The Wasp has been a mainstay of Marvel Comics since her introduction in Tales To Astonish #44 in 1963. With the release of Ant-Man And The Wasp, a lot of people have wanted to start reading Wasp comics. However, if you are looking for stories about The Marvel Cinematic Universe’s (MCU) interpretation of The Wasp, Hope Van Dyne, you might be disappointed. Hope does not exist in the comic universe, it is instead her mother Janet Van Dyne who primarily carries the mantle. We are getting a version of Janet in the MCU, played by Michelle Pfeiffer and they have taken some of her characteristics and given them to Hope, so her stories are still important to take a look at. With over fifty years of comics featuring Janet, it can be very difficult to find a place to start. She has never had a solo series and all of her most prominent arcs are in seemingly random issues of team books. As someone who has way too much knowledge about Janet Van Dyne stored in her brain, I compiled a list of things to read and watch that will hopefully be a good starting point for anyone who is interested in learning more about the character!
All of the comics I recommend are available on Marvel Unlimited!
Avengers Earth Mightiest Heroes
If you don’t feel like going through hundreds of comics to find the great Wasp stories have no fear, because The Avengers Earth’s Mightiest Heroes animated series has a wonderful portrayal of Jan! They managed to capture her personality perfectly and give her more than a few moments to shine. The show takes the storylines from the comics and streamlines them for a wider audience. If you’re looking for a quick and easy way to get into the character start with this series!
Avengers Origins Ant-Man & The Wasp
This one-shot is more focused on Ant-Man, but it does a great job of concisely telling Janet’s origin story while giving some great insight as to why she wants to become a superhero. It also briefly touches on her career aspirations as a fashion designer (something that becomes prominent in later stories) and explains why she was initially attracted to Hank Pym (Ant-Man). It is a very quick and bare-bones story, but it gives you all the context you need for Janet going forward!
These issues are what I consider to be the best period for Janet Van Dyne in the comics. The arc takes place after she divorces her abusive ex-husband, Hank Pym (Ant-Man,) and covers her time as leader of The Avengers. These stories are where she steps out of the shadow of Ant-Man, becomes her own fully realized character and loses her reputation as the “Weakest Link” of The Avengers. She becomes a fantastic leader of the team, making efforts to recruit more women like Monica Rambeau (Captain Marvel) and She-Hulk. The only other character who has led The Avengers longer than she has is Captain America. These stories also introduce Janet as a fashion designer, which further demonstrates her capabilities as a leader. The only problem with these comics is that they’re from the 1980’s so they suffer from a lot of antiquated tropes and old-school storytelling. If you can get past some occasional frustrating decisions, this is a fantastic arc, filled with great moments for not just The Wasp, but for so many other Avengers as well!
The Unstoppable Wasp
This series is different from everything else I’ve suggested because in this book The Wasp isn’t Janet Van Dyne, she’s actually Hank Pym’s secret daughter from another marriage, Nadia, and while I’m upset that a new Wasp got a solo series before Janet did, I still love this book a lot! It is fun and charming, with a protagonist that you can’t help but root for. Even though they make a point in the first issue that Nadia means “Hope” don’t expect her to be anything like Hope Van Dyne in The MCU. Nadia is a teenager who grew up in the Red Room (yes the same one as Black Widow) and is incredibly naive about the world around her. She doesn’t even know what “Star Wars” or a smoothie is, but she has a good heart and wants to follow in her father’s footsteps and help people. Janet does pop up occasionally to offer her guidance and she eventually becomes Nadia’s mentor. The original run unfortunately only lasted 8 issues, but they just announced that it is coming back, so there is no better time to jump into it!