The dark past of Marvel’s original Ant-Man, Hank Pym, has been brought to the forefront once again.
The part of Pym’s sordid past that everyone remembers is that he created Ultron, one of the Avengers’ greatest foes. In the graphic novel Avengers: Rage of Ultron, Pym and his creation were merged and now their consciousness inhabits the same robotic body. During the events of Uncanny Avengers, Pym-Ultron returned to Earth.
Wearing Pym’s face, Ultron tried to rejoin his former Avengers family, but Ultron’s seething rage underneath gave him away and the Avengers Unity Squad was forced to defeat him by force, with an assist by the Vision and one of Iron Man’s Hulkbuster armors.
Secret Empire #4 returned to that theme of Pym seeking to reconnect with the Avengers as a family. Since Ultron was defeated by the Avengers, he has been building a city of robots in Alaska, including a replica of Avengers Mansion and even a robotic Jarvis to assist him.
Two teams of Avengers converge on Ultron’s locations in Secret Empire #4. One is the Hydra Avengers, including Captain America, Odinson, Vision, Scarlet Witch, Taskmaster, and Black Ant. The other is a makeshift group of past Avengers who are attempting to collect the shards of the cosmic cube, including the AI Tony Stark, Mockingbird, Quicksilver, Hercules, and a very reluctant Falcon.
Both teams are captured by Ultron and forced to take part in a family dinner in Ultron's mock Avengers mansion. Much to Pym’s chagrin, it degrades into all sides bickering with each other. Pym points out that this is the problem with the Avengers, that they’re always finding reasons to fight each other. Pym rests most of the blame on Tony, and that’s when the hard light Iron Man breaks and turns the tables on Hank Pym.
Stark, mincing no words, makes clear that the real reason the Avengers stopped having these family dinners is what Pym did to Janet Van Dyne, a.k.a. the original Wasp.
What Tony is referring to is a time when Pym operated under the persona of Yellowjacket. Pym was suffering from mental issues, including depression, and was taking out his frustrations by verbally abusing Janet.
When Pym acted recklessly during a mission, Captain America called an Avengers court martial hearing. Pym planned to build a robot to attack the hearing so that he could defeat it and appear a hero. When Janet tried to dissuade him from this course of action, Pym struck her physically. The plan ultimately went awry, Janet saved the day, and Pym was kicked off of the Avengers in disgrace.
As Pym himself mentions in Secret Empire #4, for many longtime Avengers fan this Yellowjacket episode is the defining storyline of Pym’s existence and he’s never escaped the shadow of domestic abuse. Marvel has tried to rehabilitate the character over the years, having him take on the Wasp’s persona after Janet’s death and having Pym start a new chapter by founding the Avengers Academy.
Pym was not amused to hear this chapter of life brought up again. He reacted in a fit of rage and moved to murder everyone at the dinner table on either side of the Secret Empire conflict.
Ultimately, it came down to Scott Lang, the current Ant-Man, to talk Pym out of destroying everyone in the room. Lang reminded Pym that part of the reason he took on the mantle of Ant-Man is that Pym was his role model. Lang is an ex-convict, and he wanted to overcome his past sins the same way that Pym did. Pym calms down, tries to serve dessert, and even hands the cosmic cube fragment over to Lang’s Avengers group.
Of course, there’s still the question of whether Pym actually has any control inside Ultron’s body, or if Ultron is just pretending to be Pym. As Pym points out to Captain America, if Ultron really was in control, handing the cube fragment over to Lang and therefore helping to level the scales in the current war would serve Ultron’s purpose of allowing humanity to kill itself off.