Friday, March 11, 2016

The Rage of The Black Wasp!

Many Avengers readers probably recall the following scene, since it was so pivotal in the expulsion of Henry Pym (a/k/a Yellowjacket) from the ranks of the team in disgrace--a battle with a magical being who survived from the distant past, seeking mindless revenge on the human race following her lover's apparent murder. The Avengers race to stop her rampage--including Yellowjacket, who has become emotionally unstable and who desperately seeks to prove his worth to the team. Instead, his lapse in judgment reignites hostilities with their foe, and nearly causes his death--saved only by the one person whose aid, in his eyes, further humiliates him.

Despite Pym's actions, Captain America continued to try to defuse the situation, and eventually the woman abandoned her tirade of vengeance and left the scene. However, the incident led to an inquiry of Pym's mental state, and, subsequently, the escalation of his deceptive actions to exonerate himself, followed by his eventual fall.

But in a 1982 What If tale, events turned out differently, as the Wasp arrives seconds too late to prevent Pym from being crushed by the vehicle sent hurtling toward him.

The interesting factor in the alternate tale lies in the timing of Pym's death, rather than the death itself. At that point, the Avengers were somewhat aware that Pym was going through difficulties--but it would have been the Wasp who would have taken more notice of the severity of her husband's problems and behavior, and her solution to the situation was to be more supportive of him and remain submissive to his mood swings rather than bring the situation to the attention of the Avengers. And she remains in his corner during her period of mourning, honoring the hero he was rather than the man who had begun to distance himself from her.

Eventually, Jan's grief transforms into a form of self-deception, her memories of Pym's growing instability being overwhelmed by her feelings of loss and producing in her a festering bitterness in regard to the circumstances of his death. And as those details leak out, it's only a matter of time before she begins to lay the matter at the Avengers' door, and one Avenger in particular.

Seeking to vent her outrage and frustration, Jan then strikes out on her own in a wave of vigilante justice--and the Black Wasp is born, targeting the plethora of criminals in New York who are beneath the Avengers' radar and dropping them mercilessly with her Wasp's sting, accompanied by an extra vicious sting hit after each assault which she uses in her dead husband's name.

It's only a matter of time before reports of Jan's activities reach the rest of the Avengers--but the attempts to reach Jan on a rational level have little to no hope at this point of getting through the rage that still consumes her, as she continues to confront Cap and hold him responsible for Pym's death. Tensions have now reached the boiling point, threatening to blow the team apart at the seams.

Fortunately, a crisis diverts the Avengers' attention from their internal strife, and the team responds to a building fire that has its residents trapped in the blaze. Each Avenger performs efficiently and professionally--but a shocking development nearly has Jan abandoning her sense of duty and forfeiting her conscience.

The shock of her actions (or in this case, inaction) brings Jan to a crossroads with the Avengers. She realizes that she can't continue as she has been--yet she's unwilling to concede that the Avengers, and Cap in particular, are entirely blameless in her husband's death. And so she chooses to leave the team for good, perhaps finally leaving behind "the Black Wasp" with her grief.

But just the same, heaven help the next poor slob who wants to rob her.


George Chambers said...

Uhh, Jan... Carol Danvers wants her sash back.

B Smith said...

I never bought many of those "What If" issues - the scenarios proposed rarely seemed like critical turning points in Marvel history, and it always looked they weren't using any top talents (Byrne and Miller aside) to work on it (which suggseted they didn't really believe in it as a project themselves)...but probably mostly, they were all so pessimistic!

The few issues I read and others I'd read about seemed mired in things gone wrong, misunderstandings, accidents, revenge, many stories actually finished with a happy conclusion?

Comicsfan said...

B, you make some fair points in regard to most of the What If stories ending either tragically, disastrously, or even in annihilation. I'd probably have trouble filling up the fingers of one hand with those stories that actually turned out for the better. Dr. Strange starting out as a disciple of Dormammu comes to mind; also the Iron Man story where he was trapped in the past but made a new life for himself; as well as the FF operating as a team without ever having gained super-powers. Probably the best example I can think of where a What If story lived up to the series' potential was in the story where Sue Storm had married the Sub-Mariner, which featured a bittersweet ending and demonstrated that you don't have to end up with everyone dead or doomed when providing an alternate direction for an original tale.

When you think about it, we probably wouldn't have much of a What If series if events were re-told but still turned out well for everyone involved, given that most of the comics stories we've read involve the characters escaping doom or destruction by the most narrow of margins. Under those circumstances, it may not be such a leap to see an alternate tale present a worst case scenario when the last-minute save doesn't occur.

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