Tales to Astonish (Vol. 1) #36

Credits:

“The Challenge of Comrade X!”

Cover Date: October 1962

Writer: Larry Lieber

Penciller: Jack Kirby

Inker: Dick Ayers

Cover Artists: Jack Kirby, Dick Ayers

What’s Going On?

Ant-Man’s fame has spread rapidly, as he uses his network of ants to notify him when his talents are needed. In fact, Ant-Man has intrigued some Soviet leaders; they want his shrinking/growing formulas for military purposes.

To that end, the best Soviet espionage agent, Comrade X, has been tasked with learning Ant-Man’s secrets!

Is It Good?

To be honest, I thought this was going to be a pretty bad issue, but the writing saved it by the end. There is a LOT of questionable science in play here, but it could be worse. On the bright side, Kirby gets to draw some unusual things, and that can be fun, like the inside of this bank lock:

Sub-Plots:

  • Ant-Man is saving the day regularly, it seems.
  • Comrade X turns out to be a woman, disguised as a man.

Continuity:

  • Ant-Man has updated his shrink/grow formula so it is now a gas, instead of a liquid.
  • We have a diagram of Ant-Man’s secret entrance/exit!

Comics Are Goofy:

  • Really? Always the Ant-Man? He’s made one appearance before this issue.
  • Unless Ant-Man weighs significantly more than he appears to, his catapult shouldn’t be able to fling him across town.
  • I am curious as to how Ant-Man knows exactly where he is going to land, and how far in advance he needs to gather his “welcoming committee” of ants.
  • Ant-Man looks to be the size of a rat here, certainly not small or light enough to sit on Comrade X’s foot unnoticed.
  • Those are some giant ants!
  • After unmasking Comrade X, Ant-Man calls her “Madame X.” If she’s a Soviet agent, wouldn’t she be called “Comrade” regardless of her gender?
  • Strategically placed ants are listening for Ant-Man’s name, and they then alert him and give him some basic details. I could argue against the science behind that, but it is much easier to just ask, “When did ants learn to understand English?”
  • I love this. “Who is that mysterious vigilante?” “We’ll never know, unless he tells us. There is absolutely no reason for us to try and invade his privacy. Our government would certainly not want to learn his secrets at all!”

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