The Big Seven—Spider-Man, Iron Man, Wolverine, Captain America, Storm, Hulk, and Giant-Girl—are in the house for this, the first issue with Paul Tobin flying solo on the writing duties.
Paul Tobin knows his narratology: we open in media res, with the Avengers barely holding their own against the Griffin. Nearby, Tigra hides behind a tree, watching the heroes. She reflects that the Griffin may be too tough for them, because he's quick and the Avengers "don't deal well with speed when Wolverine's down." What is Spider-Man, chopped liver? Actually, we'll find out later he's been taken out of action also. Anyway, Tigra is pretty quick herself, but she doesn't dare join in to help the Avengers: she's a private eye, apparently, not a superhero. She's only watching the Avengers because a mysterious masked man hired her to.
A mysterious masked man, eh? Surely he must be up to no good! Except Tigra doesn't think so. He smells all right, and doesn't want any sensitive information: just colorful detail for a book he's writing.
So, for days, Tigra's been trailing the Avengers individually. She lurks and watches as they go about their private business. Brude Banner goes grocery shopping; Storm and Giant-Girl go out for lunch and a spot of girl-talk; Spider-Man web-swings around the city; Captain America does outreach to schoolchildren; Iron Man engages in some philanthropy on the fly. Wolverine? Mysteriously absent.
All of which brings us back to the present, where the Avengers have interrupted the Griffin's attempt to kidnap a diplomat, or something. The Avengers are not doing well at all: Spidey and Wolverine are already down, and Storm quickly follows, courtesy of a hurled park bench. (Very Heroclix-ish.) Tigra has had enough! Leaping into the fray, she uses her preternatural speed to keep the Griffin off-balance long enough for Iron Man to zap him unconscious.
In the aftermath of the battle, the readers get an O. Henry-style twist ending. Tigra, having observed the Avengers for days and now having fought beside them, is so enamoured of the superteam she blurts out her desire to join up. The Avengers only chuckle; the team decided weeks earlier that Tigra might be Avengers material, and they themselves set her up to follow them so that they could test her abilities. That mysterious masked man? Spidey in a trench coat. Tigra's inability to track down Wolverine? Due to Wolverine following her around while she was following the other Avengers around. And Tigra's decision to join in the fight against the Griffin? The final proof that she is indeed Avengers material.
"You passed the test, Tigra. Welcome to THE AVENGERS," says Cap.
Tigra's response? "Oh... my... gosh! Yay!!!"
I like Cap's speeches better.
Paul Tobin is now the sole writer on this title, so the time is right to position the book to take on new readers. Accordingly, we get a story that does a few specific things. It focuses on the core seven Avengers, so that the reader gets some 'face time' with each of them. It filters that focus through Tigra, an outsider, who can provide the grounding-element necessary to make the Avengers seem more exotic and interesting. Finally, it inducts Tigra into the Avengers, so we'll get to see more of her in the future. Why is that a key move for bringing in new readers? I could be wrong about this, but Tigra, who is by definition a cat-girl, may be interesting to manga fans. (Cat-girls are a feature of manga, right? I'm not expert in this area.)
I must confess I'm as dubious about this addition to the line-up as I was about Luke Cage. I wondered at the time if Cage would have much to do, given that his power-set is pretty much the same as the Hulk's, and his personality-type is pretty much the same as Wolverine's. The same concerns apply here, I think: Tigra's power-set is pretty much the same as Wolverine's, and her personality-type is pretty much the same as Giant-Girl's. Interestingly Giant-Girl comes off as more intelligent in this issue than she ever has: she mentions that the next language she's planning to learn is Maori, just so she can be a "regular person" for a change. I guess the torch of ditziness is being passed here. I don't think we actually need a ditzy Avenger, but I guess that's the easiest grounding element to provide. Ah well.
I have mixed feelings about this issue. On the one hand, it's nice to be re-introduced to the core Avengers, and be reminded why we like them. It's nice to have a twist ending that I at least didn't see coming – surprises are fun. And it's nice to have such well-done art on this title: kudos to you, Matteo Lolli. I don't know your stuff, but I like it.
On the other hand, like I said, Tigra comes off as ditzy at the end. Come on, Paul Tobin, let's raise the bar a little here.