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Tales to Astonish 35
"Return of the Ant-Man"


Plot: Stan Lee
Script: Larry Lieber
Pencils: Jack Kirby
Inks: Dick Ayers
Letters: John Duffy

In a previous review of Tales To Astonish, we met Henry Pym, the scientist who discovered a reducing serum and an enlarging serum. Pym tested the reducing serum upon himself. It worked so fast on him that he could feel himself shrinking in size.

The serum reduced Henry Pym to insect size and took him within an anthill. Pym managed to escape the ants and reached the enlarging serum. Once restored to his proper size, the scientist destroyed the serums, and felt that they were too dangerous. Weeks pass, and Henry Pym comes to a momentous decision. Feeling that his discovery should not fade away into nothingness, Pym resolves to create the serums once more. On this occasion, the scientist hides them, and keeps them secret. Perhaps the world will be ready for them, but until then, he will keep his secret. After being in an anthill, Henry Pym became interested in ants. The insects are able to lift objects fifty times heavier than themselves. In each ant colony, there are only a few females, but there are thousands of workers. Females are called queens, while the workers are smaller than the queens and are wingless. Ants have sense organs and a nervous system. They can detect things by sight, smell, and touch. It is unknown how the ants communicate among themselves.

The more Pym researched, the more he became convinced that the ants communicate through their antennae. If he could learn what electronic wave length they use, he could learn more about them. Months later, the scientist devises a helmet to tune in on the ants' wave length, and communicate with them. He's also designed a protective costume to shield him from accidental ant-stings and bites. That day, the government gives Henry Pym a top secret assignment and four lab assistants to work with him on the project. A gas to make people immune to radioactivity is what the young scientist is expected to produce. It is quite a task, but the government knows that they can count on Pym. Weeks pass, with a foreign nation interested on the progress of the anti-radiation formula. They contact their agents in the west at once. Once contact is made, the orders are given, and the agents dispose of the guards. Once the warning alarm is disconnected, the armed men take the lab assistants prisoner. When confronted, Henry Pym refuses to hand over the anti-radiation formula. Each of his assistants has worked on a part of the formula, and only he knows all of it. The agents prepare to search the lab and find the information themselves. When they are done, they will blow up the lab, and make it look like an accident.

A guard has been posted in front of his door. Pym cannot escape through the window, either. He is trapped in his lab. There is a way to stop the enemy agents. If he fails, the Commies will take the anti-radiation gas, and put themselves ahead in the Cold War. A rubber band and some thread will enable the Ant-Man to be on his way. Placing an ash tray on the floor and stretching the rubber band, the scientist tries out another formula of his own. The serum to turn a man into the size of an insect.

Now at ant-size, the Ant-Man steps into the ashtray, and triggers the rubber band. He is sent flying onto the windowsill, and slip through the crack. Down the thread he goes. His next destination is the nearby ant hill.

The Ant-Man is not ready for the ants to see him yet. He feels vibrations against his helmet. TWOINNNGG The ants do give off electronic impulses when they communicate. The ants turn towards him, no doubt attracted by their sense of smell, and seek out the alien presence.

The helmet is switched on and electronic impulses are sent. The cybernetic helmet was built for communication between Ant-Man and insect. The components include: antenna, the shell houses miniaturized electronic equipment, the transmitter to send impulse from wearer on the ants' frequency, the decoder to turn incoming and outgoing signals for clear meaning, and a receiver, which is open to the vibrations for the ants' antennae. The helmet is on at full power. His wavelength is stronger than theirs. The ants are fearful of him. The largest of the worker ants is attacking. In ant colonies, the large worker ants do the fighting, food gathering, and exploring. The smaller workers carry, forage, build, and take care of the young. The powerful worker strikes, but is surprised when Henry Pym is able to lift him into the air, and hurl him away. The reducing serum may have diminished him in size, but he still retains the strength of a grown man.

The worker returns to put a bite on him. Fast as he is, the Ant-Man is caught by the enraged ant. The colorful costume made from a closely woven steel mesh protects him from the razor sharp mandibles. The costume is also composed of unstable molecules which stretch and contract as Pym does. A judo blow stops the worker in its tracks. The Ant-Man ponders how to get the other ants to follow him back to the laboratory, then turns on his electronic impulses again. By concentrating hard, his thoughts are transmitted to the ant army. They come crawling from their various chambers. Outside of the ant hill, the Ant-Man meets up with a beetle. Using his strength, he digs a hole in a matter of seconds.

Luring the beetle near the hole, the sunlight gets into the insect's eyes, and the Ant-Man ducks at just the right moment. The hole is filled up, and by the time the beetle digs his way out, the Ant-Man will be gone. The scientist mounts one of the large worker ants. They climb up the wall, with the rest following after them. Seeing that his assistants are still bound, he listens as the enemy agents announce that they almost have all of the anti-radiation gas notes, and how they will blow up the lab. Crawling through the crack once more, the Ant-Man prepares to untie his assistants.

Tom cannot hear the tiny voice of Henry Pym calling out to him. He starts to untie Tom, who feels a small insect crawling on his hand. Shaken off, the Ant-Man falls, and turns on his transmitter for help from the ants. They gather together and form a living net to break his fall. Now, the Ant-Man tries again to untie his assistants, with help from the ants. This time, he succeeds.

Although they are free, the hapless lab assistants can't attack the armed spies. Pym communicates with the ants once more. Minutes later, a swarm of ants crawl over to one of the enemy agents. At the electronic signal from the Ant-Man, they bite and sting their human foe. YIIEEEE

A swarm of honey ants are signalled to plug up the barrel of a gun with honey. The gun is now jammed and will not fire. Another shriek and another agent is under attack. The ants do their work, with the unarmed Reds no match for the liberated laboratory assistants. The Ant-Man returns to his office before they come for him.

A worker ant carries him down to the floor. The Ant-Man uses his strength to push a test tube over, and dips into the enlarging serum. Now at normal size, Henry Pym rejoins the others. Without their weapons, the Commies were no match for the four lab assistants. Security has been notified for some soldiers to come over. All has turned out right. There could have been big trouble, not only for them, but for the entire free world. The danger is over and his secret is safe. The scientist wonders if he'll become the Ant-Man again.

This story was reprinted in Essential Ant-Man Vol. 1.

On the cover of the Tales To Astonish #35, the Ant-Man returns, and commands the ants to stop the armed man.

Seen at Ant-Man perspective, the gunman has got a small head, and a large torso.

Anti-Radiation pills were used by Gardner Grayle during World War III.

At some point in time, the young scientist must have collaborated with Reed Richards on the subject of unstable molecules.

Henry Pym really digs the beetle.

Thanks to the honey ants, the enemy agents soon find themselves in a honey of a jam.

Steve Chung
"Review Of The Ant-Man"