The Small Lebowski:
West Coast Avengers #14-15
Issue(s): West Coast Avengers #14, West Coast Avengers #15
We begin with Tigra losing the battle with her bestial side.
To prevent further regressions, she transforms into Greer Nelson again and says that this time it's for good.
Henry Pym chases after her and tries to console her.
You know, i've been complaining about the depiction of Tigra in this series, but i've never had a problem with Tigra as a character or with her design. But i've seen other people criticize her costume from a feminist perspective, saying that just because she's furry doesn't make the fact that she runs around in a tiny bikini ok. And i can agree with that intellectually but it's never bothered me on an emotional level, and i've never seen it as being all that different than, say, the Beast (when he was furry) or Werewolf By Night. But seeing the human Greer in the Tigra "costume" really does drive the point home: that woman is centimeters away from being naked.
Anyway, Pym does manage to cheer Greer up using logic that i have a little trouble following.
"You can't be Tigra anymore but you used to be happy when you had a husband and yes i know he's dead now but he was your husband", seems to be the gist of it. Considering the way this story progresses, Englehart seems to be reminding us of her former life as the Cat for foreshadowing purposes, but it's a bit lost with the husband talk. In any event, whatever Pym is trying to say, it works.
However, that's when the demon that followed Pym home last issue attacks.
The appearance of that demon is detected by Master Pandemonium's inverted-speaking bird-amulet...
...who thinks the demon may be one of the five, and so he shows up as well and there's a three-way battle.
Pandemonium identifies the demon as Allatou, "one of the messenger demon". Hawkeye, meanwhile, can't even get Allatou's gender right, calling her Mr. Overbite.
I do like him referring to Master Pandemonium as "the Panda" though. I keep wanting to shorten his name to Master P but i don't want anyone mistaking him for the hip-hop artist.
Allatou was under the impression that the Avengers were working for Master Pandemonium. When that confusion is cleared up, Allatou captures Hank and Greer and teleports away, as does Master Panda-Bear.
Wonder Man and Iron Man start complaining that they aren't equipped to deal with all this mystical stuff, and suggest contacting Dr. Strange, but Hawkeye decides that they should drop in on Daimon Hellstrom and his wife Hellcat instead. If you don't know who they are, here's a tongue-in-cheek expository panel.
Then they find the Avengers waiting on their front stoop.
Englehart is at his best with scenes like the one above, carefully acknowledging all of the relationships and histories between the various characters.
When the couple hear about the team's problems, Hellstorm notes that he's battled Allatou before. There's also some kind of revisioning going on regarding Hellstorm's "Son of Satan" origin.
Note below that "Son of Satan was always a misnomer", i guess because "Satan" wasn't the Biblical one? In issue #15, Hellstorm's father will be referred to as "a demon who called himself Satan".
Also, new costume for Daimon. I can't say i love it. It's hard to top a pentagram painted on to your chest, but a pitchfork is a really wimpy replacement And his pointed mask distracts from his characteristic hair.
As you can start to guess, the decision to go to Hellstorm instead of Dr. Strange wasn't random on Englehart's part. The fact that he's married to the woman wearing a version of Greer Nelson's original Cat suit was surely the key reason. And while i joked about the title pun being the impetuous for the Tigra storyline, i am being serious when i say that most likely the whole reason Tigra was getting mixed up with demons and stuff is because Englehart had this connection in mind.
Back in Allatou's little pocket of Hell, Greer is getting weepy, but luckily the Avengers show up.
Panda shows up also to continue the three way fight. Hellcat compares herself favorably to Wolverine.
Allatou decides to flee and as she does so she traps the Avengers and Panda on a boat that they're unable to leave without getting disintegrated.
Because they're in Hell, Greer is unable to transform back into Tigra, which means that being Tigra is her "most fervent wish", since that's apparently what Hell prevents you from having. Which doesn't sound that bad. But it's bad enough for Greer and Patsy to get into a (dare i say it?) catfight.
Hell is also playing havoc with Iron Man's chronometer (What is it counting from? Did Iron Man manually start it when they got on the boat? Or is there some kind of complex detection system that knows to start counting whenever a significant event occurs?).
Since they're all stuck on the boat together, they eventually decide that they might as well get Master Panda to provide his full origin.
We'll later learn that Mephisto's motives here are different than what he tells Master Pandemonium, but for now it's just because he likes the idea of the Panda corrupting himself to get his soul back. But the key takeaway for Greer is that Master Pandemonium isn't actually a demon himself, so her secret agreement with the Cat King to kill him in return for him fixing her soul would truly make her a murderer.
Conveniently enough, Allatou's boat takes the group to the Cat People dimension. Greer finds that she can transform back into Tigra here...
...although since she's failed to kill Master Pandemonium, and has even brought him and other outsiders to their land, she's not exactly in good standing. It also comes out that Tigra had agreed to kill the Panda, and the Avengers aren't happy to hear that. It's also revealed that the Cat People weren't always demons but they became demons when they were exiled to Hell by the sorcerers they rebelled against (unnecessarily complicated), and they actually have one of the five soul segments that Master P is looking for. The King decides to put Tigra and the Master in an arena to fight it all out, but not before the Master is stripped of his demon limbs.
Tigra refuses to kill the quadriplegic Master, and so the Cat King removes her Tigra soul and puts her in prison with the other Avengers and friends. And now the moment we've been waiting for: Hellcat gives Greer her suit.
Yes! With the suit, Greer is going to find her true self and be restored to the strong woman that she was originally created to be, right?
And just in time, because the Balkatar, who has been offworld serving a sorcerer, returns, and now he and Tigra can battle. After she resists his "masculine charm".
She defeats Balkatar, so the King releases the Tigra soul again, thinking it will confuse her. But because she's wearing Hellcat's suit, the merger with the Tigra soul allows Greer to remain in control, although she does have a tail now.
That's... not quite what i was hoping for.
Seriously, what's the message here? Greer/Tigra didn't earn anything, she didn't learn anything, she didn't achieve anything, she didn't overcome anything. Yes, she declined to kill a helpless cripple, and good for her on that, but that's not even the reason she's being made whole here. It's just because she happened to be wearing the Cat suit while the Cat King tried to afflict her with her Tigra soul again (and it's not even the original Cat suit, mind you; Hellcat's is a replica created by the Brand corporation). Even though i really do get the impression that Englehart had this plotted out well in advance, this ending feels a lot more like "Oh hell, let's just wrap this up already!". Nothing here remotely justifies the abuse that Tigra went through in this series.
It's odd how Englehart really seems to have it out for Tigra's character. At the same time this is happening, he's showing off Hellcat, as in the scene above with the Wolverine reference, and here where Hellstorm thinks about how she has "steel within".
Anyway, Master Pandemonium manages to retrieve his soul shard and escapes, and the Cat People stop fighting the Avengers because Tigra now looks like their Tigra of ancient legend.
Issue #14 is the 25th Anniversary edition issue. Hawkeye's wink and grin on the cover has always terrified me.
Quality Rating: D+
Chronological Placement Considerations: This takes place after West Coast Avengers annual #1.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (5): show
Hunh. During a later "all-Avengers" meeting, Tigra and Hellcat get in another "cat-fight." It read to me like the first time those two had met.
Posted by: Erik Robbins | January 3, 2014 11:21 PM
I think the point of the "Cat People only became demons because of their residence in the Land Within" explanation was to explain why Dr. Tumulo wasn't a demon but the Cat People in the Land Within were.
Posted by: Michael | January 4, 2014 12:26 PM
In that first panel of the Hellstorm costume, Daimon and Patsy seem to be suffering from Liefeldrocephaly.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | January 4, 2014 1:54 PM
I think Hellcat and Firebird would have been better team members than Tigra and Mockingbird.
Posted by: Steven Printz | February 16, 2014 8:28 PM
"But souls for lives lost its charm for me, sometime after the first two million, so I've been very creative with yours!" What do you know? Steve Engelhart was laying the groundwork for One More Day twenty years before the fact!
Posted by: Morgan Wick | April 2, 2015 10:15 PM
This is part of what I liked about WCA - the different cast you could get on the West Coast. I liked having Hellcat and Hellstorm around and had hoped they would be around more (they will be a little, but not much) in the same way that Shroud was.
Posted by: Erik Beck | July 7, 2015 12:18 PM
Why the compulsion to give human beings tails. Why.
Posted by: MindlessOne | May 12, 2017 10:38 AM
Strangely I prefer my feline anthro heroines with tails. For Greer I suppose it's a right of passage.
Posted by: Ataru320 | May 12, 2017 3:02 PM
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