Hammers fall from the sky and empower those unworthy. Whoever parallels the Psycho-Pirate in the Marvel Universe manipulates the people's fear. The Raft split open in the last issue of Thunderbolts. Marvel's most dangerous criminals poured out. Avengers Assemble! Including the Cadets. Tigra must lead her charges into the war zone in order to evacuate civilians before they're trashed by Nazi exoskeletons constructed by the Red Skull's daughter.
Gage uses The Fear Itself event to explore the many facets of Tigra. He spotlights her courage, her doubts, her origins, the many changes that defined her life all in one issue. Frequently her internal monologue conflicts with her dialogue, and these at-odds words add even more depth to the story and her characterization.
Tigra's shocked when Hank orders her to stay put with the Cadets. She's no lightweight hero, but Hank calmly explains his rationale, and as he speaks, artists Tom Raney, Scott Hanna, Drew Hennessy and Jeromy Cox alter Tigra's expressions in five brief panels. Some of these visages display the mixed emotions that Gage calls upon, and I think he's fortunate to have consistently worked with such talented and experienced artists that can actualize what he imagines.
The time comes to send the kids into the arena, and Tigra's emotionally torn to pieces. Raney and company create a two page spread of the razed Capitol that lays out the stakes and undermines the kitsch from the swastika-tagged Ed-209s.
When Tigra energetically saves a police officer from the Nazi death machines, her mind turns back to the moment of her husband's death and the trigger for her rebirth, but the moment also exhibits her change in direction. The Cat sprang out of vengeance. Tigra arose as a champion, and her rescue of the police officer reflects the differences between the person now and the personae of another age. Her origins also mirror the way the Cadets behave in a life or death situation.
Seeing the kids in action, Tigra swells with guilt and shame. She realizes the Avengers Academy is a sham. It's based on a foundation that simply cannot be quantified:
"We've been so concerned they're damaged beyond repair. By their powers. By Norman Osborn. By life. So worried it's inevitable they'll become criminals."
Emphasizing the epiphany, Tigra must comfort Mettle after he kills and convince him that he will need to make that same decision again. In the best scene of the book, realizing that Mettle's innocence has been lost and that she and the other staffers are responsible, Tigra, tears welling from her eyes, pounces back into the fray.
I'm reminded of something Black Widow stated about criminals in The Things They Say About Her: "Compared to the people I'm used to dealing with, the spooks and the political classes, this is like playing tag with children." Crimefighting can be a deadly game, but it's also fun to paste losers like Paste-Pot Pete and smackdown Batroc. Fear Itself is the superhero's worst nightmare, a slaughter of the innocent by an unstoppable power. For Tigra, it's even worse because she must usher the Cadets into this horror.
Ray Tate's first online work appeared in 1994 for Knotted. He has had a short story, "Spider Without a Web," published in 1995 for the magazine evernight and earned a degree in biology from the University of Pittsburgh. Since 1995, Ray self-published The Pick of the Brown Bag on various usenet groups. In the POBB, as it was affectionately known, Ray reviewed comic books, Doctor Who novels, movies and occasionally music. Circa 2000, he contributed his reviews to Silver Bullet Comic Books (later Comics Bulletin) and became its senior reviewer. Ray Tate would like to think that he's young at heart. Of course, we all know better.
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