ďA Heroís Compulsion - Part One of Six: ObsessedĒ
Writers: Tamora Pierce, Timothy Liebe
Artists: Phil Briones (p), Don Hillsman (i), Chris Sotomayor (colors)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
EDITOR'S NOTE: The first issue of White Tiger debuts in stores tomorrow, November 15.
Angela Del Toro has inherited the jade amulets of the White Tiger. After losing her job with the FBI, she begins fighting crime in her neighborhood. Suddenly sheís discovered a government ID smuggling plot by international crime lord, Chaeyi. Now superheroes are giving her costumes, sheís fighting the Cobraís nephew, and she comes face-to-face with the Yakuza that killed her partner.
Not a typical beginning for a superhero comic. Del Toro doesnít begin fighting crime out of revenge or guilt. She does it because she wants to do the right thing. She does it for the same reasons she joined the FBI and trained with Iron Man when she was younger. Thereís also the sense of obligation to the memory of her uncle, the previous White Tiger. Del Toro comes across as a sensible person. Her first steps into the superhero world confuse and frustrate her. Through her, we begin to see costumed crimefighting from an outsiderís perspective.
There are times when the art reminds me of Alan Davis. Other times itís just fluid and organic. There is a very natural feeling to the book. The fights scenes are quick and sometimes graceful. Good work here conveying the speed and force of the blows. The inking adds to the weight of the situation without becoming too dark or gritty.
White Tiger begins as a decent action/adventure comic that isnít necessarily a superhero comic. The story of Chaeyi and his organization reminds me of a James Bond movie. Many elements feel familiar, and we donít learn much about Del Toro herself. But we do get some sharp dialogue, good fight scenes, and better-than-average art. Itís the beginnings of a good comic book series and an interesting character. Letís hope the team can build on it.
Plot: Angela del Toro has a lot to cope with since she inherited a set of mystic amulets, not least of which is the infiltration of the Russian criminal cartel Chaeyi into her New York neighborhood.
Comments: Iím not as excited by this as I might be, and Iím wondering why. Del Toro is from a family of ďcops and martial artists,Ē so picking up the White Tiger mantle after her uncleís death is reasonable. Sheís a disgraced federal agent, always a good way to start out this sort of vigilante justice thing. Her friends and family ties are thin on the ground, but sheís just about to acquire a whole new set. And Iron Fist in Daredevilís costume makes a good point when he says she dresses like a criminal, setting the stage for Black Widow to get her a new, real heroís costume.
Maybe itís a bit ironic that the best moment in the book is when she steps out in her new feline attire, i.e. a makeover/renewed confidence scene out of soap operas and here comes the bride movies. The battles are okay, but they only get interesting when the very creepy new Cobra shows up. Briones knows his way around a fight scene, and one senses the potential to capture the freakishness of the meta-human in this series, but itís all hemmed in too much by all that film noir action movie Hong Kong film mumbo jumbo. Even the second best scene, the mentoring interview with the Black Widow, is straight out of the assembly line.
Itís formulaic, and the formula is familiar: itís Daredevilís. Does NYC need another street level fighter, protecting another borough? Maybe so, but itís not enough to set the title apart yet. Ms. Marvelís awesome power gives her cosmic level threats; Spider-Woman will always attract the eerie and the creepy. Spider-Girlís in an alternate future with a different set of rules. Misty and Colleen are just girls doing their jobs. Del Toro hasnít really come into her own as someone with a reason for doing what sheís doing.
She spends too much of this issue worrying about all the changes to her life, and fighting baddies seemingly for the lack of anything better to do. A late-issue reveal of yet another clichť (a partner murdered by one of the criminals) doesnít up the stakes. And that striking new-costume reveal is followed quickly by a full-body sprawl into a pile of trash. Letís hope she wakes up soon.
Advance publicity for this new White Tiger series has focused a lot of its attention on Tamora Pierce's writing credentials as an author whose work usually appeals to a predominantly young and female audience. Whilst thatís in no way a bad thing, especially given the lack of both qualities in the comic-reading demographic, I was relieved to find that this first issue has a far more wide-ranging appeal than many readers may have expected, and does quite a solid job of introducing the new White Tiger and integrating her firmly into the fabric of the current Marvel Universe. Springing out of plot developments from the end of Brian Bendisí run on Daredevil a year ago, the titular hero is recast as Angela Del Toro, a young FBI agent whose uncle - Hector Ayala - was the previous White Tiger, bearer of the enchanted amulets which gift the wearer with superhuman powers before his death in Bendisí ďTrial of the CenturyĒ arc. Kicked out of the Bureau, Del Toro decides to use the power of the amulets to fight organised crime at street level, and her investigation into a local gangís forgery operations leads her into a conflict with a traditional super-villain as well as the group that was responsible for her partnerís death.
If the whole power/responsibility/vengeance thing sounds pretty run-of-the-mill and old-school as far as superhero origins go, thatís probably intentional, as Pierce and co-writer Liebe waste no time in showing us what Del Toro is choosing to do with her new life as a crime-fighter rather than stretching the origin out to an entire arc as often seems to be the norm these days. The book also presents numerous flashbacks which clue us in as to her backstory and how she was briefly trained in combat techniques by Daredevil, but these sequences seem to be more of a concession to Daredevil readers than essential information for people coming to the character for the first time. In fact, thereís a lot more reference to those early Bendis-penned appearances than I expected, with story threads dealing with the death of her partner, Agent Driver, and allusions to her expulsion from the FBI showing that Pierce & Liebe have really done their homework when it comes to Del Toroís previous appearances. However, itís questionable whether this wealth of backstory really benefits what should be a new-reader-friendly first issue, and I can only assume that all of these plot strands are going to be followed up more comprehensively later on in the arc, or there would really be no reason to flesh them out so extensively here.
Luckily, Pierce and Liebe balance these distractions by presenting quite a fast-moving story with more than enough action to satisfy those who want visual thrills from their superhero comics. Penciller Phil Briones is a new name to me, but heís convincing enough here with some strong sequentials in the fight scenes, and a nice vigilante-style character design for Del Toro before she gets a proper costume (which echoes Daredevilís early duds from Frank Millerís Man Without Fear miniseries). His storytelling is crisp and clear and looks slick and well-defined thanks to Don Hillsmanís smooth and solid ink job. Some of his faces look a little off and inconsistent, but it doesnít really detract from the overall impression too much. Briones also avoids the obvious temptation to illustrate his many female characters with exploitative cheesecake art (although he comes close with that great first shot of the White Tiger in her new costume), and his take on the whole cast feels very in keeping with the tone of the Marvel Universe at the moment. The only concern that I have is that the tone of the artwork feels surprisingly light for a book which has sprung out of the none-more-noir world of Bendis and Maleevís Daredevil, but considering that Marvel appears to be trying to win over new and younger readers with this title, thatís perhaps understandable. And itís always a treat to see David Mackís beautiful painted work grace a comicbook cover.
Overall, Iím quietly impressed by this as a first issue for a writer whoís new to comics. The plot is fairly original (albeit not hugely inspired), itís faithful to the character as she was presented in Daredevil, and it lays out the White Tigerís origin quickly and efficiently in order to get to some old fashioned superhero vs. super-villain action as swiftly as possible. There are some nice light touches and an obvious awareness of the conventions of superhero comics without verging into the territory of parody (a fun riff on the tightness of superhero costumes raised a smile for me), but thereís also a serious side to the book too, with inter-criminal relationships getting some attention and the villains set up as more than merely two-dimensional evil-doers. Thereís a high incidence of guest-appearances, especially for a #1 issue, with Daredevil (the Danny Rand stand-in version) and the Black Widow looking to be quite integral to the overall story, and even Spidey pops in for a cameo during the sequence which sees Del Toro try on her costume for the first time. Despite this preponderance of extra heroes - who could threaten to crowd out the main character in other circumstances - their appearances all feel quite organic and non-gratuitous, and help to cement the White Tigerís place in the Marvel Universe without getting too caught up in the whole Civil War mess. Definitely worth a look for fans who were interested by the characterís first appearances in Daredevil, and a laudable attempt to launch a solo female character who isnít marketed on the basis of her sexuality. I'll be interested to see how fans react to this one.
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