Join Date: Oct 2001
Location: Brooklyn, NY, US of A
Re: Avengers cartoon - Part 5
Episode 44, "YELLOWJACKET", is a return of writing duties by MAN OF ACTION after a refreshing two episode detour back into quality. In fairness, though, this is a much better episode than "POWERLESS" was. In fact I'd argue it's the best episode of Marvel Animation that MAN OF ACTION has yet written. Hey, a 1:10 ratio isn't too bad, is it? Yes, yes it is. But let's appreciate the one. That said, it did repeat a plot gimmick which is common in many cartoon shows and it is certainly one of the stranger episodes of the show's run in my opinion.
Spoiler!!! Click to Read!:
This episode picks up after "TO STEAL AN ANT-MAN" but in many ways it picks up the Hank Pym subplot left from last season. By that I mean, this is the episode where Hank Pym goes bat-**** crazy. To be honest, this was not a character turn I was looking forward to, even though I know it is usually what Pym is best known for. The problem is in recent years those negative traits have become so exaggerated by writers such as Brian Bendis and Mark Millar that to many, the ONLY thing Hank Pym is known for is being a maniac who hit his wife and made Ultron. There was plenty of stuff he did before and after. It is worth noting that Spider-Man once had a story where he went buggy (catch the pun) and hit his wife MJ in the 90's - a moment even immortalized in "SPIDER-MAN 3" - yet almost nobody merely refers to Spider-Man as "the guy who hit his wife". Hell, Mr. Fantastic's on and off verbal abuse and belittlement of Invisible Girl throughout the 60's and 70's is something that's rarely mentioned and at worst he's neglectful because he's busy being awesome. My point is that when a character is only defined by their flaws and worst moments, they become a shell rather than something interesting. I feared how this show would handle Pym and more often than not I was pleased. Sure, he was always odd and neurotic, but he wasn't some deranged maniac and served well in their role as science hero. Well, this episode changes all that - Hank Pym goes insane. Thankfully, no Wasps were hit in the making of this episode.
Tony Stark and Janet visit Pym in his college campus lab, and find it in complete disarray, along with Pym himself. He's unshaven and rambling like a mad-man about his new "Big House" prison, the shrunken down prison he ran for SHIELD before the Avengers assembled during "THE BREAK OUT". Concerned for both his mental health and his unsafe use of dangerous materials, Tony and Jan want him to come with them for help...until Pym is blown up. We get a funeral for Ant-Man (although why nobody remembers he was Giant-Man half the time is beyond me) in which virtually every superhero who has shown up before turns up - including Vision, Iron Fist, Luke Cage, and the Fantastic Four. The team in general and Janet in particular are crushed to have lost their founding comrade in such a random manner, until it stands revealed that Pym's death was no accident - the explosion was deliberately triggered. Pym had been keeping tabs on the Serpent Society, although a new vigilante has emerged in NYC. He's named Yellowjacket and his theme appears to be blasting the members of the Serpent Society to nothingness, commanding swarms of bees, flying without wings, and talking in some borderline ridiculous "Dirty Harry" imitation dialogue. The idea of someone stealing Pym's inventions and using it without him is naturally also a theme from "TO STEAL AN ANT-MAN", something Pym settled on his own with the Heroes for Hire (although presumably the Avengers may eventually notice a new Ant-Man running around). While there is no love for the Serpent Society, this Yellowjacket is considered unstable and the Avengers seek to bring him in - especially when he brags about being the one who killed Pym. And who is Yellowjacket? Despite having a different body type and signature, Wasp is sure it's Pym - call it her "Psycho Man Sense" which attracted Michael Korvac to her. It turns out that she's right, only Yellowjacket appears to be a completely new personality who considers Pym someone else and someone "weaker", worthy of being killed off. Just when everyone is a mix of enraged and confused as hell, Yellowjacket's gun gets mangled and everyone is trapped in his new "Big House" prison; only now it is shrinking out of control and about to crush them all.
Thus we get another episode in which some Avengers are stuck in a situation where they're all about to die and they have to ask the Serpent Society for help, and the Serpents instead battle them to the last. This happened in "ALONG CAME A SPIDER" and with King Cobra in "PRISONERS OF WAR", practically. At the very least, they're consistent villains. Viper herself isn't anywhere to be seen but to be honest she'd probably have cluttered the episode further. There is a bit of "the shrinking episode" gimmick here as everyone is shrunken and that's about to kill them, but thankfully it isn't run into the ground like "POWERLESS" was. Apparently Yellowjacket is better at zapping people and talking in a raspy voice than he is at science, so everyone has to eventually shake Pym out of him to save the day. Then comes the weird ending where Pym is still very much in his new personality as Yellowjacket and mad as a hatter, yet the Avengers still keep him aboard - mostly because Wasp begs them. I know this is from the comics but as an episode in itself on TV, it all seems very bizarre.
Remember an episode of "THE NEW GOTHAM ADVENTURES" called "JUDGEMENT DAY" from 1998? In that episode Harvey Dent, who already has a split personality as Two-Face, develops a third personality as "The Judge", a brutal vigilante. None of the personalities are aware of the other to the point that the Judge wants to kill Two-Face and vice versa. At the end of the episode, Dent naturally winds up in his usual straight jacket in Arkham. Imagine if years later in "JLU" when they expanded the roster, Batman went to his pals and said, "Look, Harvey Dent used to be my friend and a good D.A., and he's a total lunatic, but when he's the Judge he could be good back-up if we encourage him to not be as violent and not switch to Two-Face. So how about we induct the Judge into the team and I'll monitor him." At that point I imagine everyone would look at Batman and assume he was telling a dark joke, but this episode of "A:EMH" comes very close to that. On the other hand, the Creeper WAS very much a member of the expended "JLU", and Batman was very much aware that The Creeper was a completely insane TV reporter who was dunked into chemicals by Joker but wound up so crazy that even Joker wanted away from him. "BEWARE THE CREEPER" ended with Batman insisting that Jack Ryder take patches to prevent becoming "The Creeper", but he obviously didn't and Batman apparently later was just fine having him join the "JLU" alongside Supergirl, Steel, Green Arrow and the rest. And while I am playing Devil's Advocate, "A:EMH" made it very clear that the Hulk was Bruce Banner's second personality, to the point that they would "talk" to each other within their minds only to everyone else it would look like Banner or Hulk were talking to themselves. The Avengers were therefore just fine with having Banner's split persona who disliked Banner be a founding member of the team because he was good at smashing. So I guess the moral is that if you're insane and dress in a costume and take politicians hostage (like Lock-Up in "LOCK-UP", from "B:TAS" circa 1994), you're a criminal and you go down. But if you're insane and dress in a costume and basically scare the wits out of criminals like the Creeper or Yellowjacket, than instead of a padded cell you too can join the earth's mightiest heroes!
Still, as crazy as Hulk and Banner may be, the Hulk never tried to KILL Banner in the presence of the Avengers - although he did make Banner agree to become the secondary persona in exchange for Hulk being a hero. Yellowjacket tried to blow up "Pym", and nearly killed Wasp if not for Iron Man, and basically kidnapped the Serpent Society against their will very much like Lock-Up would do to criminals. This also seemed sudden because there was no obvious "trigger" for Pym; he's been trying to quit being a superhero almost since he became an Avenger, and now all of a sudden he makes a personality who is a hardcore vigilante? I do suppose it is a slow burn thing; the "Big House" failed, he failed to rehabilitate any of the super-villains, he built Ultron and Ultron turned on him, and his Ant-Man gear was stolen from under him by a janitor. The bit in the comics where Pym desired Wasp's approval doesn't work because in this series, Wasp usually did approve of him; Pym usually rejected it to deny being a hero unless she was in trouble in his presence.
I'll be blunt; I have NEVER liked Yellowjacket. It just never sat with me, neither the design or the brash demeanor. Pym's worst moments were under that persona, to the point that in the comic book SECRET INVASION, his Skrull imposter took that form. I could accept Giant-Man or Ant-Man but I always preferred just Doctor Pym from the 90's; no limitations or gimmicks and just pure science hero. After all, almost nobody still calls Reed Richards "Mister Fantastic". Thus, while this episode did do a lot to try to make Yellowjacket seem edgy and threatening - mission accomplished - it's a turn that I haven't been eager for regardless of who wrote it. I'm not entirely thrilled that the last we see of Pym in this show as it winds down is as the insane Yellowjacket, the house nut who is there to fill the "unstable member spot" left void by the Hulk lately. While it is all interesting and holds my attention, I certainly prefer Season 1 Pym to Season 2 Pym.
Overall, though, still a decent episode and the best from MAN OF ACTION yet. Which, trust me, was not a very high bar.