister.

Scott Lang is divorced, a genius, an ex-con and a father of one. This is pretty unusual in comics. Ask a Spider-man fan sometime about Mary Jane or a Superman fan about Lois. Ask them "Weren't they married? I remember hearing about them being married." Bring a book and some earplugs. Basically there is a belief among some people in comics that marriage ages superheroes, makes them less relatable. A-list superheroes have to be relatable to as many people as possible to sell. That's the belief.

I got into comics about 14 years ago. I first encountered Scott Lang reading Avengers Disassembled. I'd heard that there was going to be a new team of Avengers and wanted to read the story that set that off. So when I first read a comic with Scott Lang in it, he gets blown up.

Boom

You see for a while, a good while, all Scott Lang was to me was an origin story. Scott's daughter Cassie becomes a teenaged superhero in his memory and joins a team called the Young Avengers as Stature (she preferred using the powers to grow instead of shrink).

Stature. Not pictured: anything to give a sense of scale to her current height.

Young Avengers in all its incarnations is a great comic about dealing with authority and growing up. It also features one of the best couples in comics, Hulkling and Wiccan, and Kate Bishop the Hawkeye so good she got to keep being Hawkeye when Clint Barton came back from the dead. She doesn't go by Lady Hawkeye or anything like that. There's just two Hawkeyes now and one is a woman.

Cassie was the voice of experience on the team because her dad was an Avenger and she grew up around Avengers. She was also the moral compass. The Young Avengers sided with Captain America in the Civil War but she left after a huge battle between the two sides seeing the reality of what was happening and saying she didn't want to fight superheroes and cops anymore. She was probably my favourite member of the team.

And then she died.

In The Children's Crusade, the team is worried about Wiccan's powers and are afraid he's going to lose control, like the Scarlet Witch did in Avengers Disassembled. So they go looking for the Scarlet Witch. Not a great plan as it turns out. The Scarlet Witch is in Latveria, amnesiac and engaged to Doctor Doom. They escape using Iron Lad to go back in time, back to the first time I met Scott Lang. Iron Lad says they're out of phase and the can't change what happened. Cassie has other plans.

To hell with causality. I want my Dad back.

They end up back in the present, Scott included. Scott is naturally shocked that he was dead but, hey, he's not and it turns out his daughter is a hero. Not a bad day, overall. But the Scarlet Witch got her memories back. They end up back in Latveria and Doom steals Wanda's powers and does what he always does when he gains omnipotence, heals himself.

Poor predictable Doom. Always chooses Rock of Salvation

Of course, he's still Doom, vain and arrogant, so he decides to rule the world. Naturally the heroes of the world don't take to well to benevolent dictatorships and they fight. In the fray Doom crushes Scott between his hands like ... an insect. Cassie, having lost her dad, dealt with it, took on his mantle, regained her dad and now lost him again, sucker punches a giant-sized, omnipotent Doctor Doom right in the jaw!

This is how you know you're a good parent.

And then Doom kills her.

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Doom loses control of his godhood and the day gets saved but a price has been paid. Scott Lang wasn't dead, he shrank in Doom's hands. He comes back just in time to see his daughter die. This kind of stuff doesn't happen to Peter Parker. If you think marriage makes a character unrelatable try divorced with a dead teenage daughter.

I realise I said I wanted to talk about Scott Lang and then spent a good while talking about Cassie instead but I wanted to give some context. Here's what happened next. Scott coped, slowly and not always well but he coped. When Reed Richards needed a replacement Fantastic Four to look after Earth and the kids of the Future Foundation he picked Scott Lang to replace him, not just for Scott's brains but because he needed the company of the Future Foundation kids to help him cope. That Reed Richards can be a smart cookie.

Scott wasn't an origin story to me anymore. He had become about grief and how we deal with it. Scott meets a girl, Darla Deering (it helps that they're on the same team) and they start dating. Scott also manages to stop Doctor Doom from gaining ultimate power again. Before you ask, yes Doom did fix his face.

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So Scott got a happy ending. He hasn't really been in comics since. Until today. Today I got a gift I didn't know I wanted because I never thought it would happen. Right now in Marvel comics there's a big crossover event called Axis. The gimmick is that some heroes and villains have had their personalities inverted, like a D&D character alignment sheet. Doctor Doom is a good guy, Scarlet Witch isn't and she's been attacking Latveria. In Avengers World #16 Doom assembles his own team of Avengers to fight Wanda and steal her power. Once again, Doom is omnipotent. But now... now he's different. Doom takes ultimate power and doesn't fix his face, doesn't conquer the world. He reflects on what he's done and gives a father his daughter back.

This is why I read comics. Because nowhere else can you have a story that spans a decade, told by dozens of people that twists and turns like that and hits me with such an emotional whallop as this. I haven't finished reading this week's books yet. While reading them I figured the one I'd be raving about would be Spider-man & the X-Men #1. In fact I already raved about that to my brother earlier. But I didn't know that today I would read the culmination of a story ten years in the making and be compelled to spend the next three hours writing a blog about it. I might be raving about this for years.