Avengers #76 (2004)

Ant-Man’s daughter, Cassie, is at school one day. At recess she stops two boys from burning ants using a magnifying glass. The boys walk away, but a very nasty stranger enters her schoolyard. Meanwhile, the Jack of Hearts is depressed because his powers are out of control and he must be locked in the Zero Room for 14 hours a day. In the meantime, the rest of the Avengers debate Jack’s fate due to the fact that he’s been stealing the She-Hulk’s gamma radiation and therefore triggering her rampages. Jack overhears the conversation and it makes him still more depressed, so he wanders up to the Avengers Mansion’s roof. Ant-Man comes up to the roof to talk to Jack, and when he does, a crisis erupts with Ant-Man’s daughter.

This is the most morally abhorrent comic I’ve read since the U.S. Army massacred an entire battalion of black troops in Truth: Red, White & Black #2. In this comic, both Jack of Hearts and Ant-Man are revealed as true vigilantes in the Dirty Harry mold, dealing out their arbitrary form of justice without any care about the legal system or society’s norms. They are treated as heroes, but in their lack of wisdom and foresight, they are real criminals. In order to describe why I feel this comic is so disgusting, I’ll be revealing the ending of this comic, so be warned.

When Ant-Man flies off to deal with the crisis involving his daughter, Carrie, the Jack of Hearts follows him. It turns out the nasty stranger has kidnapped Carrie and has her in a decrepit, empty apartment in an abandoned building. We’re never told how or why the girl has been taken to the apartment, but that’s a small plot point. Nor are we told how the police learned of her abduction, why only two police cars responded to a crisis such as this, or where the FBI’s trained hostage negotiators are. And as far as we know, the stranger hasn’t assaulted Carrie in any way. But we do learn that the kidnapper is named Charles Cooley and that “he’s wanted for a lot of things… most recently murdering a little girl. He killed his own daughter.” This is told to Jack when he flies to the crime scene, but not to Ant-Man, who flies to the apartment itself.

Cut to the apartment, where Cooley is pointing a gun at Cassie and ranting about his own daughter Jessica. Cooley is crazy, ranting about his daughter’s loss of innocence and how Cassie reminds him of his own daughter. Suddenly Ant-Man enters the room. He punches Cooley as hard as he can, but Cooley manages to get his gun and shoot Ant-Man in the shoulder. Ant-Man responds by sending a swarm of bees (bees? I thought he was ant man) to sting Cooley. Cooley, on his knees and covered head to toe with bee stings, pleads “I’m allergic to bees. I need a doctor.” To which Ant-Man responds by ranting about his daughter and then holding Cooley’s gun to the evildoer’s head and clicking the safety. In the nick of time, Jack flies through the wall and confronts Ant-Man. “You weren’t really going to shoot this man in front of your daughter, were you, Scott?” Jack asks as he shoots the gun out of Ant-Man’s hands. Remember that Ant-Man isn’t aware that Cooley is suspected of murder or that he may have committed other crimes. All he knows is that this nasty stranger has kidnapped his daughter.

Cassie immediately hugs her father as Cooley again grabs the gun, takes off the safety (again), at which point Jack destroys the gun. Why he didn’t destroy the gun before isn’t explained; apparently it’s to set up the drama of this scene. In any event, now that he’s been directly threatened, Jack gets angry, deciding that “He… hurt his own daughter. I don’t know how or why he did, but he did. I’m an Avenger. So I’m avenging.” Jack then takes Cooley into space, as Jack’s time outside of the Zero Room begins to expire. Jack smiles as his body explodes. Jack has committed suicide, killing Cooley at the same time.

So instead of Ant-Man summarily executing Cooley without his being granted his Constitutional right to a trial, not to mention creating closure for anyone victimized by him, the Jack of Hearts executes Cooley and commits suicide at the same time. Cooley is a criminal so banal he wouldn’t find his way onto Law & Order: SVU on TV, but in comics two heroes feel he deserves to be executed without a trial. This is comic book logic at its worst – nobody makes intelligent decisions, plot threads happen illogically, and so-called heroes act extremely unheroically.

At least Steve Sadowski’s art is very attractive. It’s subtle and he does a fine job of capturing facial expressions. And Carrie’s scene at the beginning of the story is really charming. But aside from that, it’s terrible.

Final Word:
This comic is so filled with plot holes and moral vacancy that it has to rank as one of the least inspired exit of a Marvel hero that has ever appeared. Johns is a fine writer on Teen Titans, but his work on Avengers has been uninspired at best. Maybe Chuck Austen can do better. Well, I can hope, can’t I?


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