The best way to describe Nick Spencer’s comics body-of-work thus far is ‘mixed bag.’ The jury is out on Morning Glories, his creator-owned ongoing; some feel like it’s an excellent drama, others feel like it’s a convoluted mess. He made a name for himself on high-concept books that delivered on their promises (see Existence 2.0/3.0), but often would bite off a little more than he could chew with a concept or an assignment (see Shuddertown, most of his early corporate comics work, some would argue Morning Glories).
There are two strong points in Spencer’s favor as a writer: he writes great ‘unlikeable protagonists’, and he’s really funny. Superior Foes of Spider-Man started off as a book that stole everything from Matt Fraction and David Aja’s Hawkeye that wasn’t bolted down, and ended up as something entirely its own: a book worth reading every month on its own merits, with a sense of humor and a verve almost inimitable. Here, with Ant-Man, he’s heading into similar territory, with similar success.
Talking first about the art — Ramon Rosanas has been slowly cranking away on books at Marvel, and here, he announces that he’s ready to break out. These pages wouldn’t have been out of place as a fill-in for master draftsman Steve Lieber on Superior Foes. Everything’s clean, clear, crisp, and keeps the pages turning, but it never gets boring to look at. Rosanas is stepping up to the plate and making his presence known here. Jordan Boyd’s colors work well, on top of the art; they’re simple, but not too simple, and despite the lack of texture, nothing feels lost, either in the art or in the story.
Speaking of the story: there’s a lot going on here. Spencer brings back the Superior Foes sense of humor, but tones it down a little bit. The book is fun, but not wacky; funny, but not ridiculous. Spencer goes through pains to remind us that Scott Lang has a heart, taking us through the paces of the character’s history (which is where we touch on a little bit of the ridiculous), and showing us why, at present, we should be reading him. He makes a convincing case. As a side-note, Tony Stark shows up, and the way Spencer writes him is a treat.
The issue is dense, but not off-puttingly so, as some of Spencer’s creator-owned work tends to be. (Did you ever read something that just feels a few pages too long?) If this is the kind of push Marvel wants to put behind Ant-Man, they’ve given it to the right guys in Spencer and Rosanas: this is the kind of debut that leaves you wanting more of the premise and more of the character. It’s got the right tone, the right pace, and the right stuff, all around.