In the heirarchy of Marvel superheroes, if the Fantastic Four and Spider-Man were the fair-haired children, then Ant/Giant-Man, the Wonderful Wasp and their showcase book Tales To Astonish were the red-headed stepchildren. This book reprints the complete run of a comic and a character that was, among other things, the first comic book I ever owned and one of my favorite characters.
Stan Lee and Jack Kirby originally started out scripting and drawing the adventures of Henry Pym, a scientist who developed a way to communicate telepathically with ants and subsequently used this technology to fight crime (most likely inspired by the film The Incredible Shrinking Man) but they soon moved on to other things and turned it over to Stan's brother Larry Lieber and frequent Kirby inker and western & war comic vet Dick Ayers. This was not uncommon, since as Marvel grew they just couldn't do everything. They also developed and handed off Thor, Iron Man, and others. Lieber and Ayers, while certainly accomplished pros, were not possessed of the magic synergy that Lee and Kirby had, so Ant-Man's exploits weren't quite as remarkable as the FF's or Spidey's. Eventually, it was decided to have Pym give his girlfriend, socialite Janet Van Dyne, shrinking powers, wings and "biological stingers", dub her the Wasp, and become his crime fighting partner. Soon after, he figured out how to grow ten feet tall and renamed himself Giant-Man. Other artists and writers soon followed, most notably Bob Powell, who drew a great Wasp, and the pair faced a mix of second string villians like the Human Top, the Black Knight, the Eraser, and other assorted aliens and mad scientists. In one memorable issue, Giant- Man accidentally enlarged a spider and was blocked from reaching his helmet controls to restore it to its normal size. Made for a tense situation for several pages...
A variety of powers, costumes, and situations were tried out, but Giant-Man and the Wasp never really caught on with the comic buying public. Eventually, the Powers That Be decided to divide Tales To Astonish between GM and new stories featuring the Hulk, and about a year later they dropped old High Pockets completely in favor of new Sub-Mariner stories.
Giant Man and the Wasp still appeared in the Avengers, but it was clear they had lost their opportunity to shine brightly in the Marvel firmament.
While these stories in this collection don't always feature the absolute best of 60's Marvel by any stretch, they are still fun reads, like those old drive-in movies weren't always great films but were still very entertaining. Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne had a sort of Nick and Nora Charles type banter that was always a highlight, and the last two-parter in this collection emphasized their relationship in a way that was still novel to comics back then. It made them warm and real and really impressed the 6 year old boy that read them so many years ago.
Although I wish these collections were in color, I understand that it helps keep the price down, and it's probably the easiest way to read these books that are often hard to find and expensive when you do find them. These adventures of Ant/Giant Man and the Wasp aren't profound and most likely won't change your life in any way...but they are a hell of a good read for the money.