Thursday, February 15, 2007

Shoes to Fill, Mantles to Wear: Brief Reviews of White Tiger #2-4

It was an exciting weekend in the Reads Household, Gentle Reader, as Mr. Reads has acquired the mythical and much-coveted Nintendo Wii, after standing in line, in the cold, for *only* 3.5 hours. He spent the majority of Sunday and Monday (and Tuesday, and Wednesday) playing Ultimate Alliance, the fancy new Marvel game that will, he assures me, allow me to create a team of Ms. Marvel, the Invisible Woman, Elektra, and Spiderwoman, four of the few reasons I ever venture over Marvel Way. Not that I dislike Marvel Comics, not even. If you look at my sidebar, you'll see that I enjoy many Marvel books. I just happen to be, down to the core, A DC Fan.

I say a team of four of the few reasons I venture over to Marvel. There has been a recent addition to that foray, and I've expressed my admiration for the new White Tiger miniseries before. Not only is the character one-of-a-kind—-we see the greatness in Angela in Daredevil, and even more so when she gets her own book—-but the writing we get from Mr. Liebe and Ms. Pierce is really extraordinary. Issue one reintroduced us to the character we saw briefly in Daredevil, gave us glimpses of some of This Humble Author's Personal Favorites (can I ever love Black Widow more than I already do?), and showed us how small and tight-knit the Marvel Superhero Community really is.

DC's is, too, I know. But Teams sometimes get in the way of simple superheroing. Or perhaps it's that Gotham, Metropolis, Keystone City, Star City, Opal City, St. Roch, etc. are all too far apart. In New York, in Marvel's New York, there are several powers either vying for said power, or lending a hand when needed.

This close proximity to All Things Mutant And Meta can backfire, of course. The recent events in Civil War speak to that perfectly. But when Marvel's team-ups are good, they're very, very good: the Young Avengers, the Runaways, the X-Men, all of these seem to work well in group as well as out of group, and the team-ups of these diverse personalities send sparks throughout the Marvel Universe.

***Spoilers for White Tiger, as well as recent events in Marvel Civil War***

In Liebe and Pierce's run on White Tiger, we seem a team-up of a different nature. We see the newest incarnations of the Mantles help each other not only for professional reasons, but for some rather intriguing personal reasons, as well. Daredevil 2.0, otherwise affectionately known as Iron Fist, or Tio, to Ms. Angela Del Toro, perhaps helps the newest incarnation of The White Tiger out of familial obligation, or perhaps out of professional courtesy. Or perhaps—-just perhaps, Gentle Reader!-—because he, too, knows the difficulty of filling someone else's larger-than-life shoes. The mantle is heavy, Friends, not only for its elasticity, good stitching, and quality fabric, but for the weight of its purpose, its symbolism, the constant concern over Letting People Down.

The pairing of Daredevil 2.0 and The White Tiger is nothing short of genius on the parts of Mr. Liebe and Ms. Pierce. Both characters are trying to fill a void left by their predecessors: Danny by Matt Murdock's imprisonment, and Angela by her uncle's murder. But where the genius comes in is in this simple fact: neither Danny nor Angela attempt to ape their predecessors. Rather, both heroes grasp their heroing on a purely personal level.

When White Tiger and 2.0 fight back to back at the end of issue #2, Angela remarks, "As if I needed more proof Daredevil 2.0 was family, he doesn't fight like Murdock. He fights like I'd been taught." Rather than try to be something he isn't-—say, a blind extra-sensory lawyer cum vigilante from Hell's Kitchen—-even though his presence is meant to divert suspicion away from said blind extra-sensory lawyer, Daredevil 2.0 works to his strengths, and with his strengths, as does White Tiger. As do they both, as they both were taught. From the same roots, the same place, the same urge for survival. Fight as if your life is on the line, because in Marvel's New York, it almost always is.

But further, Mr. Liebe and Ms. Pierce do not allow anyone to make allowances for Angela; she is a woman, and she does not shy away from her gender, or the so-called stereotypes of her gender. Throughout the series, we see Angela exploiting gender stereotypes to gain advantage over the Bad Guys. She dresses up while on bodyguard duty, or dresses down, if the occasion calls for it. One of the most fascinating scenes comes on Angela's first job protecting clubbing socialites. They spray her, playfully, with the new Tigress Blanca scent; this scent later disguises Angela's real scent from Cobra, who says, "I smell something… familiar. Almost like pretty white kitty. But there's too much perfume in the air."

And there is, of course, the denial of gender stereotypes, seen best in the sharing of chocolate-glazed donuts on the roof with Spider-Man and Daredevil 2.0, despite the potential that "chocolate and white outfits don't mix" on two levels, the possibility of stain and the possibility of gaining weight, which, in the realm of stereotype, would be "apparent" in a white outfit. That gender stereotype--that all woman are, and should be, concerned with their weight to the point of obsession--doesn't even make Angela's radar, as she proves working late at night, in her quite-normal pajamas eating her quite-normal donut with her quite-healthy understanding and image of her and her body. It seems that White Tiger allows the reader a glimpse into the less "glamorous" side of superheroing. That is to say, the part in which the superheroes are real heroes, and real people, wearing real clothes and eating real food.

White Tiger #4 shows us further encounters, with Emma Frost, with Luke Cage—-Tio Luke, to Angela-—further and further spirals into the small confines of the Marvel NYC Hero Community. But more so, we see further and further spirals into the small tight-knit circle of friends and family Angela has to call on. In short, White Tiger is as much a comic book about a superhero as it is about legacy.

Angela is a legacy; like a long line of superheroes before and after her, she has large shoes to fill and a mighty mantle to wear. She is the newbie on the scene, not only as the new White Tiger, but as the new superhero, as well. But rather than receiving the stereotypical "Go Home, Kiddo, for your own good!" line from those around her, she is offered help, again and again, if she should need it. And while she rarely does, Angela is not above calling for help. That's what families do for each other, after all. What this title gives us is a strong woman, a strong superhero, and a strong sense of the superhero community, outside of teams, outside of Civil Wars, outside of masks. Angela is offered help almost always outside the mask, and she recognizes help not in costume but in familiar, familial settings.

The White Tiger is a legacy, certainly, but more importantly, she is the embodiment of the importance of continuation in the superhero world. Even further, she is the embodiment of the importance of change. Her powers shift, her understanding of her strengths changes, as she—-dare I say it, Gentle Reader?—-as she mutates, just a bit, with the aid of the White Tiger Amulet.

As Angela is wounded by Cobra's lethal venom at the end of book #4, she applies the amulet directly to the wound in the hopes that it will heal. In the hopes that she won't die. "Home is where..." Angela begins, in a long, pain-induced quote of what it means to belong. "Home is where... you hang'a your hat… Character is... what you are... inna the dark..." And what Angela is in the dark is revealed in the final panel, with the white tiger roaring above her, along with an image of Hector dying in Daredevil's arms, along with an image of Angela, kicked off the roof by Daredevil. She is a product of her past, and the expectations of her future. She is What Came Before, and she is always What Comes After. She is not the house in which the White Tiger resides; rather, she is the embodiment of the White Tiger, proven, again and again, by her powers, sans amulet. Proven, again and again, by her determination and will.

Or perhaps What Angela Is is revealed before the final panel, in the first panel of #4, when she bemoans her Cheesecake status in the Daily Bugle, and thus defies Cheesecake status in the Comic Book Universe. Or in a further panel in #4, when she protects visiting superheroes from ignorance, hate, and xenophobia. Or when she is the role model for a young woman who is thrilled to see a woman fighting crime. That is, who is thrilled to see a Latina *just like her* fighting crime. "Daddy, I want to be White Tiger someday," the young woman says while watching surveillance footage of Angela at the airport. "She looks Latin, I'm half Latin. I have martial arts—"

Or perhaps—-just perhaps, Gentle Reader!—-Who Angela Is is revealed when she spars with Luke Cage in #4, and proves that she's not "just a girl," as in, the girl they all knew, Hector's niece, the one that still calls them Tio. She has a large, extended family that loves her, as she loves them. Because in the end, Angela's strength comes from her home, her True Home: her neighborhood, New York, the interconnections of her family and friends that support her and admire her not because she is the new White Tiger, but because she is Angela Del Toro, fighting for right, first as an FBI agent, but then as a bodyguard. She is, and always has been, a Protector, and whether it is saving a mother and child from The Lizard, or saving America from itself, a small piece at a time, it's What Angela Does, and Who Angela Is. Because in the end, Angela doesn't just fill the mantle.

She surpasses it.


Tamora Pierce said...

Okay--this had me reaching for my box of tissues.

Thank you.

Thank you so very much.

Tammy Pierce

Amy Reads said...

Hi Ms. Pierce,
Okay--this had me reaching for my box of tissues.
Thank you.
Thank you so very much.

Thank *you*, Ms. Pierce! I've enjoyed White Tiger immensely, and look forward to every issue.

I'm so very glad you enjoyed my review, but more importantly, I'm so very glad you and Mr. Liebe are writing White Tiger!