Sift through your memory banks through the founding members of the Avengers. Pick out the one who wound up living the most screwed-up life. A no-prize to everyone who chose Hank Pym. The first Ant-Man returns to Earth this week, more powerful and creepy than he used to be.
Hank Pym is one of Marvel’s most complicated superhero characters. Early on, the scientist created Ultron, the super-intelligent, nearly indestructible robot that became a villain who wants to destroy humanity.
Later on, wild behavioral changes throughout his career had him adopting a whole other identity called Yellowjacket and abusing wife/teammate Janet Van Dyne, a.k.a. the Wasp . He’s one of the few superheroes to explicitly struggle with mental illness. Sam Humphries, who wrote Pym in the Avengers A.I. series, described his take on Pym to me this way in an interview three years ago:
In the past — not always, but definitely sometimes — Hank Pym’s mental illness has been treated like a cold, or a super villian. He’s crazy! Now he’s sane again. Look out, the crazy is back! How’s he going to escape this time?
I would argue that Hank’s “dysfunctional” is actually more “functional” than “normal” people. Hank has a chronic condition. There is no cure, there is no endpoint, there is no end of the labyrinth where you can say, “I’ve escaped!” You focus on managing your condition, you work hard to live a life as normally as possible, and understand that it’s not going to be as easy as it is for the people around you. This is a fact of life for hundreds of millions of people with chronic conditions... This gets really interesting when you put it in the day-to-day context of being an Avenger.
The one-time Scientist Supreme’s ups-and-downs have been a hallmark of the character, and figured prominently during his last big adventure. Driven by guilt and responsibility in Avengers: Rage of Ultron, Pym became fused with the malevolent AI he created and the story ended with the psychologically confused man-machine fusion made flying off into space.
The fate of the two character was unclear but, after a few instances of subplot teasing, this week’s Uncanny Avengers #9 brings the two characters back to Earth. They’re not really separate entities anymore, though.
Hank Pym pretty much is Ultron now. More specifically, he’s a cyborg that wears Ultron and wields the robot’s abilities. Naturally, this is a concern for the Avengers Unity Squad:
Pym and Ultron are more interconnected than ever before.
There’s almost certainly going to be a struggle for psychological and physiological supremacy between flesh and silicon in the coming months. He’s been close to the edge before and it’ll be interesting to see if this will be a heel turn to the dark side for the shrinking genius.