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West Coast Avengers #15: Review

Dec 1986
Steve Englehart, Al Milgrom

Story Name:

The lady or the Tigra

Review & Comments

Rating:
4 stars

West Coast Avengers #15 Review by (January 3, 2017)
The title is a play on 'The lady or the tiger', the title of a short story from the end of the 19th Century which has become a metaphor for an undecidable choice.

It's unclear whether Master Pandemonium's aid Azmodeus was left behind last issue or has retreated into MP's amulet, but MP never calls on him this issue and in fact doesn't seem to have the amulet anymore. And the bird-demon won't be seen again when MP returns.

The writer wrongly claims that only Wonder Man was missing from the team when they visited the Land Within in #6-7, whereas Iron Man was absent too - and Hank Pym for that matter. This is strange because Steve Englehart wrote those issues too.

The WCA arrive in the Land Within via the River of Death, which the Cat-People call the River of Oblivion. In Adventures Into Fear #22 we learned that the Cats don't know where the River comes from or goes to. Well now we know it comes from Allatou's realm. When Michael Morbius visited in AIF#22 (as mentioned in our #5) he was transported here by Balkatar, but he *left* via the River. And strangely it took him to a planet of the star Arcturus.

Daimon and Patsy are wrong to worry about the Cat costume and Tigra having been created by demons. They were both created by Dr Joanne Tumolo who *was* a Cat-Person, but of the branch that remained on Earth and so weren't turned into demons by the Land Within.

The Fantastic Four will find their way to the Land Within in FF#314, which I believe will be these Cat People's last appearance. The FF leave via the River and find themselves on Arcturus IV in #315 where they'll meet stranded Master Pandemonium. They'll find a way back to Earth which lands them in the Savage Land in #316, where MP will fly off. He'll return to this series in #50-52 for the finale of the soul-fragments storyline.
It won't surprise you to learn that our scribe Steve Englehart wrote the FF issues. He also continued the Quicksilver plot from our Annual #1 in his 1st FF issue #304. And although it wasn't he who brought the Thing back in #296, it *was* Steve who really picked up the mutating plotline from our #10 in FF#310.

The Hellstroms will be in next issue. But before then our team will conspicuously *not* be in Avengers #274 because the Masters Of Evil have tricked the WCA into going on a wild goose chase to Indonesia so the won't be around to help the East Coast'ers. Then Tony Stark will create armour to encase Thor's broken arm in Th#375.



 

Synopsis / Summary / Plot

West Coast Avengers #15 Synopsis by Rob Johnson
Last issue the West Coast Avengers and 'allies' 'escaped' from the realm of the demon Allatou. The allies are Hellcat and Hellstorm, but also their foe Master Pandemonium. The escape involves floating on a boat on the River of Death through the domains of Hades - a boat they can't steer or leave. Also the 'escape' was really Allatou getting rid of nuisances.

Hellstorm is Daimon Hellstrom and Hellcat is his wife Patsy. The Occult Investigators helped the WCA come to rescue Greer Nelson and Henry Pym whom Allatou had kidnapped. Master P followed them with his own reason to seek the demoness. Greer and Henry are with them but it's not exactly a successful rescue.

Greer gave up being Tigra last issue because the cat persona was taking control, but then when captured by Allatou she found she couldn't change back. It seems Hell torments you by denying your greatest desire, which must mean she wants to be Tigra rather than human.

Hellcat suggests that being human isn't that bad, but angry Greer bites her head off. As Tigra she had powers, but Patsy only has the powers her costume give her - and that costume was originally designed for Greer (in the short Cat series before she became Tigra). Patsy retorts that she worked on being worthy of the suit in the Avengers and the Defenders. Hank Pym and Daimon calm their lovers down.

Hellstorm changes the subject to Master Pandemonium. Mockingbird wants to know who The Five are that he seeks, so MP expands on the origin he told her in #9. When Martin Preston suffered a car accident Mephisto replaced his arms and legs with demon limbs (which in #4 and #9 he could detach as whole servant demons). But now we learn that he awoke the next day apparently healed but with a star-shaped hole in his abdomen. Mephisto popped in to explain that the hole is where his soul was, and the demon has split that soul into 5 pieces given to 5 demons. If Martin can get them all then he will have his soul back.

Martin became Master Pandemonium and began searching. He now contains many more demons which he can spew out through the hole (again as seen in #4 and #9). He also acquired the Amulet of Azmodeus with its demon Azmodeus. But he still hasn't found even 1 of the 5. Last issue he thought Allatou might be 1 of them.

Greer muses that as Tigra she promised to kill MP for the king of the Cat-People, and in return he would rid her of whichever of her souls (human or cat) she wanted. Greer expected to get rid of her cat side. But now she finds that MP isn't the demon she thought he was. And anyway she can't become Tigra to kill him.

At this point the boat appears to be heading into a rock wall. But they pass through it and find themselves coincidentally in the realm of the Cat-People called the Land Within. Hellcat says this is another demon-realm, which shocks Greer because she was told the Cat-People just got banished here by human sorcerers. But Master Pandemonium is sure this time that 1 of his soul-shards is here.

Patsy takes off her cat-mask in case it offends the Cat-People, as a horde of them drag the boat ashore. And the 'crew' find that it's safe to leave the boat here. But the Cats are angry that the WCA have brought their enemy MP here, and they don't believe Hawkeye's claim that they arrived here by accident.

They are also angry their heroine Tigra (who they recognise by her amulet) has been turned into a human. Greer starts to say that the amulet won't turn her back now, but then realises she only knows it didn't work in Allatou's realm. She tries it again - and becomes Tigra.

Patsy is worried that her costume was created by these demons, but Daimon assures her he senses no evil attached to it. But he in turn worries about Greer discovering that she was turned into Tigra by demons. He takes charge and the Cats bow to his reputation. But they say that their King must decide the interlopers' fate.

Tigra assures the Cats that she and their King have reached an understanding. But she daren't elaborate further while the Avengers are listening, and this makes Clint Barton suspicious. Iron Man and Wonder Man didn't come to the Land Within with their teammates (#6-7), but Simon Williams reckons he could defeat the Cats. But Patsy advises him to hold fire until they learn more.

The King is unhappy. In #7 he graciously allowed the team to leave the Land Within alive because they were friends of Tigra. But now they return to the secret lair with extra members including Hellcat and Hellstorm who fight demons. And with the Cat-People's enemy Master P.

And then the King adds that Tigra should have killed Pandemonium by now. This comes as a shock to her compatriots. Tigra tries to explain that this was the price the King demanded before relieving her of her cat-soul - and MP is a bad guy so that's OK. But the others stand by the iron rule that Avengers don't kill.

They don't understand - not even her friends/lovers Henry Pym and Simon Williams. But Daimon Hellstrom does and comforts her. But he doesn't tell them how he too was cursed with a Darksoul when he was Son Of Satan. But he finally got rid of it (Defenders #120).

Meanwhile Master P steps forward to claim the fragment of his soul which the King confirms is in a soul-jar on his throne. He says that Mephisto gave it to them, and keeping it from MP is why they sent Tigra to kill him. Now Greer realises that the Cat-People in the Land Within really are demons. The King claims that they weren't when the sorcerers banished them here, but the Land corrupted them.

The King says that his deal with Tigra stands - he will remove 1 of her souls if she kills MP. Now that the Avengers know about it she has no reason to hang back and she agrees. Hellstorm supports her decision.

The Cats take them all to an arena. MP boasts that he'll win the fight anyway, but the Cats tear his demon arms and legs off which severely affects his chances. The WCA want to intervene but Hellcat tells them to wait for the right moment.

Tigra steals herself for a killing blow, and Pandemonium faces her stoically. But she pulls back and tells the King she won't do it. He declares her traitor to the Cat People, but Greer prefers that to being a traitor to the Avengers' ideals.

The King casts the spell which takes Tigra's spirit from Greer Nelson, and captures it in another soul-jar. Greer is left human, as she wanted, but the King says that is only so she can die alongside her friends. But for now they are imprisoned in a cage. (The WCA are still waiting for Hellcat's 'moment'.)

The team congratulate Greer on her decision, but she's afraid she's got them all killed and without Tigra she can't do anything about it. But Patsy reminds her that before Tigra she was the Cat, and she gives her back the Cat costume. And declares that the moment has arrived.

At that moment Tigra's friend Balkatar returns from 1 of his missions to the human world, acting as a demon summonable by sorcerers (as seen in Adventures Into Fear #21-23 and our #6-7 and #9). The King explains how the WCA returned here with Master Pandemonium, and Tigra refused to kill him. He also mentions the WCA's 'new members' including a woman in a yellow costume with blue clawed gloves.

The emissary to Earth immediately recognises the description of Cat/Hellcat. And Greer-Cat bounds in, closely followed by the others. (It doesn't explain how they got free.) Battle commences.

But Balkatar and Greer chat instead. He reminds her how they became close (#6), but she says that was Tigra not her. However she appears to melt in his arms - but only to get close enough to judo throw him. They fight in earnest. The Cat suit was designed to enhance the power of any woman (eg Patsy), but was specifically designed for her. She finishes up binding Balkatar to a pillar with her claw-cable.

1 of the Cat-People suggests the King return the Tigra-soul to Greer to confuse her. She uses her other cable-claw to yank it from his grasp but it falls and smashes open. And the Tigra-soul returns to her body.

As Greer struggles to resist it she suddenly grows a tail. Then she rips the Cat costume off and stands once more as Tigra. But it is Greer Nelson's voice that tells her friends that the Cat-suit-enhancement enabled her to meet Tigra as an equal, and now they have merged as Tigra's body with Greer's mind.

The Cat People refuse to fight their legendary heroine Tigra, and she tells them to leave the WCA alone too.

But Pandemonium chooses his chance to break the other soul jar. A glowing triangle emerges which he uses to block 1 sector of the star-shaped hole in his abdomen. He has 1 fifth of his soul back. In gratitude he'll let the WCA live this time. He leaps from a balcony into the River of Oblivion and heads for the exit.

Hawkeye decides not to pursue him. Instead he suggests Hellstrom magics them home and they'll have a celebratory barbecue.



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Al Milgrom
Joe Sinnott
Ken Feduniewicz
Al Milgrom (Cover Penciler)
Joe Sinnott (Cover Inker)


Characters

Listed in Alphabetical Order.

Hellcat
Hellcat

(Patsy Walker)
Iron Man
Iron Man

(Tony Stark)
Son of Satan
Son of Satan

(Daimon Hellstrom)

Plus: Defenders, Mephisto.