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Review: ‘Marvel Comics Digest #7′

Marvel Comics Digest 7

Marvel Comics Digest #7
Writers: Stan Lee, David Michelinie, Joe Caramagna and others
Artists: Jack Kirby, Don Heck, George Perez and others
Archie Comics; $6.99

It was a team-up that was at least as unexpected as that of Superman and Spider-Man in 1976, when they joined forces against Lex Luthor and Doctor Octopus: Archie Comics, the unrivaled masters of newsstand comic book penetration in the 21st century, announced last year that they would be designing, packaging and distributing a new digest series collecting Marvel comics. While also sold at some direct market comic shops, the goal of the reprint anthologies—which are in the same size and style of the Archie Comics digests that are often the only comics still sold in newsstands—was to get Marvel comics into big box retailers, book stores, grocery stores, and all the man places that don’t sell the publisher’s usual serial offerings.

The alliance has apparently been a successful one, as it’s ongoing, and the latest of the bi-monthly digests features the Marvel heroes who currently have a movie in theaters: Ant-Man and The Wasp. While perhaps not the absolute best Ant-Man and Wasp comics currently available, even if one qualifies ones specifically targeted to younger or newer readers who aren’t invested in the ongoing Marvel Comics mega-narrative, Marvel Comics Digest #7 is definitely the easiest and cheapest way to get a few hundred pages worth of Ant-Man, Wasp, and Avengers comics into a kid’s hands.

If you’re familiar with the Archie digests featuring the Riverdale teens, then you’re familiar with this format: The 4.75-by-6-inch digest is a bound collection of comics, with a thin, magazine-stock like cover and thinner-still newsprint pages that will likely prove nostalgic for most adult readers…and suggest to younger readers that comics are, in fact, a bit more disposable than they might think if they’re used to original graphic novels or fancier, glossier serial comics from the local comic shops.

The contents span 52 years, from the first appearance of The Wasp in a 1963 issue of Tales To Astonish by her creators Stan Lee and Jack Kirby to comic book “adaptations” of the Avengers Assemble cartoon, wherein images taken directly from the TV show are re-purposed as panels, the last of which is from 2015, the same year the first Ant-Man movie was released.

While the movies feature two generations of Ant-Men and Wasps—originals Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne mostly via flashback, and title characters Scott Lang and Hope Pym—the digest includes both Ant-Men but just one Wasp. More often than not, the size-changing heroes are in the company of The Avengers, and there’s at least one story where all three of them are together.

From 1963 and ’64 are some stories written by Stan Lee and drawn by Jack Kirby and/or Don Heck, including the origin of The Wasp, The Avengers’ first battle with Kang (by which point Pym has already gone from Ant-Man to Giant-Man) and a rematch with Kang that also features Spider-Man.

Then we jump ahead to 1979 for the introduction of the second Ant-Man, Scott Lang, by David Michelinie and John Byrne, in a story that tracks somewhat with the story of the first film—and artists Byrne and Bob Layton really demonstrate the size-changing “shrink fu” fighting tactics that were central to many of the action scenes in the first and especially the second film.

Michelinie then teams this new Ant-Man with Pym, now going by “Yellowjacket,” and The Wasp in a two-part Avengers story that also introduced villain The Taskmaster, and that’s it for the Marvel Universe stories. The rest of the book is filled up by a quartet of stories based on the rent-ish Avengers cartoons, one of which doesn’t feature The Wasp or any Ant-Men (although the cover does say that this issue stars “The Avengers featuring Ant-Man and The Wasp, so I guess they’ve allowed for that).

Given the amount of time, the number of characters and different continuities covered in the book, not to mention the variant styles, it is naturally not too terribly cohesive, and it honestly wouldn’t have been too terribly difficult for Archie to better curate the contents to make a better funnel into the characters and the Marvel Universe…and/or Marvel trade paperback collections. On the other hand, the grab-bag nature of will provide questions for kids to pursue, if they are so inclined, and it’s not a bad introduction to some of the superhero genre’s all-time great artists.

The digest size probably isn’t the best way to encounter art from the likes of Kirby, Byrne, or Perez, but given that the stars of this issue have as a super-power the ability to get really small, Ant-Man and The Wasp are definitely the ideal subjects for the so-much-smaller-than-usual format.

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J. Caleb Mozzocco About J. Caleb Mozzocco

J. Caleb Mozzocco is a way-too-busy freelance writer who has written about comics for online and print venues for a rather long time now. He currently contributes to Comic Book Resources' Robot 6 blog and ComicsAlliance, and maintains his own daily-ish blog at EveryDayIsLikeWednesday.blogspot.com. He lives in northeast Ohio, where he works as a circulation clerk at a public library by day.

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