Avengers (1st series) #140

Issue Date: 
October 1975
Story Title: 
A Journey to the Center of the Ant

Steve Englehart (writer), George Tuska (penciler), Vince Colletta (inker), Charlotte Jetter (letterer), Petra G (colorist), Marv Wolfman (editor)

Brief Description: 

On the way back to the hospital where the Wasp is still in a critical condition, Yellowjacket collapses, and begins to increase his size. The Beast rushes to get Thor, and they return to find him even larger, and now blocking traffic on a busy street. The Beast remembers a potion he was working on at the Brand Corporation some time ago before he was fired, so he makes his way to his former workplace to steak the potion back. He encounters security guards, but finds his old lab and takes the serum, hoping it will help his new teammate. The Vision and Scarlet Witch are returning to New York from their honeymoon, and fly over the hospital where they see the chaos with Yellowjacket. They meet up with their teammates and the Scarlet Witch tries to use her power to slow Yellowjacket’s growth, but with little success. The Beast returns with the serum, but they need to research the microbe that has been causing trouble for Yellowjacket. Thor disguises himself as Don Blake to convince a doctor to let them use a lab so the Beast can study the microbe, and eventually, the Beast comes up with a solution to Yellowjacket’s problem. He checks in on the Wasp, but her condition has not improved. He gives the serum to the Vision, who will become intangible and take it into Yellowjacket’s body so the serum can get into the bloodstream. The Vision succeeds in doing his part, and Yellowjacket wakes. He shrinks back down to his regular size, and they all rush in to see the Wasp, who has woken and appears to be completely fine. At Doom’s castle, Moondragon and Iron Man are about to leave, when they discover that the time machine has returned - but Hawkeye has not. Although they see some blood, and suspect they may have walked into a trap. Meanwhile, the mysterious woman who is pursuing the Beast arrives at Avengers Mansion to find he is not there, so she opts to sit on the front step and wait for him, informing Jarvis that the Beast owes her and she plans to collect.

Full Summary: 

‘Well, I guess Whirlwind had the wind taken out of his sails! Now, why don’t we - Hank? What is it, Avenger?’ Henry McCoy a.k.a. the Beast calls out to Hank Pym a.k.a. Yellowjacket. The blue-furred Avenger notices his teammate leaning against a wall as they approach the entrance to the Central Hospital. Seven minutes ago, Hank Pym thrashed the man who had threatened his wife, with some timely help from the Beast. Yellowjacket’s fury over the Wasp’s grave injuries had finally found an outlet, and he fought with no holds barred. Suddenly, Yellowjacket collapses. ‘Oh my stars and garters!’ the Beast gasps as he rushes over to the fallen Avenger. ‘What’s wrong, buddy? Did Whirly get in a punch you didn’t tell me about? HANK?’ the Beast calls out, but gets no response. The Beast then wonders if Yellowjacket is growing, and decides that he is. He recalls that the Wasp warned them Hank wasn’t doing any size-changing these days, not with the microbe that trapped him at ant-size still in his blood.

The Beast starts climbing the hospital walls, remembering that the Wasp said the microbe might act up again if Yellowjacket aggravated it. ‘But he wanted to hit somebody so bad. And there he was, telling me he was okay!’ The Beast soon enters the room where Janet Van Dyne a.k.a. the Wasp is motionless in bed. He quickly tells Thor that they have trouble. Thor asks the new Avenger to speak, but in the hall. Hospital staff follow the two Avengers into the corridor, as Thor declares ‘Though I’ve done all an immortal of Asgard may do this day, the condition of Janet Pym doth remain unchanged! She must not suffer disturbance!’ ‘Then she’ll be the only one on her block, Thunder God. Come with me!’ the Beast urges.

The Avengers newest member fills Thor in on what has gone down since Yellowjacket disappeared earlier, but that still doesn’t prepare the godling for what he sees. ‘Odin’s blood! What have the fates here wrought?’ Thor exclaims. A police officer gathers around, as do civilians, while the Beast declares that Yellowjacket has shot up to twenty feet already - in just the few minutes he has gone. One of the doctors has followed them, and asks ‘What is it with you Avengers, Thor? How could he do this to himself when his wife might need him?’ Thor assures the doctor that Yellowjacket lives every moment for his woman. ‘He hath done that which she would have desired…and if ‘tis decreed they are both to suffer for’t, then ‘twill be together now as always’. The Beast then suggests that they get him out of the street, at least, as traffic has come to a standstill, unable to pass the giant Avenger.

‘I say thee, nay, doctor!’ Thor replies, pointing out that Yellowjacket grows even as they speak, so he would soon fill any enclosure. Suddenly, ‘HEY!’ shouts the Beast. ‘Hey! Hey! HEY!’ he declares as he starts running into the traffic and leaps over the car rooftops. Thor calls out to the Beast, asking him where he is going, to which the Beast calls back that he can’t stop now, and asks Thor to hold the fort. ‘I’m late, I’m late, for a very important whatever!’ he jokes. The Beast starts bounding across rooftops, ‘Yeah, about two years late, if memory serves - two years late for the fruits of my labours from that mental vineyard called the Brand Corporation - and now, natch, there’s no time to lose!’ the Beast thinks to himself, recalling that, after all, he was the boy genius out there, working on a cure-all for mutation, only, there is a little hitch.

Hank McCoy informs Mr Grant that with his urgent personal business in Canada, he needs a week off. Mr Grant tells Hank that they can do better than that for him. ‘In fact, what with all the mysterious leaves of absence you’ve taken since we hired you - we can let you off forever’. Hank is a little less than thrilled, and starts throwing equipment about. ‘Now that’s not fair! I’ve had good excuses every time - and it hasn’t cut the quality of my work for you!’ he tells them. Mr Grant agrees, and tells Hank that they thank him for it, because, if he reads his contract, he will see that all the results of his work belong to them!

The Beast decides that it was not the most dignified of exits, but he had not come to terms with his budding beast-hood back then, and he still carried a lot of frustration inside him - just like the other Hank on the Avengers. The Beast arrives at the Brand Corporation and decides that it is time to break out the old “break in at the Brand Corp” routine. He drops down onto a lower building rooftop, and then to the ground, but in the process, a security guard patrolling the grounds hears him. ‘What was that?’ the guard wonders. Hiding in the shadows, the Beast admits that he never was too good at this routine, and recalls that every time he tried it, he managed to get himself shot at. Leaping forth, Hank thinks that if he is going to get his experimental formula out of this place, he will have to clean up his act - after all, even with his fast-healing metabolism, he wouldn’t want to get shot - ‘Oh, shoot’ Hank thinks to himself as he walks past a guard shack, realizing that it wasn’t here two years back.

‘Good Lord! That’s the Beast!’ the guard inside exclaims. The Beast begins to tell the guard that he is an Avenger, or rather, he is trying to be, to which the guard declares ‘Yeah, sure! And I’m trying out for Peter Pan in the company play!’ ‘I know all about you, monster, and I don’t believe a word you say!’ the guard declares, raising a gun. ‘I knew you wouldn’t!’ the Beast remarks, tossing the guard into the air before he can fire his weapon. The Beast declares that this is a matter of life and death, and starts to run, while the other guards start firing their weapons at him. The Beast then bursts through a window, shattering the glass, he jokes ‘Well, it’s hounds and hairy hare time once again, ladies and gents! Getcher bets down fast, ‘cause the show’s just begun!’ Hank tells himself that he has cut down on the big words since his X-Men days, but that his tongue just loves to keep rambling. ‘Oh well, any normal human would call what I’m doing right now fantasy, and I think fantasy should be fun - even when it’s deadly serious’.

The Beast makes his way through the Brand Corporation facility, and realizes that they have done a lot of remodeling around here. ‘Still, I think my old la - “top secret only” - is off to the left’. Hank decides that it would never do to get lost at this stage of the game, He enters his old lab, ‘Eureka! I have found it!’ he calls out as he opens a cabinet and locates some bottles. ‘Just like the good old days, they’re lax with their in-house security’ the Beast tells himself, before shouting that he has the serum. The Beast then smashes his way out of the room, deciding that someday he will have to speak to Captain Baxter, if he still heads up security here, bout the weakness in his strategy. ‘Someday - after I finish needing it! Now, let’s have some action!’ But the security guards have caught up to him and start firing their weapons at him. The Beast growls, ‘Look out, man! This is a Beast crossing!’ the mutant her jokes.

‘Bye, boys! Remember! Have a nice d-’ the Beast starts to say, dodging a bullet. ‘That’s enough smart talk outta you, critter!’ the guard calls out. ‘You may have spooked them old boys, but us new guards are a darn sight better shots. You picked the wrong direction to run in, Jack!’ he adds as he starts to chase after the Beast, when suddenly, ‘Hire a hall!’ the Beast snarls as he punches the guard in the face.

Meanwhile, at the much more peaceful Avengers’ Mansion, a woman with shoulder-length red hair, wearing a pink dress stands in front of the door, one hand on her hip she listens as Edwin Jarvis tells her that the Beast is not in at present, and actually, the Avengers and their guests are rarely at home. ‘That’s what I thought you’d say!’ the mysterious woman remarks. She turns away from Jarvis, who tells her that he meant to warn her that he cannot say when to expect the Beast. ‘If you’d care to step inside -’ Jarvis offers the woman who has her back turned to him now. ‘No, thank you! If I know him - he’d slip in and out without my seeing him!’ she exclaims. Instead, she sits down on the front porch of Avengers Mansion, deciding to stay here until the Beast shows. The woman’s hair falls in front of her face as she slumps forward, ‘The Beast owes me - and I plan to collect!’ she announces.

At that moment, Wanda Maximoff a.k.a. the Scarlet Witch and her android husband the Vision have returned to New York. Wanda tells the Vision that she still doesn’t think cutting their honeymoon short was very nice, but admits that for some reason, she finds it hard to stay mad at him. The Vision sits at the controls of the jet they are in and tells Wanda that their honeymoon will last forever in their minds. ‘And in the meantime - wait a minute!’ the Vision declares as they fly over the street where Yellowjacket continues to grow. They see their teammate and Thor beside him, and swiftly, surely, the android Vision shifts the Quinjet’s controls, sending it into a screaming dive, and a picture perfect landing on the now-cordoned street. The Vision races towards Thor and asks him what has happened here, while civilians continue to gather around. Thor is surprised to see his teammate, and remarks that they did not expect to see him for weeks to come.

‘Oh? You too, eh? Now that you ment-’ the Vision begins, as the Scarlet Witch stands beside him, while Thor tells his friends that it is a sad hour at which they meet here, as Yellowjacket’s growth is once again out of control. ‘And we who stand by him helpless!’ Thor adds. ‘All control?’ the Scarlet Witch asks, before casting her power towards Yellowjacket, adding that whatever the cause of Hank’s growth is physical, organic - which is a province she has control over. A pale crimson limns Wanda’s form for a moment, and then dies a way. Wide-eyed, the Scarlet Witch reports that she did what she could, but that the growth cannot be stopped through witchcraft, although it has been slowed. ‘So I saw!’ the Beast announces as he arrives back on scene. Thor greets the new Avenger and asks him if he has accomplished his ends. Noticing the blood on the Beast’s arm, he supposes that it has.

‘Sure’ the Beast replies, adding that they shouldn’t worry, as he is healing up already, adding that it is just a prelude to what he needs from their patent here. ‘For what reason, “Doctor”? Remember that the man’s cells will all have grown to the same degree as he!’ Thor points out. ‘Oh, man! That’s me all over: the researcher who forgets to be practical!’ the Beast mutters, wondering what they are going to do now, as he needs to research that microbe. Thor suggests the Wasp, explaining that her blood is similarly infected. ‘Yeah! Of course! Why didn’t I think of that?’ the Beast wonders. ‘Because it’s too obvious! Of course that’s what we do!’ he adds.

Soon, in the hospital: ‘Not a chance!’ a doctor exclaims. ‘Huh?’ the Beast asks. ‘Listen, you loonies! I’ve got a patient under my care and she’s not going to be disturbed! Period!’ ‘But, Doctor -’ the Vision begins to protest, to which the doctor interrupts once more, asking them if they don’t understand English, he points out that the woman is critical. While Thor walks away, the Beast explains to the doctor that he is trying to save the Wasp’s husband’s life, and that he is not about to hurt her in the process. ‘How do I know that, Beast? For all I know, you might be related to that X-Man Beast - and you sure don’t look like any doctor I know!’ Suddenly, ‘What about me, then, Horrigan?’ a voice calls out. Dr Horrigan turns and sees Don Blake, remarking that he hasn’t seen him in ages. Dr Blake explains that he doesn’t get back to New York much any more, ‘But if you’ll grant an old classmate a professional courtesy - I’ll vouch for this scientist’s work!’ he declares, referring of course to the Beast.

‘You’re involved with these weirdos? Next, I suppose, Walter Cronkite will be rolling bandages for them!’ Horrigan exclaims. ‘I give up! I surrender! Do whatever you want!’ he declares. And so, as a hastening sun nears its moon point, Don Blake stands over the still Janet Van Dyne after drawing her blood, which made no difference to her, as he knew. ‘Her fate rests solely in her will to live!’ he thinks to himself, deciding that after this many hours in a coma, she doesn’t have much time left to exercise it.

The Beast, too, feels the grains of time slipping out from under him. He had his moments of laughter when he could afford them. Now he cannot. He is busy working in the hospital’s hastily-borrowed lab, and silence falls upon him. A dark silence, quite unlike the sunlight outside. Hours slide into eternity, each one’s passing grimly marked - and then, as a distant corridor’s clock chimes three, Hank McCoy begins to see. ‘Right…the left-hand molecule’s mingle with the sodium, but cut the chloride…’ he mumbles to himself.

While, outside, underneath that chiming timepiece, Thor, Wanda and the Vision wait. From time to time, the Vision and the Scarlet Witch try to work out exactly what they have walked into. They know they could question Thor, but somehow, when they see what frustration can do to a god, they decide not to.

Meantime, half a world away, in the abandoned fortress once owned by Dr Doom, Tony “Iron Man” Stark and the mysterious Heather Douglas, known as Moondragon, are just about to leave. Moondragon points out that they have searched every nook and crevice, and that the Avenger called Hawkeye is not here. ‘Then it’s true! He was lost in time on his trip to the past!’ Iron Man declares, deciding that they best get back to the others. But, just as he turns to follow Moondragon out of the chamber, ‘Eh?’ he utters. ‘What is it?’ Moondragon asks, turning back to him, she sees that the time machine has silently reappeared. ‘And look! That’s blood on its deck!’ Iron Man exclaims. Moondragon tells him that now, more than ever, they must fear that some harm has befallen his friend. ‘And yet…’ her voice trails off, as Iron Man tells her that he senses it too, even without her expanded mind. ‘There’s something about this last little touch - that spells “trap”!’

Back at the hospital, ‘WOW!’ the Beast gasps, holding up a vial, he declares ‘It’ll work! I’m sure it’ll work! I’ve saved the poor guy - that is, unless he’s kicked off in the five hours it took me to do it!’ The Beast leaves the lab and enters the room where the Wasp still lies motionless. ‘She looks the same as ever!’ he remarks, but a nurse tells him that there may be some improvement, adding that Dr Blake checks in every fifteen minutes, and that he says he is encouraged. ‘Then I’m encouraged!’ the Beast declares, adding that the Wasp doesn’t look any worse, but as he glances out the window, ‘Holy Hannibal, Missouri!’ the Beast shouts as he sees the ever-increasing Yellowjacket. As a former X-Man, the Beast has seen many outlandish things - but never something as familiar as the human body in such a state of wrongness. He doesn’t dare take the side of the building down this time, racing through the hospital, the Beast is exhausted, but reaches his teammate, thinking that this morning, against Whirlwind, he was ant-size, no bigger than his thumb, but now!

Thor, Wanda and the Vision turn to the Beast and Thor asks him if he has the serum. The Beast holds it up and declares that all that is left is to get it into Yellowjacket’s bloodstream, and fast. The Vision states that that has been arranged, as he will take the formula into Yellowjacket’s unmoving form. The Vision adds that he knows it could simply be injected, but now while he can control the density of himself, and his costume and all within - and not while he has yet to fully repay Hank Pym for his aid to him in years past. The Vision pours the formula into part of his cape, before he starts to phase into Yellowjacket’s giant chest. ‘Then it was Ant-Man who entered my normal sized body. Today, the wheel comes full-circle!’ the Vision declares, and slowly, with all the caution he commands, the synthesis slips into the gigantic chest-cavity, to behold for the first time, the living counter-part to his plastic and wires.

‘There is the heart’ the Vision declares as he moves closer to the massive heart before him, only to discover that the route is clogged with veins. Though the Vision is intangible, he must move with care, because he doesn’t know how the Beast has caused the serum to become as phantasmal as himself, and any mishap may cause Hank Pym’s instant death. But, the Vision is not a man to make errors in judgment - except, if he reads the others’ reactions to his shortened honeymoon in the matters of the heart. On cue, the Vision phases into Hank Pym’s heart, with an unaccustomed wry smile on his face, while declaring that he shall make no errors there. But, inside the heart, the Vision finds himself set upon. ‘What in the world?’ he gasps as strange spiked objects attack him.

Realizing he is in the bloodstream, the Vision decides that these must be the microbes, defending their territory. He swats them aside while supposing that having taken control in here, they are threatening him as the invader. ‘But within the heart, I can increase my density without causing Hank harm - so I can battle them back until I set the serum free!’ the Vision announces, and he opens the part of his cape where he was keeping the serum safe, and so the Beast’s chemical swirls away down an all-consuming artery, hopefully to work their wonders. The Vision leaves the way he came, passing through the veins, and reappears moments later, in the world of air and sunlight - and anxious faces. He speaks not a word, the set of his shoulders, his stance, everything about him reveals the results of his fantastic voyage. ‘He did it! YJ’s gonna be all right!’ a civilian calls out. ‘Look! You can see it if you look hard!’ a boy exclaims. ‘He’s shrinking already!’

And indeed, in less than five minutes, ‘All I can say is “whew”!’ Yellowjacket remarks as he sits up, nearly back to normal size. ‘That was some serum you came up with, Beast’ the Scarlet Witch remarks. ‘Any genius could have done the same!’ the Beast replies. ‘Well, I - hey! Where’s he going?’ the Scarlet Witch calls out, as Yellowjacket gets to his feet, and rushes off. The others follow him, as the Vision tells him to lie back down, that he should not attempt to walk, let alone run. ‘No way, Vision!’ Yellowjacket replies, adding that he started out to enter this hospital, and that is still the most important thing to him. He admits that he is not very steady, but he has to know: ‘How’s Jan, doctor?’ Hank asks as he arrives outside his wife’s room. ‘Do you believe in miracles, Dr Pym?’ the doctor smiles, before suggesting Hank see for himself.

‘She came out of it, just like that - not five minutes ago’ the doctor reveals. ‘Right when I did!’ Hank smiles. ‘Hi, honey. What’s this - no flowers?’ the Wasp whispers, looking up at Yellowjacket, while the other Avengers gather around. ‘We’ve checked her out, and she appears completely -’ the doctor begins, but Yellowjacket doesn’t answer, as he embraces Jan and they kiss.

Characters Involved: 

Beast, Iron Man, Moondragon, Scarlet Witch, Thor, Vision, Wasp, Yellowjacket (all Avengers)

Patsy Walker (unidentified woman)

Edwin Jarvis

Dr Horrigan
Hospital staff
Police officer
Security guards

In Flashback:
Hank McCoy

Mr Grant

Story Notes: 

Hank Pym was stuck in ant-size in Marvel Feature #4.

The Beast’s urgent business in Canada took place in Amazing Adventures #16 and Incredible Hulk (2nd series) #161.

At this point in the comics only Iron Man is aware that Thor and Don Blake are one and the same.

Hank Pym shrunk down to ant-size to go inside the Vision in Avengers (1st series) #93.

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