A review of sorts
As we were leaving the movie megaplex last night, Editor Adriane asked me to do up a piece about Ant-Man and the Wasp, informing me that others also will be reviewing the movie from their own unique perspectives and I should do the same. That’s fine by me: there’s some cute stuff pulled straight out of Marvel continuity lurking in the shadows of this flick, and as the Pop Culture Squad’s official old fart, I’m gonna pull back some of the covers.
But first, the mandatory SPOILER ALERT. I might be revealing some stuff that could possibly undermine your enjoyment of this very entertaining movie, presuming you haven’t seen it yet because, ya know, you might actually have a life. So if you haven’t seen the movie and you haven’t looked at the art we’re posting, proceed at your own risk.
The sundry Mighty Marvel Media enjoys deploying somewhat more obscure characters as a nod to Those In The Know, and AM&TW is no exception. Let’s start with Goliath, who was one of Henry Pym’s many costumed alternative incarnations of Ant-Giant-Man. You might recall there was a thankfully short-lived fad of introducing black superheroes during the second half of the 1970s. Ordinarily, this wouldn’t be the object of derision. Quite the opposite. But, hokey smokes, a bunch of these characters were first-named “Black” as if you couldn’t tell from the looking at the visuals. Black Lightning, Black Panther (he received his first monthly series in 1977), Black Goliath…
When Marvel introduced a brand-new Bucky to the Captain America grimoire, he, too, was of African-American roots but at least they were smart enough not to call him Black Bucky. Introducing a black superhero named “Bucky” is appalling enough. Thankfully, it didn’t take them long to figure that one out.
Black Goliath was, get this, a black version of white Goliath. He lasted five issues, was part of the Hank Pym sub-universe, and like all Marvel characters he existed in the MCU until they killed him off (peculiarly unrevived thus far, to the best of my knowledge) decades later. His birth name was Bill Foster. So when the movie folk needed to implant a co-worker/partner for the younger Hank Pym, they used Bill Foster… to good affect.
Bill Foster is played by Lawrence Fishburne, who is one of those handful of actors who is so damn impressive I’d watch him read the backs of cereal boxes for two hours – in IMAX. Cute fun fact: in a flashback sequence, young Bill Foster was played by Lawrence’s son Langston. He’s got a real career of his own but, damn, he truly looks like a younger version of his father. Yeah, I know, go figure.
This brings us to the character of Jimmy Woo, who plays an FBI agent charged with monitoring Scott (Ant-Man II) Lang, who is finishing his second year of house arrest. I kind of jumped up and down in my lush lounger-seat, as I’ve been a fan of Agent Woo’s for a half century.
Jimmy Woo was first introduced in Yellow Claw #1, published in 1956. Yellow Claw was your average Yellow Peril Fu-Manchu knock off, although unlike Fu YC was a Communist menace. Hey, it was 1956. Even the Red Skull was a Communist menace at the time. As a comic book, though, it was superlative – except for its totally insensitive racism, of course. Created by Al Feldstein during his brief downtime from EC Comics and initially drawn by the legendary Joe Maneely, one of the very best comics artists you might not have heard of, it lasted a mere four issues. Sadly, Maneely died after the first issue. This prompted editor Stan Lee to talk Jack Kirby into returning to the company, and he wrote and penciled and inked (with his wife Roz) the remaining three issues – the final issue sported John Severin inks, because Maneely, Kirby and Kirby weren’t enough, I guess. Beautiful stuff.
I should point out that having an Asian-American hero was revolutionary in 1956. It shouldn’t have been, but there’s lots of stuff that shouldn’t have been. Jimmy Woo may have been the first Asian-American hero in U.S. comics.
Because it’s Marvel where no idea, good or bad, ever dies forever, Jimmy Woo made his return in the Nick Fury series in 1967, written and drawn by the also-legendary Jim Steranko. Agent Woo sure has good taste in artists. He then became a member of SHIELD, and got ret-conned all over the place.
And now he’s in AT&TW, wonderfully played by Randall Park. Park humanized him a bit and matched Jimmy to the tone of the movie, but at no point did I feel he was lessened in any way.
One more. Another of my favorite actors, Walton Goggins, appears as Sonny Burch. Created in a 2004 issue of Iron Man by John Jackson Miller, Jorge Lucas and Philip Tan, Sonny was chairman of Cross Technologies and, later, a weapons “procurer” for the United States government. Sonny has been a pretty minor character but he serves a useful and very entertaining purpose in AM&TW. Goggins is always fun to watch and quite gifted in his range, but I personally have a problem seeing him as a Marvel villain. I have to push out the image of his transgendered character in the last seasons of Sons of Anarchy. You’d think his roles in Justified and The Hateful Eight would have cured me of that, but I wince at the pain he must have endured playing the voluptuous Venus Van Damn.
Ant-Man and The Wasp has a lot going for it in addition to its clever use, and clever casting, of sundry lesser-known Marvel characters. I’ll let my fellow critics discuss all that. Bottom line: I had a hell of a lot of fun at the movies Thursday night…
… Despite the immense plot-twist during the first credits-break sequence.