Tales to Astonish (Vol. 1) #57

Credits:

Cover Date: July 1964

Cover Artists: Jack Kirby, Sol Brodsky

“On the Trail of Spider-Man!”

Writer: Stan Lee

Penciller: Dick Ayers

Inker: Paul Reinman

“A Voice In the Dark”

Plotters: Stan Lee, Larry Lieber

Scripter: Larry Lieber

Penciller: Larry Lieber

Inker: Chic Stone

What’s Going On?

The devious Egghead manages to pit Giant-Man and the Wasp against Spider-Man! Will they realize that they’re on the same side before Egghead commits a major robbery?

Elsewhere, it is up to the Wasp to apprehend a jewelry theft, all by herself.

Details:

In “On the Trail of Spider-Man”:

  • The villainous Egghead desires revenge against Giant-Man, so he tries to trick Giant-Man and the Wasp into fighting Spider-Man.  He transmits a message to some ants, saying that Spidey plans to attack Giant-Man, and the ants naturally tell Giant-Man the “news.”

  • Janet scours the city for Spider-Man, and she finds him. She attacks him in mid-air, surprising him and causing him to fall toward the pavement; he reacted quickly enough to save himself, and was able to locate and catch Jan his his webbing.

  • The Wasp radioes Giant-Man for help, and he arrives on the scene quickly. Neither he nor Spider-Man take the time to talk before they got into a fight…precisely as Egghead has planned!

  • The two heroes fight, and neither one has a clear advantage before the police interrupt.

  • While the police are busy watching the Giant-Man/Spidey fight, Eggman and his underlings start committing crimes in the other side of town.

  • Finally, Wasp interrupts the fight, allowing Hank and Spidey to realize that they’re fighting under a misunderstanding.

  • Together, the heroes track down Egghead’s gang and attack them. The Wasp, in particular, takes out a number of thugs with her new “wasp sting.”

  • Egghead tries to bribe the heroes into letting him go free, but no dice.

In “A Voice in the Dark”:

  • While she hurries, already late, to a date with Hank, Janet stumbles upon a crime. Even better, she’s sure that she just passed the perpetrator!

  • She follows the criminal into the sewers, as he hides his ill-gotten loot for another day. The sewer fumes make the Wasp dizzy and weak, so she is forced to improvise: she pretends to be Invisible Woman, and convinces the crook to turn himself in!

Is It Good?

No. It doesn’t bother me that this issue is convoluted —- that’s almost a given when heroes fight. What bugs me is that Giant-Man and the Wasp are obviously in the wrong, but are completely oblivious to the fact. No apologies, no sense of embarrassment, nothing.  Also, it is bizarre to me that Spider-Man’s strength isn’t remarked on at all in this issue; he should be far stronger than Giant-Man, but since this is Giant-Man’s book, we don’t really see him take any big hits.

Oh, and the repeated “spiders and wasps don’t mix” nonsense at the end of the story is beyond idiotic. Do some spiders eat wasps? Yes. Do some wasps kill spiders? Yes. Did either of our heroes evolve from spiders or wasps? No.  End of story.

All of this might have been forgiven if Kirby or Ditko was on art duties, but that didn’t happen. Instead, we have the serviceable Dick Ayers on pencils. He doesn’t draw a great Spidey, but at least he gets the costume right. However, his storytelling isn’t at its best here. Look at this sequence, where the Wasp attacks Spider-Man…it almost conveys the action, but it feels like it’s missing a panel or two —- and that’s how the entire issue feels:

The Wasp back-up story was interesting as an artifact —- the Wasp was featured in a story where she stops crime, rather than telling someone a story —- but was an uninteresting filler piece, otherwise.

Continuity:

  • The Wasp has a new weapon in her costume: the “wasp sting,” a compressed air gun. This is the first weapon we’ve seen her with since she was carrying around a pin, back in Tales to Astonish #46.

  • Egghead’s last appearance was in Tales to Astonish #45. He has returned to his clean-shaven look.
  • Giant-Man is strong enough to break Spider-Man’s webbing (at least, he can if he acts immediately and doesn’t let it set).
  • This is the first time Giant-Man and/or the Wasp have met Spider-Man.
  • “A Voice In the Dark” is the first Wasp solo story. She had been used in back-up features before, but only as a framing device.
  • No mention is made of the engagement ring Hank purchased last issue.

Comics Are Goofy:

  • As good as he is, Jack Kirby never seems to get Spider-Man right. Here, his left thumb is the size of a lobster claw, and his costume is missing the spider logo on the back.

  • THAT’S not a suspicious way to introduce yourself to the police, is it?

  • Everyone’s entitled to their opinion, but this is dumb.

  • …or maybe she shot him in the face with an air gun, nearly killing him, earlier in the day! Don’t spread pseudoscience, Dr. Pym!

  • This definitely shows my modern bias, but I have trouble imaging a time when a woman would wear a fur hat and jacket to go unnoticed in the street.

  • Fun fact: entering sewers without authorization is almost certainly a crime nowadays, wherever you live. If there’s not a law on the books specifically about this, then you might receive a more general “mischief” charge.

Well, That Aged Poorly:

  • “No mere female,” eh? Maybe you just need to do some CrossFit, Jan.

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