The definitive issue-by-issue comic book collecting guide and reading order for Marvel’s Wasp – Janet van Dyne – in omnibus, hardcover, trade paperback, and digital comics. Part of Crushing Krisis’s Crushing Comics. Last updated April 2023 with titles scheduled for release through July 2023.
Janet van Dyne is one of Marvel’s first female superheroes, a founding member of The Avengers. and the first Marvel heroine to lead her own solo stories in the Silver Age!
She is the most under-used out of all of Marvel’s iconic Silver Age women, in part because she spent so long being tied closely with Hank Pym, the original Ant-Man (and also her ex-husband).
Janet debuted as The Wasp in March 1963 as Pym’s co-star in anthology title Tales To Astonish. Her debut is both a creaky artifact of the times and a solid blueprint for her enduring personality.
On one hand, you have widower Hank Pym becoming immediately obsessed with Janet because she resembles his deceased wife, even though Janet is “no more than a child.”
On the other hand, Janet’s headstrong and fiercely-loyal streak is established from her earliest panels. She prefers a companion who is “the adventurous type” rather than spend time with “dull, intellectual book worms.” She also leaps at the chance to avenge her father, proving she herself is also of the adventurous type.
At first, Janet comes off as the most well-rounded of all Marvel woman of the early 60s, all of whom were saddled with a secret lust for their leading man. She strikes out on her own mission in her second appearance and repeatedly shrugs off Hanks’ attempts to infantilize her. Janet is often the driver of action, she reprimands Hank for giving her orders, and her sighs of “Oh, Ant-Man! What do we do next?” often come off as subtle sarcasm.
Hank and Janet were drafted into Stan Lee & Jack Kirby’s Avengers alongside other anthology title hit characters Iron Man, Thor, and Hulk – to which they famously added Captain America in issue #4. Janet was immediately minimized in this cast of men, getting none of the moments of bravery and wit she continued to show off in Tales To Astonish. There, just after the debut of The Avengers, she received her own run of solo features from Tales to Astonish (1959) #51-58.
As Scarlet Witch and Black Widow were pulled into the Avengers line-up, Janet felt increasingly sidelined (though she is notable for being an early friend to Hawkeye). She marries in issue #60 and leaves the team for her honeymoon in issue #75. It takes until her return to the team without Hank in issues #150-151 for her to start to have her own plots while in the title
That lead to both the nadir and the early climax of Jan’s reading order. Issue #213 features the oft-referenced moment of domestic violence where a manic, costumed Hank strikes Janet while in civilian clothes, giving her a black eye. Yet, the story is not merely one of Janet being a prop for Hank’s downfall. He is promptly kicked off the team, and in issue #217 Janet proposes herself as the chairman of the Avengers – which Iron Man, Cap, and Thor support unanimously.
Janet’s years as the chair of The Avengers include some of her best moments on the team. They are also the origin of her long-lasting friendship with She-Hulk. From that point forward, Janet always receives some amount of deference whenever she is on an Avengers roster – it continues long after she passes down leadership to Vision (and later to Monica Rambeau, via Cap).
The remainder of the 80s and 90s aren’t a productive time for quality Wasp stories, though they helped cement her status as a fashion designer and socialite. She joined Avengers West Coast, but took a backseat there to the ongoing Scarlet Witch drama. Janet briefly bounced back into the main Avengers squad in the mid-90s, only to be subjected to an inexplicable mutation into an actual wasp-girl (in keeping with the character design trends in the period).
Kurt Busiek and George Perez’s back-to-basics Avengers relaunch in 1998 finally saw Janet put to good use in a modern book where she had room to exist as a character without needing to be a leader. She was a recurring member of cast for over half a decade, until Brian Bendis disassembled the Avengers in 2004. Bendis picked Janet back up for his Mighty Avengers run in 2007, but despite her being a founding member she isn’t seen much outside of the climax of his Secret Invasion – which removed her from storytelling for several years.
Wasp made her return just after Avengers vs. X-Men, which positioned her as one of the classic Avengers to anchor the new Uncanny Avengers squad that combined Avengers and X-Men on a single team. Her initial run with the team during Marvel Now in 2013-2015 is unremarkable; she gets more to do in All-New All-Different Marvel in 2015-2016.
Now completely decoupled from Hank Pym, Janet finally began to see more use as a guest star with interesting plots of her own. She adopts her step-daughter Nadia in a pair of delightful, all-ages Unstoppable Wasp series, and is a partner and equal to Tony Stark in Tony Stark: Iron Man, as well as an occasional Avenger. And, finally, in January 2023, Janet van Dyne got her own solo series!