My newest guide for all Patreon supporters of Crushing Krisis is for one of Marvel’s newest characters to hold down her own solo title – two of them, in fact! In my humble opinion, hers are the finest all-ages comics Marvel has produced in their main 616 continuity in the past decade and I absolutely treasure the memories of reading them for the first time with my daughter. She’s not quite the same as her MCU sibling, nor is she quite the hero you might expect her to be. It’s my brand new Guide to Unstoppable Wasp, Nadia van Dyne!
Guide to Unstoppable Wasp, Nadia van Dyne
This guide is now available to the public thanks to the unstoppable support of Patrons of Crushing Krisis!
Nadia van Dyne was one of many Legacy characters introduced to take up classic heroic mantles in All-New All-Different Marvel in 2016.
At the time, it was obvious that Marvel’s editors wanted to replace the entire Avengers starting line-up with newer versions, even if they weren’t currently Avengers- Sam Wilson as Cap, Jane Foster as Thor, Riri Williams as Ironheart, Scott Lang as Ant-Man, and Amadeus Cho as Hulk (plus Kamala Khan as Ms. Marvel, Miles Morales as Spider-Man, and Sam Alexander as Nova, for good measure).
There’s only one founding Avenger missing from that line-up – The Wasp!
The tricky thing about that plan is that Marvel had brought back the original Wasp, Janet van Dyne, in the pages of Uncanny Avengers just as they had finished sweeping aside Steve Rogers, Odinson, Tony Stark, Hank Pym, and Bruce Banner to make way for their new cast of Legacy Heroes.
Oh, and one more complication: Marvel had just introduced a Wasp in the MCU, but she was Hank Pym’s & Janet van Dyne’s grown-up daughter. They couldn’t replicate that in the comics… could they?
Avengers writer Mark Waid came up with a novel solution to this Wasp conundrum. Marvel’s new Wasp would be Hank Pym’s daughter, but not Janet van Dyne’s daughter.
Instead, Nadia was introduced as the daughter of Pym and his first wife, Maria Trovaya. The brilliance of this move is that Maria Trovaya was part of Hank Pym’s actual Silver Age origins in one of his early issues – Tales to Astonish #44! Flashbacks detailed that Pym had tragically become a widower when Communist agents kidnapped and murdered his first wife, a refugee from Hungary.
Except… what if they hadn’t murdered her? What if, instead, she was already pregnant with Hank Pym’s daughter? A daughter who would be raised in the same Russian Red Room program that spawned Black Widow?!
As ingenious, non-destructive retcons go, it was a stroke of brilliance.
However, despite the deft origin, Nadia felt like nothing but extra baggage when she was first introduced. The Avengers team was already packed with Legacy heroes that included a trio of teens. There was nothing for Nadia to do in the book. Even with deadly Black Widow hand-to-hand combat abilities, her happy-go-lucky “gee whiz, America!” personality wasn’t all that different from Kamala Khan’s “gee whizz, The Avengers.”
Waid would continue writing Nadia in the follow-up volume, Avengers (2016), after he jettisoned all of the other teens to his newly launched The Champions. However, it was a different writer who made Nadia a must-read character – and who made her a “van Dyne.”
Jeremy Whitley launched the first volume of The Unstoppable Wasp in 2017 as an optimistic and extremely-scientific all-ages comic. Nadia was mentored by Mockingbird and set out to form her own lab full of young women super-scientists.
Comic fans and retailers alike hated it and said it was the worst of All-New All-Different Marvel. I was even convinced to skip it, at first – in fact, I didn’t read it until after it was cancelled with issue #8.
Then, a curious thing happened: the book hit trade paperback. The trade paperback hit libraries. Readers like me went back to read it digitally as it hit Marvel Unlimited. And, all of us collectively realized that Unstoppable Wasp might have been Marvel’s best comic of 2017. It was everything main-continuity comics so often miss – joyous, fun, funny, and explicitly aimed at making little kids think comics are cool. Ryan North’s Squirrel Girl had a similar tone, but in terms of reading comprehension and witty jokes it had always trended a few years older.
My then-5-year-old devoured every issue with me, lingering lovingly over the interviews with real-life lady scientists at the back of each issue. I credit those interviews hugely with her obsession with S.T.E.M. in the present day! They made science sound very, very cool.
(I’ll never understand why fans and retailers had it in for the book. It wasn’t all leftover angst about the overtly feminist Mockingbird title from the prior year. My theory is that a lot of superhero readers aren’t used to the bright, declarative way that dialogue from young characters is scripted in YA comics. I saw a lot of comments at the time that Nadia “talked weird” or “was written to be smart, but sounded dumb.” To our household – who read Lumberjanes and DC Superhero Girls every day – all of the dialogue clicked.)
Whitley’s 2017 volume was explicitly in-continuity, and Waid even referenced it in Avengers (2016) #7-8. However, Nadia’s outside appearances drifted in a different direction as she was drafted into the cast of Nick Spencer’s grim Secret Empire event. Going from Nadia’s optimistic solo book to reading about a pseudo-Nazi takeover of America introduced major whiplash. It was not a book to read with your kids.
Luckily, Marvel caught on to Wasp’s groundswell of popularity and invited Whitley to relaunch the title in 2018 for another 10 issues, this time with the always-stunning Gurihuri along as the illustrator. Whitley picked up right where he left off with Nadia and her G.I.R.L. team of scientists, as well as continuing a heartfelt custodial relationship between Nadia and Janet. Nadia even took Janet’s last name as her own.
Thankfully, that wasn’t the end of Nadia van Dyne. Marvel brought her back in the cast of the Champions, to team up with Scott Lang, as Kamala Khan’s scientist phone-a-friend, and just this month as Janet’s sidekick in Janet’s first solo mini-series!
For my Guide to Unstoppable Wasp I meticulously reviewed every single appearance. I not only summarized them all, but worked out an ideal continuity order for reading Nadia across her many appearances in 2017-18.
All Patrons of CK can enjoy the fruits of my re-reading labors in the Guide to Unstoppable Wasp, a part of my Crushing Comics Guide Reading & Collecting to Marvel Comic Books.
Patrons of Crushing Krisis currently have access to…
Exclusives for Crushing Cadets ($1/month): 30 Guides!
Marvel Guides (24): Alpha Flight, Angela, Beta Ray Bill, Black Cat, Blade, Captain Britain, Dazzler, Domino, Dracula, Elsa Bloodstone, Heroes For Hire, Legion, Marvel Era: Marvel Legacy, Mister Sinister, Sabretooth, Spider-Ham, Spider-Man – Peter Parker (2018 – present), Thunderstrike, Valkyrie, Vision, Wasp – Unstoppable, Weapon X, Werewolf by Night, X-Man – Nate Grey
Exclusives For Pledgeonauts ($1.99+/month): 59 Guides!
All of the 30 guides above, plus 29 more…
DC Guides (16): Animal Man, Aquaman, Books of Magic, Catwoman, Doctor Fate, Flash, Harley Quinn, Houses & Horrors, Infinity Inc., Justice League, Justice Society of America, Mister Miracle, Nightwing, Outsiders, Suicide Squad, Swamp Thing
Marvel Guides (13): Darkhawk, Falcon, Gwenpool, Hellcat – Patsy Walker, Loki, Moon Boy / Moon Girl & Devil Dinosaur, Power Pack, Red She-Hulk, Sentry, Silk, Spider-Gwen, Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Venom
Indie & Licensed Comics: None right now