A Marvelous Tale Told in the Mighty Marvel Manner!
The Challenge of Comrade X!
October 16, 1962
The sun slowly rose over Center City. The city greeted the new day with the usual hustle and bustle rituals before the workday began. Stores opened, food was being prepared, groggy bodies were slowly wresting themselves from warm beds, and everything was going smoothly.
Except for the first National Bank, where inside the morning clerks where making a bizarre discovery as they opened the doors and checked the vault.
"What on Earth?" cried the bank manger as he inspected the heavy vault door. A small card was neatly placed near the lock with the words 'Call Police and open door ASAP' scrawled on it.
Handing the card to one of the clerks, the manager rushed to the phone in his office and dialed the police. Scant minutes later, the sound of sirens filled the air as several cruisers pulled up near the curb and nearly a dozen officers filed into the building. Showing the card to the men, the manager removed his key and unlocked the massive door. As the solid steel barrier swung open, he gasped at what he saw inside.
Several men, their faces covered with crude masks, were sitting around. A few had dozed off, and a couple was engaged in a card game. "You the guys who going to let us out?" one of them asked as he looked up from his card game.
As the men were taken out of the vault and loaded into the waiting car, the officer in charge listened to the story as the various hoods spilled their guts. "Everything was perfect, perfect!" one wailed as he was seated next to his compatriots, most of who did not share his opinion.
"Oh yeah smart guy? If you were so smart, then how come the door closed on us as we went inside?"
"Yeah, and who was that any guy anyway?" one of the thugs questioned as the door was slammed.
Officer Rivers, who had been on the force long enough to see plenty of weird things, whistled as he checked over the crime scene. "It checks out with the other scenes sir."
His superior officer nodded as he noted down the details. "Gang gets trapped inside the very place they were hitting is nothing new, but ants? How do they figure into this?"
"Well sir, some of the guys we busted have all mentioned someone called 'Ant-Man', perhaps we have some kind of a guardian angel?" Rivers offered.
"Ant-Man? Yeah right. Maybe we're just getting a dumber breed of crooks."
Unaware of the conversation that was taking place, a certain costumed crime fighter was busy slumping in an overstuffed chair. Ant-Man, otherwise known as Hank Pym, removed his cybernetic helmet and placed it on the coffee table before him. Closing his eyes, he rubbed his brow as he leaned back.
"Hank? Darling, what's wrong?" a welcome voice called from inside the kitchen.
Maria Pym poked around the corner to see her husband dozing in the chair. She smiled as she sighed. Hank's late night activities were taking a toll on him, but she said nothing as she draped a nearby blanket over him. Taking his helmet with her, she went back into the kitchen.
Most housewives would be busy preparing breakfast, but Maria was a little different than most. Sitting down to a tool cluttered table, she placed the helmet before her and started to scribble down some notes on whatever piece of paper she could find. "Hank, darling, when are you going to stop treating this as piece of sporting equipment?" thought Maria as she started to tinker with the insides of the helmet. Pulling out fused wires, she set about getting the device working again. As she worked, she was unaware of everything else as she tossed the useless circuits away over her shoulder.
"Ow!" came a familiar cry behind her.
"Hank?" She stopped her work before turning around. Her husband was standing before the fridge, rubbing his sore head as he held the discarded parts in one gloved hand.
"You might want to consider pitching for the majors instead of wasting your time here" he joked as he removed a carton of orange juice from the fridge.
Maria blushed as she stood up and embraced her husband. "Hank, how did it go last night?"
"Fine. I nabbed some bank robbers. Add them up with the jewelry store guys and those second story men, I think this has been a pretty busy week." Hank shrugged before he exited the kitchen and made his way towards the bedroom in the small one story house. He peeled his costume off and tossed it in the nearby hamper on his way to what he hoped was a soft bed and a warm pillow.
Opening the door, he stripped off the rest of his clothes and fell face first onto the bed. He was asleep before his face made contact with the pillow.
Maria stood in the doorway and watched her husband slumber. "Were we right?" walking back to the kitchen, she helped herself to the hours old coffee and stared at the cluttered table. Under the tools and various blueprints were bills. A perfect contrast to their life ever since Hank had donned the costume. She knew Hank enjoyed the thrills, but she also knew about the danger.
At his size, Hank had to depend on both the ants that he took his namesake from and his brain. With the winter fast approaching, he wouldn't be able to count on those brave insects anymore. What would he do then?
Moving the various tools and scraps of cloth aside, Maria was struck by an idea. "Maybe what he needs is a partner." The idea had been playing in her mind ever since their honeymoon, but only now did she really think to act on it. Jumping up from her seat, she snagged Hank's uniform from the hamper and took it with her to the makeshift lab Hank had set up in the greenhouse out back.
Meanwhile, across the ocean in the Soviet Union
With the recent crisis in Cuba, things had been fairly tense among the government buildings. Despite outward appearances to the west, the Soviet Union was not as unified as it appeared. For every politico who championed Khrushchev, there were just as many who yearned for Stalin.
Tucked away in a mass of nondescript buildings, there was a meeting of minds taking place. Deep within the bowels of a largely abandoned tenant building, a man paced nervously. His name was unimportant for this meeting. If anyone at the Party had learned of his actions tonight, being forced to go to a gulag would have been a blessing. Checking his watch for the hundredth time, he walked back and forth under the single slight bulb that provided some light to the dark basement. Hugging his briefcase tightly to his chest, he was starting to wonder if arranging this meeting was such a bright idea after all.
"Why are you so nervous comrade?" a light voice spoke from the dark.
The man had to bite his lip to keep from screaming as he turned around. Fumbling, he tried to present himself with more authority as the speaker stepped closer. "Are you?" he tried to say before the stranger let out a low laugh.
"Him? Yes. What is it that you want of me?" the stranger demanded. In the dim light, the man could see the other's features more clearly. The stranger's body was wide, and his features dark. His mouth was hidden under a thick mustache, and his eyes were little more than dark pinpricks hiding under a sloping brow.
The man cleared his throat before placing his briefcase down and sliding it across the floor. "All the information is in there. Do you job properly, and you will go down as the greatest hero in all of Mother Russia's history!"
The stranger's mouth jerked as the man spoke. "I will complete my assignment, have no fear of that. Comrade X does not fail."
And with that, the mysterious Comrade X vanished into the shadows.
Back in the states
Hank woke with a start. Looking around, he sighed with relief when he saw the familiar sights of the bedroom around him. Seeing the sunlight streaming in through the curtains, he roused himself from the bed and stumbled into the hall.
"Maria?" called Hank as he rubbed the sleep from his eyes.
"Yes?" his wife called back from somewhere inside the house.
Looking at the clock that hanged over the kitchen door, he was surprised to see that he had only been asleep for a few hours. Sitting down at the table, he moved the various piles of junk aside to make room for his breakfast.
Munching on some cold toast that Maria had left out, Hank scanned the headlines from the paper. "Hank, can you tell me what you think?" he heard Maria ask. Barely lifting his eyes, Hank turned around and almost choked on his toast.
Maria was standing before him clad in a skintight costume. The material looked to be the same as his suit, save for it being largely black with a few red highlights. "Well? What do you think?"
"Um, what exactly are you intending to do with that honey?"
Maria's face darkened as Hank spoke. "What do you think? I'm going to help you. You won't be able to count on the ants forever you know."
Hank stood up and looked his wife in the eye. "Maria, I love you, but this is just too dangerous. Look, I get by on the crooks not knowing what I am. If they figured that I was just some tiny guy who talked to bugs, what would stop them from just buying some bug spray and some heavy duty shoes? Look, Maria, I can understand your wanting to fight crime and corruption, but we're scientists. I invented that formula to help mankind, not to let me gad about stopping two bit hoods."
Maria shrugged and walked past her husband. "I was fighting for my life before we met Hank. I know danger." Gesturing to her outfit, her eyes flashed as she spoke. "And this is what I want. We have the gifts, why shouldn't we help?"
"Because stopping cat burglars won't pay the rent!" exploded Hank. He was a scientist. The most adventure he was used to involved working in a lab, but he knew about the real world. The stacks of bills, the notes, nothing could be put off forever.
"Maria, I love you, but I can't go running off every night to save a few business." Hank said, his voice lowering back to normal.
Maria, the fire in her eyes quickly being replaced with an icy stare that would freeze the very heart of a raging inferno, spoke slowly to her husband. "Alright then. If you want to stay here, then I won't stand in your way." Turning sharply, she marched out of the kitchen. He could hear her footsteps fade away as he was left at the table.
"Oh brother" sighed Hank. Getting up, Hank swore under his breath. "This is going to get ugly." Looking down, he added as he made his way back to the bedroom. "First, get some pants, then work."
While Hank's mind was preoccupied with just how he could patch things up with his wife, sinister events were unfolding across town. Inside the dull gray building that served as a police station, life was busy bustling by, except when it came to the matter of paper work; then everything slowed down to a crawl.
Inside one of the cramped offices, a young woman sat before a cluttered desk while the man whose name was stenciled on the small plaque argued with a fellow officer just out in the hall. She sighed as she sat perfectly straight in the stiff wooden chair. Her chestnut colored hair was neatly tucked up under her hat as she checked her face out in a small compact.
"I'm telling you, we should just call the loony bin on this one!" she heard one the detective bellow in the doorway.
"And I'm telling you, just hear her out." Came the reply. The detective grunted and slammed the door as he came back into the office. Storming back to his desk, he eased himself down into the rickety chair and looked at the woman.
"Alright, it seems that my esteemed colleague thinks you might have a point here besides wasting my time. So, spill it." The detective said with no enthusiasm.
The woman cleared her throat before speaking. Her voice was soft, and there was a hint of an English accent. "My name is Allison Smyth. I have come here because a man is in grave danger!"
"Un huh. And who is in danger exactly?"
"Oh brother." The detective just shook his head. "Lady, I have enough work without dealing with every nut that wanders in off the street. Look, unleash you can produce some solid proof that this ant jerk even exists, then I'd mind it if you could just have the common courtesy to shout your gibberish from the street corner like a normal crazy."
Below their feet, unseen and unheard by both parties, there a gasp from a tiny figure. Maria, clad in her costume, reacted with horror as she heard the woman's voice. "Hank, in danger?" she thought as she carefully made her way around the base of a several rusty filing cabinets and dashed towards the woman's chair…
Smyth tried to protest as she was ushered out of the office. Turning around, she was rebuked by the slamming door. She turned back around silently and gracefully made her way out of the precinct. She said nothing as she walked to the curb and started to hail a cab.
"How do you know the Ant-Man?" she heard a small voice say near her ear.
Whirling around, Smyth saw only the usual pedestrian traffic. "How is he in danger?" the strange voice said again. Spinning around, she saw only the busy early afternoon street.
"Where are you?" she whispered.
"Close, but I ask again, what is the danger to Ant-Man."
Smyth glanced around the street before ducking into an empty phone booth. Picking up the receiver, she started to whisper. "My name is Smyth. While I was studying at the University, I met an older man. We quickly became lovers. I was young, foolish, and"
"Spare your romantic failings. What about the danger?" the voice asked once more. Smyth could hear the impatient tone even in the tiny tone.
"Forgive me. I was a love struck fool, but I had to flee when I found out my lover was in fact Comrade X!"
"The Russian murder? How would he know about Ant-Man?"
"I don't know; he flew into a rage when I discovered his secret. He threatened to kill me and my family if I told anyone." Tears began to well up in her eyes as she placed her purse down by the phone. "He said Ant-Man's death would help crush the west. I knew I had to tell someone. Are you Ant-Man?"
Hearing no reply, Smyth looked around the small confines of the booth. Seeing no one, she continued to talk into the phone. "He has taken to living on a private cargo boat. I know the ship will arrive tonight at midnight. He never stays in one place to long for fear of being caught. Can you be at the docks by then?"
Again hearing no reply, Smyth quietly hung up the phone before exiting the booth. There was still a warm breeze in the air, but Smyth shivered all the same.
Hank shivered at the coolness of the night as he spied the ship anchored in the harbor. He played the confrontation he had with Maria over in his mind as he adjusted the dials on his helmet.
"You snuck off? Are you mad?" the words came back to him as he recalled Maria, still wearing that suit of hers, suddenly appearing before him.
"Yes, but you are in danger. This isn't about money Hank, or even doing the right thing. People are coming to kill you, and they won't stop until they succeed."
Clearing his head, Hank was brought back to the present when he overhead some men talking near him. The thick Russian accents gave them away as he reached into his belt and pulled out a small vial. Splashing himself with the formula, Hank blinked as he shrunk. The crates that formerly hid his presence now seemed as big as buildings. Ducking into the shadows, the men's voices made him dizzy at their volume.
Scampering towards the edge of the dock, Ant-Man saw the anchor chain standing proudly in the murky black water. Broadcasting a message, he waited patiently as some ants crawled out of the crates and assembled before him. The chain had given him an idea.
Hank concentrated as he took a seat on the back of the closet ant. Ignoring everything else, Hank projected his thoughts into the hive mind. No matter how many times he did that, Hank was both enthralled and terrified at how he could control so many creatures all at once. Moving en mass, he directed the group to the lone gangplank that the guards used to enter and exit the ship.
"They'll never think of a frontal assault." Thought Ant-Man as he and the ants marched silently up the walkway into the ship. But as they marched something happened; unseen by the ants or even Ant-Man himself, a small light blinked as they made their way up.
Down below decks
Behind the rusted exterior lay a technology wonderland that would put even NASA to shame. Comrade X smirked as he watched on a series of monitors broadcast the arrival of his guest. "Comrade" one of the guards began, "The American is on the boat. Why do we not kill him now and be done with it?"
"Because that is not my goal." Comrade X said as he continued to stare at the row of monitors. "I am to capture him, then take whatever device he uses to shrink himself. Anything else is secondary."
Walking over to a small desk, Comrade X picked up a perfectly transparent box. Lightly rubbing his gloved hands over it, he smiled. "This shall do the trick nicely. I shall be waiting in the main hold. Make sure he makes it there without incident." Gently picking the box up, he exited the room.
In the main hold
Ant-Man carefully made his through the dark. The trip down the stairs had been without incident, which made him cautious. "Could they be expecting me?" he thought as he heard something whishing above him. Before he could move, blinding lights filled the hold as a transparent box was slammed into place around him and his ants.
Above him leered a powerfully built man. "So this is the infamous Yankee hero? I was thinking you were taller." He grunted in a heavily accented English.
"Comrade X I presume." Ant-Man shot back as he pounded on the clear box.
His actions amused the giant man, who laughed as he saw the tiny hero banging on the walls of the box. "A futile effort my little guest. That box is made from a specially made plastic, and it was fitted to lock into place on the floor. A regular sized man couldn't break it, so I doubt your little fists are going to do much good. Don't worry though; I made sure they put a hole in the top so you can breath."
Squatting down, Comrade X leaned in to take a closer look at his captive. "My mission is simple. All I want from you is your ability to shrink. Give me that, and you and your little bug friends are free to scurry away."
"And if I refuse?" Ant-Man shouted.
"When I was a small child, I used to steal my grandmother's matches and stick the lit ones down the ant hill that was behind the woodshed. It has been a long time since I've engaged in such childish acts, Yankee, but I can assure you I still remember." Comrade X was calm as he spoke. Ant-Man had no doubts that the man was more than capable of carrying out his threats.
"Think it over little Yankee. I'll be back to hear your answer in an hour." Comrade X straightened up and walked over to the guards. Lowering his voice to a whisper, he leaned in to talk. "Stay here and leave the light on. We'll be casting off, but I don't trust this little freak. If he tries to escape, kill him."
Ant-Man looked around his prison, trying to find anything that would help him to escape. The walls were smooth, and Comrade X was right, there was only one small opening near the top and that was smaller than his head. "We haven't moved yet," he thought as he started to issue commands to his ants. "There may still be time."
Herding the ants near the center of the box, Ant-Man had them form a makeshift pyramid. Climbing on top, he angled his antenna and started to broadcast his thoughts to the ants that were still on the dock. "Come to me" he ordered as he started to issue instructions.
On the dock, had any of the guards bothered to check, they would have seen scores of ants swarming over the various wooden boxes and other bits of refuse. Picking, clawing, and tearing, the ants snapped off bits of wood, discarded matchboxes, and anything else they could grasp with their mandibles and pushed everything they had over the edge. Hanging onto the debris, they landed with a small splash in the water.
Once in, they started moving towards the anchor chain that Ant-Man had spotted earlier. Catching the proper current, the ants floated towards the giant chain and quickly abandoned their rafts and started to climb one by one up the anchor as the guards piled onboard.
While down below decks, the two men standing guard over the captive hero were unflinching in their duty. Neither one of them flinched or blinked as they stood by either side of the door. Nor did they hear the tiny movement of hundreds of legs on the metallic floor as the ants (having easily bypassed all the crew) climbed up the walls and swarmed over the light switch.
It took the combined strength of well over a dozen ants, but in one instant the room was plunged into total darkness. Panicked screams in Russian were quickly replaced by short bursts of gunfire. The guards screamed for assistance as they tried to fend off their imaginary attackers by firing randomly into the hold.
Ant-Man ducked the moment the lights went out. The gunfire was almost deafening, but the light provided by the blazing muzzles told him to duck. The bullets soared through the air, but a few managed to hit the box.
As the guards opened the door to the outside to let some light in, Ant-Man took the opportunity to inspect the damage (hopefully) caused by the gunfire.
The box was fairly intact, but a few shots managed to crack the top slightly. Balancing on the backs of the ants, Ant-Man shoved his hands into the split. Gritting his teeth, he pushed as hard as he could. The cracked plastic slowly yielded. "Come on!" He grunted as the ants below him started to push upwards. The plastic popped and splintered as he forced himself up through the crack. Catching his breath, he rolled to the side as the ants started to swarm out. He missed the exact words the guards were screaming, but he knew it wouldn't take long for them to figure out what happened.
Dragging himself to the closet ant, he rode on its back as it crawled down the side and onto the floor. The ants moved as one towards the door as the two guards fled down the hall, screaming for reinforcements.
The ants that caused the blackout were patiently waiting along the wall like expectant troops before a general. Ant-Man slipped off his mount and leaned against the wall. The ship's movement was making him dizzy, but he did his best to stand upright. Hearing the men shouting down the hall, he willed the ants to come with him as they marched towards the noise.
Down the hallway, Ant-Man spied the two guards standing in a small room filled with bunks and other men. They were jabbering is rapid Russian and gesturing wildly. He noticed the door was partial open; Ant-Man dismounted and released the growth gas. His vision blurred as he shot back up to his normal height. The guards failed to see him, and the rest of the men were too busy laughing at their tale to notice him either.
Taking a deep breath, Ant-Man jumped forward and wrapped his fingers around the door handle. Leaping back, he slammed the door and spun the lock around. As the men realized what had happened, Ant-Man snatched a nearby fire axe and shoved it through the lock, trapping the men inside. He didn't breathe again until he knew the door was secure.
"Back to business" he thought as he released the shrinking gas. The world around him grew as he shrank. Calling his ants to him, he rode back the direction he came. "Alright, I saw Comrade X go left when he left the room, but I don't how many men he has on this boat, or the layout."
As the ants marched down the hallway, Ant-Man gave the order to stop when he heard another man talking. Creeping up to the door, He spied a man sitting at a large radio and fiddling with the controls. "This gives me an idea," thought the miniature hero as he issued another to the ants.
Within seconds they were climbing the wall behind the man and were soon on the ceiling. Ant-Man clung to his ride as they approached the only source of light in the room, a single overhanging oil lamp that was placed directly over the radio operator's head. Signaling the ants to move forward, Ant-Man directed them as scores of the creatures swarmed over the cord that suspended the lamp and started to chew at it.
The act took several precious minutes. Fear gnawed at Ant-Man's gut with each passing second as he knew that they were going farther and farther away the longer the ship was in motion. The cord was severed thread by thread. The work was painstakingly slow, but he knew he had to get a hold of that radio. The lamp dangled precariously over the operator's head before the cord finally gave way and landed on the man's skull with a dull 'crack'. The lamp rolled down the man's back and broke open on the floor, causing a the flame inside to spread.
The man didn't even moan as he pitched forward. Giving the order, Ant-Man rode his ant down the wall and onto the table. Using the antidote to the shrink formula once again as he jumped from the edge, Ant-Man was full sized once he hit the floor. Grabbing a nearby fire extinguisher, he put out the blaze. Binding the man and removing his headset, Ant-Man slipped off his own helmet and started to broadcast the ship's location to the Coast Guard. After sending his message, he quickly took the set off and put his own helmet back on. Splashing himself with the shrinking formula, he summoned the ants as the room grew around him. "Go forth" he ordered as the ants started to swarm out through the door.
Ant-Man didn't know where Comrade X was, but that was about to change. The ants (he still hesitated to call them his) could search every square inch of the boat faster than he could on his.
After nearly a brief period of waiting; during which he tied the radio operator's hands and feet with the man's own belt, he got word from one of the scouts. His quarry had been found. Silently, Ant-Man checked his gear as he rode down the hallway towards the mysterious Comrade X.
The further down he went into the ship, Ant-Man couldn't help but notice how richer the trappings had become. Steel floors gave way to Oriental rugs; dull gray walls were replaced with fine art, and (much to his discomfort) various antique weapons.
An oak door loomed before him. Dismounting, Ant-Man quietly slid under the door and readied himself for the fight of his life.
What he got, in lieu of battle, was the sight of Comrade X sitting patiently before a large vanity mirror. "Well my little Yankee guest, I was beginning to lose hope." The Russian's face betrayed no surprise at the sight of the miniature hero. "I must admit the way you escaped your trap was quite ingenious. But now the game must come to an end." As Comrade X spoke, he reached behind and grabbed something that chilled Ant-Man's very soul.
In the giant's hands was not a gun, but it was a dangerous weapon all the same. It was a spray-can. "DDT" Comrade X spoke as he tapped the bottom of the can. "Not so hazardous for me, but for your little friends and yourself…well, I think you can figure it out." The corner of Comrade X's mouth jerked upward slightly as he pulled back on the plunger and took aim.
Millions of thoughts raced through Ant-Man's mind as he saw the plunger begin its deadly descent. "If I enlarge, I might be to knock it out of his hands, but what if he has another weapon? I can't risk getting too close."
Back up against the door, Ant-Man saw some salvation right under his feet. "The rug!" he thought as he lifted the multithreaded weave up and slid under it. Overhead he heard the booming voice.
"You think that will save you?" the giant laughter of Comrade X filled his ears even under the rug. "I'll crush you like the bug you are!" Ant-Man moved as fast as he could, but he knew his position was already given away. The Russian's heavy boots slammed down next to him, knocking him flat.
Gasping for air under the thick weave, Ant-Man sent out another order as he struggled to move forward. "I've got to buy myself some time." Scrambling to his feet, he pushed forward. Overhead, and unseen by Comrade X, the ants had amassed on the ceiling over his head and near the lights. Moving as one, they crawled over the lights, plunging the room into darkness.
"What's going on?" Comrade X shouted as he looked up. "Clever Yankee, very clever!" Aiming the spray can at the lights, he started to laugh. "But no one can fool Comrade X! No one!"
Ant-Man pulled himself free from the rug as he saw the giant aiming at the ants. Horror flooded his system as he saw the dim outline of the man aiming the poison at the ants. "No!" he shouted, although he knew his voice wouldn't carry far enough for him to be heard. Running full tilt, he released the growing gas as he aimed at the giant's kneecap. Reaching his full height in a manner of milliseconds, the now full-grown Ant-Man slammed into the unsuspecting Comrade X's lower body. The Russian was knocked over, the deadly DDT rolling away from his meaty fingers.
"Fool!" he shouted as he struggled to his feet. Ant-Man loomed over him silently as he pressed his fingers to his helmet. Without a sound, the ants all dropped from the lights, blinding Comrade X as scores of the small black insects fell from the lights and quickly covered everything in the room, Comrade X included.
"Get them off!" he screamed as he thrashed around like a beached whale. His screams became higher pitched as he suddenly sat right up, his finger clawing at his face. "Get them off of me!" he shrieked as his right check suddenly started to distend. The flesh stretched and bubbled as it grew. Comrade X's entire face started to follow suit the flesh sagged and stretched. The brows sagged over the eyes, blinding him as he stumbled to his feet. "Help me!" he lisped as his lips dropped. His check continued to grow until the fleshly bag was nearly touching his shoulder. With a sickeningly loud 'pop' the check burst as hundreds of ants crawled out and swarmed over Comrade X's torso.
Retching, Comrade X started to claw at the gaping hole. Ant-Man started silently at the spectacle as the Russian tore away at the tattered flesh. The hole grew bigger as he pulled away at it, taking with it facial hair and even teeth. Drunkenly standing, Comrade X pulled the remainder of the flesh away to revel another face.
The face of Allison Smyth!
"How did you know my secret?" she spat as she tore away the remainder of the life-like mask and shook the ants off of her.
"The Ant-Man knows all!" was his only reply. Of course, had he bothered to explain just how he knew her secret, it would have taken far too much time. He briefly thought back to earlier in the afternoon. Maria had discovered her in the police station and followed her. A quick browse through the woman's pocketbook had reveled the secret compartment and the mask. He decided it would be in his best interest if Comrade X didn't know exactly.
Comrade X, Smyth, or whatever her name was, glowered at Ant-Man. Reaching behind her, she pulled out a large knife out from the back of her tunic. "You may have figured out my secret, American, but you won't live to gloat about it! My men will make sure you never leave this boat alive!"
"I hate to disappoint you, but you might want to look outside." Said Ant-Man as he casually leaned up against the wall. Not moving from her combat ready stance, Comrade X glanced out the window and cursed when she saw the outlines of the Coast Guard ships surrounding the boat.
"You filthy little insect!" she screamed as she rushed forward. Ant-Man easily sidestepped the knife and shrank. Unsettled by his disappearance and unable to stop, Comrade X's momentum carried her into the wall. Her head smacked against it with a resounding thud as she slid down to the floor.
The cleanup was uneventful. Ant-Man had shown the members of the Guard where he locked up most of the Reds, and the few of Comrade X's men that were still free easily surrendered. Ant-Man (with his ants in tow) left the Red ship and made his way over to the nearest American ship.
As the strange procession boarded the boat, one of the sailors shot a glance at one of his fellow crewmen. "Who do you think he really is?"
The sailor shrugged as he herded the few remaining Russians into the brig. "I just care that he's on our side. Aside from that, he can keep whatever identity he wants."
And so Ant-Man made his way back to American soil. The thoughts and stresses that came with being scientist Hank Pym were momentarily forgotten as he exchanged handshakes and greetings with the sailors. It felt good to be a hero, but he knew once they reached shore he had to deal with the same problems as everyone else.
That was something he had no problem facing.
Notes to Astonish
This story was based on "The Challenge of Comrade X", which was first published in Tales to Astonish #36 (October 1962) is credited to Stan Lee (story), Larry Lieber (script) Jack Kirby (pencils), Dick Ayers (inks), and John Duffy (letters).
That particular story was the first time Ant-Man ever went up against a real super villain. Comrade X would never be seen again, although a character named Madame X showed in West Coast Avengers a while back who bore a resemblance to the cross-dressing spy.
Now, onto the reader mail:
From Danrilor (an extremely talented writer in his own right)
This story was really a tale to astonish. I had toyed with the idea of doing a series like this because Hank Pym is one of my favorite characters, but your decision to actually place it in the era of which the original stories were written was a great one. There is a movement in modern comics to play fast and loose with continuity in the name of expediency, but your story seems to show a respect and reverence for the characters involved as they were originally written. I wish that Maria had really bit the big one like she did in the comic book (since her fate was the only real thing that motivated Pym to become the Ant-man) but I still look forward to seeing what your plans for her are.
First off Dan, thanks. Second, I know in the regular Marvel U Maria was taken out in flashback but this is not the regular Marvel Universe. Things are going to be a wee bit different, and I will be moving away from the canon as time goes by.
From Aaron C. Wade
Cool adventure story. It's not often
you run across a shrink
feature. Great emphasis on storylines running parallel. It was an
Thanks for the kind words. Glad you liked it. Yeah, doing things that go against the grain is what I'm all about. Unless it actually is going against the grain, then I sit out on that.
Great job. To me, your stories do evoke
similar feelings I had when
I was first getting into comics. Kind of that...well, it's hard to
explain exactly. But it's a good thing. :)
Thanks for sharing
Well, thanks for reading!
Also, I would like to give a special thanks to Lonebeatle. Yeah, You could say I'm trying to recreate the Silver Age, but this isn't just reprinting old stuff. It's more of a re-imagining of the old stories with a healthy dash of What If? thrown in for good measure. And a very special thanks to Articzen for being kind enough to edit this for me
Be sure to check out the other adventures offered:
Journey Into Mystery #5-Lady Thor battles Thrud in downtown New York City!
Sensational Comics #4-The Monster and The Machine! 'Nuff said
Amazing Adventures #1- I am the Fantastic…Reborn!
And be sure to be on the lookout for the next issue, when Ant-Man faces the Protector!