July 13, 2024

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So, Did She Actually Die Or What?: The Death Of The Wasp That No One Seemed To Care About

That's her on the right.
That’s her on the right.

It is not uncommon for a major comics crossover to end in the death of a character.  Marvel’s Secret Invasion was no exception.  A so-so crossover written by Brian Michael Bendis and drawn by Leinil Francis Yu, the big death at the end was Janet VanDyne, the Wasp, on-again, off-again lover and ex-wife of Hank “1,000 Codenames” Pym.

She’s not currently dead.  I’m not sure how she managed to come back, but she’s not dead anymore.  So, really, did it matter?

The Wasp is one of the five founding members of the Avengers.  She’s been on the team longer than Captain America.  But, have you ever actually read the original Avengers stories?  The very issue where Cap joined the team, Wasp’s big contribution in the fight with the issue’s big bad, Namor, was to fly around his head at high speed and make him a little dizzy.  Even when she did develop her stingers, they didn’t do much more than annoy bad guys.  She was treated basically as Hank “Ant-Man/Giant-Man” Pym’s sidekick/girlfriend, as much a full-fleged Avenger as Rick Jones, who was also hanging out with the team at the time.

She also wasn’t the most pleasant of female characters, being a shopaholic and various other female stereotypes that were a trademark of 60s-era Marvel heroines, without the additional characteristic of being a female that her male teammates all found desirable.  An issue of Marvel’s humor title What The- may have displayed this best.  Drawn and written in a style to mock the Lee/Kirby era, the male X-Men were all in love with Jean Grey, the male Avengers were all checking out the Scarlet Witch while making her brother Quicksilver mad, and the male Fantastic Four members were thinking about the Invisible Woman, except for the Human Torch who reminded the reader in his thought balloon that he preferred Jean Grey since Sue was his sister.

Cut to the end of the story where the male heroes are getting into some kind of odd, three-way battle while the women are going off on a date…with Dr. Doom, Magneto, and Kang.  Doom points out that there aren’t many woman in the Marvel Universe at this point.  Magneto says if it doesn’t work out, there’s still the Wasp and Aunt May.

Kang calls dibs on Aunt May.

Ok, but that’s comedy.  The Wasp did get better, even becoming a leader on the team.  Yes, her basic character type was that of a rich girl who loved to play in fashion, but she did become a worthy hero.  She even learned some new tricks.

That stings.
That stings.

This all brings us up to Secret Invasion.  The basic plot was the Skrulls, shapeshifting aliens, had perfected their abilities to the point where they could disguise themselves as anyone on Earth while being completely undetectable.  Wolverine’s sense of smell, various telepaths, didn’t matter, the disguise held.  They even had their targets’ memories and personalities.  One posed as Hank Pym and had booby-trapped the Wasp so that, if the Skrulls were on the verge of losing, they could let loose some sort of energy or biological attack that would wipe out the human race.  Thor managed to contain the attack, but the Wasp died.  Hank Pym was upset, obviously, and even changed his superhero identity to “the Wasp” for a period.  But despite all that, the real thing that came out of Secret Invasion was how everyone forgot Norman Osborn was a convicted murderer and known crazy person, decided he was somehow a hero of the story after putting a bullet into the Skrull Queen’s brain (after Wolverine had slashed her up quite a bit) and was put in charge of S.H.I.E.L.D.  Yes, to the general public in this storyline, the Green Goblin was a great hero and was given authority over the nation’s superhuman national security apparatus.

Even the Watcher barely noticed this.
Even the Watcher barely noticed this.

Why, then, am I contending that the Wasp’s death didn’t matter much?  Well, not long after it happened, there was an issue of The Incredible Hercules in which Herc and Amadeus Cho visited the underworld.  It took the form of a casino, and various dead Marvel heroes and villains were playing various games.  The Wasp was found at a slot machine, and apparently, as soon as she won, she’d be back in the land of the living.  The same was true for everyone there.  Win the game, come back to life.  Janet seemed a little out of it, had a hard time believing she was dead, but here was a Marvel Comic hanging the proverbial lampshade on the revolving door o’ death.

Sure enough, Janet VanDyne came back from the grave.  She was last seen joining the Avengers Unity Squad, an Avengers team made up of various Avengers and X-Men with the purpose of promoting mutant rights and awareness.  There she started a relationship with team leader Alex “Havok” Summers.  Personally, I never quite got that, since she was an adult when she first premiered and he was a fairly young teenager, so there’s some kind of May-December thing going on, and both have been romantically connected with other characters more traditionally.

Hank and Lorna who?
Hank and Lorna who?

They even had a kid together in an alternate future until Kang took her away.  Then AXIS happened, Havok went evil and stayed that way, and kidnapped her.  Both are currently missing as far as the Avengers are concerned.

This too shall pass.