Since the release of “Secret Invasion” #8, the internet has been rife with complaints that the death of the Wasp was, firstly, handled with little weight and significance and, secondly, not that large of a pay-off for such a big event. Here, Brian Michael Bendis tries to rectify both in an issue that focuses on Hank Pym and the funeral of Janet van Dyne.
He is joined by a trio of artists, which works far better than you would expect. Lee Weeks handles a flashback to the early days of the Avengers after they recovered the frozen body of Captain America. Weeks’s style is “classic” in nature (at least, compared to many modern artists), so having him illustrate the flashback scene works quite well. He manages to capture the subtle emotional changes in Hank and Janet as they discuss the importance of the event and their feelings for one another. Much of the issue’s weight rests on this scene and you couldn’t ask for a better artist than Lee Weeks to add that weight with Bendis’ words.
The majority of the issue is drawn by Carlo Pagulayan and his work almost seems like a cross between that of Weeks and the issue’s third artist, Jim Cheung. It has the same solid grounding of Weeks, but some of the faces look more akin to Cheung’s art. It does bridge the gap between the two quite well and is very strong. There’s a certain grittiness to his Hank Pym that isn’t over-the-top, but also shows just how despondent he is.
Cheung illustrates five pages recapping the events that occurred since Pym was replaced by the Skrulls, complete with a small reaction panel of Carol Danvers and Pym on each page. The larger images are quite good as Cheung does the montages well, not making them look cluttered. The choice to use a single image for the death of Captain America is quite smart. The reaction panels try to be original and dynamic with each event, but since each is Danvers and Pym in the back of a car, there’s only so many variations he can use.
The art by each of the three men does a lot of the heavy lifting in this issue, the Cheung pages especially since there’s not much there beyond Bendis looking back on the past few years. Bendis’ writing here tries its best, but it comes up short in many scenes. He handles Pym’s grief well and the respect everyone has for Janet, but the inclusion of those five pages recapping events hurts the issue. One or two pages devoted to Pym getting caught up would have worked much better, but, instead, the story is stopped dead for five pages that do little more than showcase Cheung’s art. When Bendis does focus on the impact of Janet’s death, the issue is fantastic, but when he doesn’t, it falters. Sadly, it falters quite a bit.
That the end of the issue feels less like a conclusion to Bendis’ run on this book and more like a “don’t forget to buy ‘Dark Avengers’!” reminder doesn’t help matters either. In what could, and should, have been an issue devoted to the Avengers and Hank Pym dealing with the death of someone they loved, giving readers a real reason to see why the Wasp’s death is a major event, it falls apart by trying to include too many other things.
(Lee Weeks on art? Yes please! Check out his wonderful flashback scene in CBR’s preview!)