MINI-SERIES REVIEWS...

#1 - cover by Deodato, Jr.Tigra

(2002 - four issues, published by Marvel Comics)

Writer: Christina Z. Art: Mike Deodato, Jr.

Tigra started out in the 1970s as superheroine, the Cat, in her own, short-lived title, Beware...the Cat. She looked human and wore a costume. She later evolved into Tigra, a werecat-woman, who looked inhuman, and became a regular member of The Avengers (while her original costume was then adopted by another heroine, Hellcat). Then she came full circle with her own, self-titled, mini-series...one of a number of Avengers Icons series meant to highlight various current and former Avengers in solo series (there was a Vision one, and I think others).

Just to be up front, I don't have the first issue, so my review is based on #2-4 (the cover scan I mooched from another site -- my bad).

Tigra's police officer husband had been murdered some time ago and she finally decides to investigate, discovering a rogue group of vigilante cops, The Brotherhood of the Blue Fist. She infiltrates the group (in her alter ego of Greer Nelson) to discover who killed her husband while, as Tigra, she interferes with the group's activities.

Given my complaint (and the complaint of others) that modern comics are written to be hard to jump into, scripter Christina Z deserves kudos for throwing in enough painless recapping here and there that, even missing the first issue, the story seemed easy enough to pick up. For a superhero comic, where too often "plot" is just the hero battling a costumed villain for twenty pages, the premise, involving the heroine going undercover at a police academy, gives the mini-series a nice, atypical thrust. Tigra provides a voice over, allowing the story to be suitably filtered through the prism of character.

Artist Mike Deodato Jr. started out in South America, where he had an, at times, photo-realist style...but a style that could be stiff and too photo-realist, as if he was copying photographs that had little to do with the scene he was supposed to be illustrating. In America, his style became more comicbooky, exaggerated, and he became popular for his "Good Girl Art". Here, he blends the two styles for a result better than both. He drapes everything in heavy shadow, giving a moody texture to the story, but also modelling his characters, giving a rounded, 3D appearance. It's captivating stuff...even as the shadows can be too heavy. In most panels half a character's face is obscured in shadow. Aside from a lack of plausibility (what, is there no sun?) it can make the images more striking and beautiful than immediate and emotional. Much of the character/emotion is carried by Z's script. And Deodato has trouble individualizing faces...there were scenes where I had trouble even knowing which character Tigra was talking to.

And although pairing a cheesecake artist like Deodato with a scantily clad heroine might suggest certain possibilities, this isn't as cheesecake-y as you might expect. In fact, even the occasional "sexy" shots of the heroine in panties and a T-shirt, or as under-clad Tigra, are muted by the abovementioned heavy shadow work.

Beyond the initial appeal of the undercover investigation, the story itself proves pretty simple...and simplistic. She is too-conveniently recruited by the rogue cops, then spends the next little while eavesdropping on their plans (she didn't need to be part of the group to do that!) then busting them up, or calling in the regular police. And even though the Brotherhood realizes they must have a mole...they don't bother doing anything about it, or even suspect our heroine! And there's a feeling that she has all the info she needs to get a conviction on them early, yet continues as she is for another few issues. And the supporting characters are just there to serve the plot. Even a romantic flirtation quickly becomes a non-starter. In other words, it starts out a bit atypically for a superhero comic...but quickly becomes just an excuse for a lot of -- not always logical -- action scenes.

And suggesting, later, that the Brotherhood started out well-intentioned, but was corrupted is highly questionable. Vigilante cops are a bad combo, no matter the intention.

Still, for what it is, and for the more unusual "crime drama" aspects, and Deodato Jr's moody, attractive art, this is an agreeable enough read.

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