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Tales to Astonish #36: Review

Oct 1962
Larry Lieber, Jack Kirby

Story Name:

The Challenge of Comrade X!

Review & Comments

4 stars

Tales to Astonish #36 Review by (August 3, 2022)

Review: The splash panel reveals Ant-Man’s kryptonite: a giant shoe! And here in his second appearance as a superhero he is not only famous in his hometown but world-wide as even the Russians have heard of him! And so they dispatch a spy to learn his secrets. Anyway the foreign baddies are explicitly identified as the Soviets this issue though the hero’s location is still kept vague; it is clear this time that Ant-Man is based in a very large city that boasts at least fourteen police precincts and 89 piers despite Ant-Man being seemingly able to catapult himself anywhere in the city from his home. And his mysterious powers are still being refined: he can communicate with the ants and has set them up as a city-wide intelligence network to learn where he is needed at any time of the day, a helpful system that inexplicably vanishes when he becomes more closely associated with the Avengers. His catapult is also amusing as he needs the ants to catch him when he lands so he does not squish on the pavement. And Hank is bright (or lucky) enough to spot the mask and voice synthesizer in the lady’s purse but not smart enough to foresee a trap aboard the freighter. Ant-Man is still in his infancy and a little development down the line will increase his crazy aspects.

Comments: Ant-Man story: Ant-Man’s shrinking and growth formulas are now in gas form as splashing a little bit on his wrist (last issue) looked silly. As with most Marvel heroes of this era (the FF, Thor, Iron Man) there is a gap between their first (origin) and second appearances wherein the hero has become well-known to the authorities and the public. Story includes a diagram of Ant-Man’s secret exit/entrance to his lab. First appearance of Comrade X who returns as Madame X in WEST COAST AVENGERS #33-34. Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev appears in a huge wall portrait. DDT is a now-banned pesticide used widely in the 1960s. Second story: Text story with one illustration, reprinted from STRANGE TALES #38.


Synopsis / Summary / Plot

Tales to Astonish #36 Synopsis by Peter Silvestro

Since the last issue, Ant-Man has become well known to the public as a mysterious hero who helps out the police, miraculously knowing when he is needed. As the story opens we find three crooks have locked themselves in a bank vault with a time lock; Ant-Man arrives and enters the lock, turning the tumblers manually and freeing the crooks. He then vanishes as mysteriously as he came….

Word of Ant-Man’s exploits has reached the Soviet Union where their top agent, Comrade X, is ordered to learn Ant-Man’s secrets for the Russian cause. Days later, a young woman visits a police station, desperately seeking Ant-Man but the police don’t know how to contact him. We learn the truth: a network of ants all across the city sends messages along the chain to Hank Pym who suits up and catapults himself to the police station, in time to see the woman entering a taxi. Ant-Man sneaks into the cab and hides in her purse so that when she reaches her hotel room he surprises her by suddenly showing himself. The woman outlines her tale of woe: she fell in love with a man whom she then learned was the Soviet spy Comrade X—and then he dumped her for another woman. Now she wants revenge and informs Ant-Man that Comrade X is in the US to discover the hero’s secrets and he can be found aboard the freighter at Pier 89….

That night, Ant-Man sneaks aboard the freighter, only to fall into the villain’s trap as he and his ants are trapped in a glass box the size of a small fish tank. Ant-Man sends a message to more ants via the air holes in the tank and soon a massive swarm of ants invades the ship and frees the hero from the fish tank. He heads to the radio room, conks the operator, grows to full size, and summons the Coast Guard. The ants lock the ship’s crew in their quarters while the hero confronts the villain. But Comrade X knows he is there and threatens him with DDT. The ants turn out the lights and Ant-Man ties the baddie’s shoelaces together. Comrade X falls to the floor and the ants pull off his rubber mask, revealing him to be the woman who sent Ant-Man on the mission—which is no surprise to him as he spotted her rubber mask and voice synthesizer when he rode in her purse. The Coast Guard arrives to capture the Commies and Ant-Man takes his leave….

“From Outer Space”
Writer: Unknown. Art: Unknown.
Synopsis: An alien ship comes to Earth from an imperialist civilization and reveals that they are going to conquer Earth unless the human race can give a reason why they should be spared. It turns out that music is something unknown to the aliens and they decide to let Earth live in exchange for a supply of music!

“The Hands of Time!”
Writer: Larry Lieber. Plot: Stan Lee. Art: Paul Reinman. Colors: Stan Goldberg. Letters: Artie Simek.
Synopsis: A crook breaks into a clockmaker’s shop and learns the old man has invented a clock that can turn back time. He steals it and de-ages himself back to 1927. Attempting to commit the perfect murder, though, causes him to knock over the clock and when it breaks, he dies!

“The Search for Pan!”
Writer: Stan Lee. Art: Steve Ditko. Colors: Stan Goldberg. Letters: Artie Simek.
Synopsis: An American tourist in the Alps is irritated by the locals’ belief that the Greek god Pan is real so he bullies a bartender into telling him where Pan can be found. He goes out there and comes face-to-face with the divinity, panics, and flees for home. And the bartender turns out to be Pan himself!

Jack Kirby
Dick Ayers
Stan Goldberg
Jack Kirby (Cover Penciler)
Dick Ayers (Cover Inker)
Stan Goldberg (Cover Colorist)
Plot: .


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(Hank Pym)

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