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Comics Watch: How 'Ant-Man 3' Could Go Bigger

ANT-MAN AND THE WASP -  Evangeline Lilly and Paul Rudd - Publicity-H 2018
Courtesy of Marvel Studios
The latest run from writer Zeb Wells offers a blueprint Marvel Studios could borrow from, with zany characters and a superhero trying to convince his daughter he's as cool as the A-list Avengers.

Welcome back to The Hollywood Reporter's weekly Comics Watch, a dive into how the latest books from Marvel, DC and beyond could provide fodder for the big (and small) screen. Be warned, there are spoilers ahead for Ant-Man No. 3.

This week’s Comics Watch is going small-time, microscopic in fact, with Ant-Man. Marvel Comics’ miniseries, the latest in a current line of minis that are capitalizing on characters popularized in the Marvel Cinematic Universe but don’t already have their own ongoing series, explores Scott Lang’s numerous personal and professional relationships. Written by Zeb Wells, with art by Dylan Burnett, this week’s Ant-Man No. 3 (of 5) sees Scott Lang coming to terms with his daughter's (Cassie aka Stinger), desire to move to L.A. and join the West Coast Avengers, and his own fraught relationship with the superhero community. With a third Ant-Man film in development, but not in Marvel Studios’ Phase 4 plans yet, the latest comic book adventures could serve as source of inspiration for where Scott’s future cinematic adventures might go.

Thanks to the MCU, Scott has evolved into a much quirkier and comedic character in recent years, more closely aligned with Paul Rudd’s portrayal in the films. But there’s still a distinction between the two iterations of Scott Lang, at least in terms of Wells’ presentation of the character. In this series, Scott is kind of a bum, well, literally a bum. He lives in an anthill and talks to ants, fights a conspiracy of bug-people, and has lost the respect of most of his fellow superheroes and, more important, his daughter, who is trying to branch out and jump-start her own superhero career alongside Kate Bishop, aka Hawkeye. Scott explains his situation and quest to regain respect to Tony Stark, saying, “I’m gonna level with you. I’m with Cassie, and at the moment she basically sees me as a circus clown. Need to show her I’m still in the big leagues. Need a ‘W’ here.” Basically, if Scott seemed like a loser in Ant-Man (2015), he’s even more of a loser here and Wells plays up Scott’s status as a social pariah with self-aware humor that distinguishes the book from Marvel’s other superhero fare. Yes, the world-ending stakes are present, but they’re played for comedy, and ultimately seem less pressing than Scott’s personal life.

Ant-Man’s position in the MCU is significantly different from where he finds himself in the current Marvel comics. The MCU Scott may have started as a convict and a joke, but he’s an Avenger now, and one whose prowess and (stolen/borrowed) technology saved the universe from Thanos. But, there’s an interesting scenario for the character’s future appearances in which his role in all of that doesn’t have the same amount of clout as it does with the other heroes. Part of what makes Ant-Man compelling is that no matter what he does, he’ll never be regarded as being on the same level as Captain America, Iron Man or Thor. He’s not even on the same level as the much cooler Wasp (Evangeline Lilly). Scott being a C-list hero, while also trying to serve as a mentor to his daughter Cassie, now a teenager after the time jump in Endgame, is a compelling hook for a third movie, and more so if Wells’ zany tone and high concepts are put into play.

Marvel Studios’ Ant-Man films, for me, have always felt like half-steps that have never fully committed to the world or power sets that have been introduced. They don’t have the giant weight of expectation that the MCU’s bigger films have and are allowed to be more self-contained, and yet too often it feels like the films are spinning their wheels and waiting for the next Avengers team-up. But the current comic has Bug-Lords, giant creatures comprising smaller bugs living in the sewers, humanoid insect monsters that have invaded the Savage Land and a guest appearance from the friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. And this is all while Scott tries to impress his daughter in front of heroes she’d much rather be teaming up with. Wells and Burnett’s series offers the kind of weirdness and irrelevance that Scott’s onscreen adventures could use more of. For Ant-Man to get smaller, and truly find his place, it’s time Marvel Studios thinks bigger in terms of what the character can accomplish in a world of giant icons.

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