You can say what you like about Al Ewing, but I don’t see any way to impugn the man’s creativity.

Reading nearly any Al Ewing comic will introduce you to at least five crazy, brilliant ideas. With Roberto da Costa’s ADD, hypercapitalism at the core of New Avengers in place of the Mighty Avengers’ community and responsibility, its unsurprising to see Ewing moving in even bigger and stranger directions than before.

This week the simplest idea New Avengers is playing with is: “Hey, wasn’t there another White Tiger?” Why, yes there was, hypothetical reader, and she is mighty pissed.

Though her fealty to the Hand is a tad restrictive, the sheer length of time that Ewing has had to build up the powers of the White Tiger makes Angela del Toro’s return feel suitably threatening. This single-mindedness also enables her to serve as an even better foil to Ava Ayala, whose obsession with her own responsibilities forms the core of this story’s emotional arc. Both characters are a little broad, but the set up is decidedly engaging and Ava’s moment of fear near the book’s end is handled rather nicely.

Thankfully, this is the issue that marks a significant turn around for one of the series’ major characters, the Maker. An evil, alternate reality Reed Richards was nothing special and, though he could be intriguing from time to time, Ewing’s writing for the character failed to endear him to me. However, it seems that absence makes the heart grow fonder, as the Maker returns, a manic embodiment of Ewing’s own urge to stretch the rules of the Marvel universe.

Perhaps part of what makes the Maker work this time around is the fact that he loves what we love. His plan this month is really just an experiment, a poke at the phantom lines of genre which a shared universe long since tore down. That energy propels the Maker and his plan throughout the issue and it’s rather effective.

The rest of the issue is fun, but uneven. Amusing captions appear, but only briefly. Bit characters set up nice moments but lack the strength of dialogue that Ewing brings to their more memorable fellows. There are some nice moments between Ava and Victor, but their interplay never fully blooms into something that will be memorable in the scope of arcs or runs.

This issue also sees Gerardo Sandoval step off of this series for his first full issue, replaced for a month by J. Cassara. I think that Sandoval is a more confident artist, however Cassara’s more serious style is a vastly superior fit for this more grounded New Avengers tale.

It helps that Cassara’s art feels more in line with previous stories featuring the Hand and the White Tiger God, but it’s also important to note that the ferocity in Cassara’s lines and the textured quality that he and Rachelle Rosenberg bring to the issue are great fits.

The White Tiger costume, both of them in fact, seem to be specialties of Cassara’s and he’s quite talented at presenting them in motion, both extreme and subtle. And, while I’m reluctant to bring Sandoval up again, I can’t say it wasn’t wise to make this the issue  he stepped off for, considering his trouble with drawing realistic women.

Cassara still shows signs of a newer artist. His figures lean towards the tall and, well, lean and not all facial detail reads the way he seems to have intended, but there’s plenty of promise. His framings are emotional, his shading is very strong, and he has a real talent for drawing and incorporating hair into his compositions.

Grade

C+

Conclusion

Fresh on the heels of a Hulkling and Demiurge story, New Avengers gives us the beginnings of a fascinating White Tiger epic while kindling an overdue interest in the Maker’s plots. Al Ewing’s love/hate relationship with canon is, once again, to our benefit, as he pulls out all manner of clever tricks to turn the screws just a little further.

J. Cassara stops in to let us know that his talents are perfect for the White Tiger, delivering unsteady but forceful and beautiful lines that pair wonderfully with Rachelle Rosenberg’s colors. A welcome alternative for those who have complained of Gerardo Sandoval’s style for this book.

Unfortunately, for all the improvements this issue makes, the progress is uneven. Though the Maker and the White Tigers are the stars of the show, the rest of the writing is not Ewing’s best. More pressingly, while there are a couple of real moments that reward the first reading, there’s nothing extraordinary in the bigger picture. New Avengers #7 is clever and fun, but its problems limit it to being a merely enjoyable opening to a promising storyline.