One criticism that regularly gets laid against the Marvel movies is their generally unexciting villains, with paper-thin schemes and basic mirroring of the hero. With that in mind, one of the most-cited offenders is Ant-Man. While it was certainly cool to have a shrinking foe, Yellowjacket was a rushed presence, with House Of Cards‘ Corey Stoll given very little to do beyond snarl as Darren Cross. And you’ve probably completely forgotten that Martin Donovan turned up as Hydra operative Mitchell Carson.
However, like many things to do with Ant-Man, which famously lost Edgar Wright as director after years of development, things could have turned out very differently. In this case, newly revealed concept art has suggested one of the MCU’s biggest threats could have reared his computer-screen head.
Regular Marvel collaborator Josh Nizzi has shared some new artwork he did for the film and, along with various types of armed ants, there’s four potential designs for Hydra scientist Arnim Zola (Toby Jones) in his final stage of robotic evolution.
Zola was first seen in Captain America: The First Avenger as Red Skull’s head scientist, then returned in The Winter Soldier having uploaded his consciousness to a massive computer after infiltrating S.H.I.E.L.D. with various Hydra cells. That hive mind was destroyed in an attempt to kill Captain America and since then (bar a bit-part in Agent Carter) it’s been unclear what the supervillain’s future is. Many expected an appearance in Captain America: Civil War, but he was absent even in flashbacks to the Winter Soldier program he helped create.
Because Nizzi’s concept art also includes weaponized ants that were absent from the film, it’s possible these designs (and the character with them) were dropped relatively early on in the film’s production. However, they still suggest Marvel haven’t ruled out a return in some form. As reported back in 2014, it’s likely Zola’s part would have been in the 1989-set prologue, although it’s not out the question that he could have also appeared in an expansion of the reveal that Hydra was after the Pym particle in the modern day. Given how good Jones is in the role, it’s a shame he was cut, even if including such a key villain may have distracted from Ant-Man’s attempts at being a more standalone adventure.
As for the designs themselves, they’re all pretty distinct, each offering a unique spin on the face-chested comic book version of the character. Going by the numbered titles, the first version was a rather Krang-like fake body, which became more robotic over redrawings until they settled on a mannequin-esque design with a separate TV screen connected with wires. While that’s the least source-accurate version, it’s striking and would certainly fit the grounded tone of this side of the MCU.
Regardless of how he eventually looks, it seems that we may not be done with Arnim Zola just yet, so don’t be surprised if his green face pops up again, perhaps in Ant-Man & The Wasp in 2018.
Ant-Man is available on home video now. Doctor Strange is in cinemas now. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is released on May 5, 2017. Spider-Man: Homecoming: Jul 7, 2017. Thor: Ragnarok: Nov 3, 2017. Black Panther: Feb 16, 2018. The Avengers: Infinity War: May 4, 2018. Ant-Man & The Wasp: Jul 6, 2018. Captain Marvel: Mar 8, 2019. The Avengers 4 / Untitled Avengers Movie: May 3, 2019.