Marvel is no stranger to controversy in recent times, and it appears the publisher is staying true to form. In the latest issue of Secret Wars, the rivaling factions are searching the globe for shards of the Cosmic Cube. They both locate it in Alaska where Ultron/Hank Pym (long story) are rebuilding Avengers Mansion along with a city of robots. The good guys — consisting of an AI version of Tony Stark, Falcon, Mockingbird, Quicksilver and Hercules — and the bad guys — featuring Hydra Captain America, Scarlet Witch, Odinson, Vision, Taskmaster and Black Ant — all sit down to dinner. Because Comics. Warning: Minor spoilers for Secret Wars #4 follow.
The situation naturally devolves and, to his credit, Ultron/Pym tries to diffuse the situation. Then, Tony Stark pipes up, stating that the only reason they no longer had "family dinners" at Avengers Mansion anymore was because Hank Pym physically abused his then-wife, Janet van Dyne. Ultron/Pym took it as one would expect and the situation devolves pretty quickly after that.
A History Of Hank Pym
All the way back in Avengers #213, Hank Pym — then going by the name of Yellow Jacket — was brought up under charges for being reckless in battle. His wife tries to go cheer up her husband, only to discover that Hank is building an adamantium robot (ironically NOT Ultron) that only he can defeat to prove to the Avengers he is still valuable to the team. Janet tries to dissuade him by being a doting wife, which only enrages Hank. He then slaps her for her efforts and proceeds with his plan.
The trial naturally doesn't go in Pym's favor, and after Janet reveals the black eye Hank had given her, Hank unleashes the robot. The robot savagely attacks the Avengers. When Hank tries to disable it, the robot turns on him (seeing a trend here, Pym?). The robot is finally defeated by the Wasp and the trial resumes. Embarrassed that he was saved by his wife, Pym leaves the Avengers.
Marvel Deals With Real-Life Issues
Fan backlash has surrounded this topic ever since the issue was released. Jim Shooter wrote an article stating that Pym was never supposed to be a "wife beater," and that the issue was supposed to portray the situation as an accident. However, the art did not portray that. Shooter goes on to say that he was too busy at the time and only wrote about a third of the issue before Roger Stern took over. Funny how neither of them took the initiative to WRITE that it was an accident and not intentional.
Other writers who didn't care for Pym slapping his wife have written stories trying to redeem the character. Some state that he was going insane due to the Pym Particles. Others created grand gestures, such as when Janet van Dyne died, Pym took up the mantle of the Wasp in her honor. Other writers have embraced Pym's actions, such as Mark Millar's take in Ultimates Volume 2, in which Pym and van Dyne have a domestic squabble that devolves into an all-out brawl.
The fact of the matter is, the way that Hank Pym is portrayed as a domestic abuser is more realistic than his fans may want to admit. He has never been sure about his identity; always switching between being a scientist and a hero while not really being all that successful at either. He can't commit to an identity for very long, and when he does mess up, he relies on his wife to coddle him and tell him everything is alright. So much so, that the first time that she tries to talk him out of doing something stupid, he takes it as her not supporting him and gives in to his base urges.
As far as people never letting him live it down, that's an example of what happens in real life. What's the saying about the best bridge builder in the world? There is always someone who never lets people live down their worst mistakes. There are always gentle (and not so gentle) reminders of things heroes do that takes the shine out of their armor. This may not be a bad thing — it humanizes our heroes; gives them flaws. Perfect heroes are boring, and things like this bring them down to Earth. Those choices don't have to all be spousal abuse. Hell, Tony Stark is an alcoholic and he's the one that brought it up in the first place. Much like Marvel, Hank Pym is simply going to have to embrace his mistakes so that he (and #Marvel) can learn from them.
Secret Empire, by Nick Spencer, Leinil Francis Yu, Rod Reis, and a cover by Mark Brooks, is on sale now!
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