Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat #1 review

Patsy Walker, former teenage star, Avenger, Defender and Satan's daughter-in-law detects trouble with her ability to sense supernatural energy. She intercepts Ian Soo, who's just used his brand new telekinetic power to steal cash from a security van. He's hardly A-grade villain material - he thinks the name Telekinian is clever as heck and has only turned to theft because he can't pay the rent on his Brooklyn flat. 

After talking him out of the villainous lifestyle Patsy winds up his new flatmate - it seems she's been living out of a closet in the building where She-Hulk has her law offices. Shulkie - Jen Walters when un-green - isn't exactly heaving with work and has to let Patsy go from her position as in-house investigator. But then Patsy has a eureka moment...
Having been a superheroine since the Seventies, it looks like Patsy Walker is returning to her Forties roots as a character straddling the humour and romance genres. Yes, she's in costume for most of this entertaining opener, but it's very much a day-in-the-life story. And given that any successful first issue sets tone and direction, it's a safe bet this is the territory writer Kate Leth and artist Brittney L Williams are staking out. The story calls back to Patsy's pre-Marvel Universe incarnation with an update on what Hedy Wolfe - her frenemy long before the word was termed - is up to, and the surprise return of another old pal. 

The characters are fresh and funny in this all-ages book that feels very much of today. The problems of paying the bills during an economic downturn, the matter of fact inclusion of characters who happen to be gay, the nostalgia trend... once more Marvel is 'the world outside your window'.  Leth's dialogue is zippy and fun, and I like the Hero Hotline direction in which she's taking Patsy and her Pals. 
Williams' artwork is very likeable: open, clean, breezy and the perfect complement to Leth's script. The only thing I don't like is Patsy occasionally being drawn in 'chibi' style. I didn't actually realise that was what was going on until I read the creators' comments at the back of the book - I simply assumed the off-key stumpiness meant Williams couldn't keep the look consistent. Now I know, I like it even less, as it pulls me out of the story every time it happens while serving no purpose I can see. I hope Williams packs it in, as her charming art doesn't need the gimmickry. 

Colourist Megan Wilson and letterers Joe Sabino and Clayton Cowles complete the core creativite team, ensuring everything looks bright and reads well. 

At first glance, this looks very Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, but the tone is less all-out laughs, a little more naturalistic. I can't see this comic being for everyone - chibi fans, subscribe now - but it could be for you. Give it a go. 

Comments

  1. I don't know if this book is for regular Marvel customers. This book is very true to Patsy's; history but not the tone to any of her characterizations. I'll stick with it more out of love for Hellcat than enjoying art where everyone looks like tweens and a story that has all the depth of a pre-Waid Archie comic. I agree that chibi thing is a very big turn off. I don't read text pages so I didn't know it was intentional. Considering how poor a lot of the other character renderings are I just assumed Williams sucked at consistency. Oh and you should check out a review of the issue on CBR. The reviewer insists on calling the character Trish every single time he uses the civilian name. It' slike he never read the boo or looked at the cover title!

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    1. Thanks Flip, I DD. Usual thing of reading other reviews after putting mine together and yeah, that 'Trish' business drove me mad. It was obviously deliberate, and the CBR editor let it through, but why?

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    2. "Trish" is the name used by the character in the recent Jessica Jones series made by Netflix. I imagine Marvel thought that people would be psyched for a cartoonish, manga-tinged tween title after watching thirteen episodes of post-rape trauma.

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    3. Hi Brigonos, we know she's Trish on TV, but the comic is still all Patsy - it's in no way the same character; for a reviewer to refer to her throughout the review of a comic in which the name 'Trish' never appears is bonkers.

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    4. It's possibly the reviewer's only exposure to the character. I know I've read Marvel extensively over the last decade and Hellcat was nowhere to be seen.

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    5. Yeah but it's Patsy on every page. I accept no rationalisation ;)

      Oh, and Happy Christmas!

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    6. Happy Crimbo to you too, Martin!

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  2. This is not a dis on Williams' art specifically (which seems perfectly good), but am I the only one actively put off by "cartoonish" artwork nowadays? It used to be a novelty that lent the impression of a distinctive visual style to the work of the Bogdanoves and the Zecks of the comics art world, but with Marvel especially, it's become ubiquitous of late. It's like they stopped hiring photrealist artists at some point and just plundered illustration courses for anyone who'd recently been into manga.

    (Again, this is not a dis - it is clearly a whine)

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    1. I don't know about ubiquitous, but it's certainly on the increase. It will pass.

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  3. Hi Martin,

    I haven't read the Patsy yet (and didn't really intend to even after recognizing Jessica Jone's Trish as a procedural drama style version of the character) but I agree with both you and Brigonos. I think it's both Marvel trying to cater to what they think the Adventure Time/Dr. Who watching tumblr using audience that follows their movies is and Fraction and Aja's Hawkeye series proving that all you need is the right team to make a comic about a more second string character pop. If there's one thing that defines modern Marvel other than promoting it's current media darlings, it's try and recapture creative lightning in a bottle over and over.

    I think the thing to bear in mind about the art on books like Ms. Marvel or Spider-Gwen is that it fit the kind of stories they were telling and, at the time, helped them distinguish themselves from the pack. Now it just seems that Hellcat looks the way it does because that's how the company thinks that's how you make that kind of book. Hell, back in 2008 when Greg Weisman's Spidey show got tangled in legal red tape Tom Beevroot justified not giving him a comic project at Marvel as them not being sure Weisman's popularity would guarantee them an audience...an attitude they changed after he worked on Young Justice for their competition and the current Star Wars cartoon for Disney, giving him his own comic Star-Bran and Nightmask, and the art (while perfectly fine) is cartoonish, most likely because Weisman is "the cartoon guy" to them or because that's just how they do that sort of book now.

    Like you said, it'll pass. It reminds me of the weird period where multimillion dollar companies like Warner Bros put their resources into creating "Indy" studios because mumblecore movies were the new hotness and they wanted to keep up. In comic terms it reminds me of around 2005 when the Big Two noticed anime was popular with teenagers and there was a surge of artist with stylized styles like Humberto Ramos, on the basis that this was the same thing. On the other hand when Marvel made a publishing line to try and cater to this audience we got comics like Runaways, Sentinel and the only interesting Venom comic where they homage John Carpenter's The Thing. So there's an upside!

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  4. Hello Simon, I hope Christmas is going well. Thanks for the great thoughts, it's good to get more context. Poor Greg Weisman, I was just reading a Back Issue piece in which he noted - note quite bemoaned - his lack of luck getting comics projects off the ground. It was in relation to an aborted Black Canary mini series with Mike Sekowsky, the art looks great. The art on Starbrand and Nightmask, though, actively puts me off.

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  5. It's all a fad..like the hula hoop.

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    1. Now now, I've seen you twirl those hips...

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  6. Oh and it's still bothering me Patsy detected Ian (whom I thought was female for pages) when she detects mystical energy. Is there something about the Inhumans we've never been told? Is the Kree Empire based on magic not science?

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    1. That struck me too, I suppose super-powers are supernatural whatever their source. Er...

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    2. What didn't strike me was that Ian took Patsy to a gay bookstore and thus established one of Patsy's old gang as gay. It was just such a normal moment it didn't register at all!

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    3. Yeah, it was splendidly mundane!

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  7. I haven't read any Hellcat comic since the 2008 mini series.
    But I have liked the character ever since.
    Might put this on my pull list, it looks like something I might like.

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    1. Maybe try the debut issue before committing - these things aren't cheap!

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    2. Well maybe, but I already have an exhaustive ( and bloody expensive) pulllist.
      Almost every Transformers related title from IDW. ( including specials )
      The back to the future mini.
      The dark knight returns III
      Gold digger
      The savage dragon
      Harley Quin
      and I hate fairyland.
      One more title wont hurt.

      ...Hear that ? That's my wallet weeping.

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    3. I forgot I got the Maxx on my pulllist too
      Can't believe that its already at issue 26.
      Can't believe I have so many 3,99 dollar titles on my list actually.

      Also I took the liberty to add you to my links section: http://focusedtotalitycomics.blogspot.com/p/links.html
      If you'd rather I remove it just say the word.

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  8. Just read it, totally loved it. I know the Hipster Cartoon Super Girl has become a bit of a theme of late, but I have to say that I'm enjoying it so far. I'm currently buying Ms Marvel, Batgirl, Black Canary, Jem & the Holograms and now Hellcat, so I'm worried I might be addicted to the phenomenon.
    Even if Patsy is retreading the path beaten by Squirrel Girl, I couldn't resist a Hellcat series. I'm pleasently surprised by how much I enjoyed this whimsical take on the character and it doesn't jar terribly with work that Kurt Busiek, Steve Englehart and Kathryn Immonen have done on the character over the last 15 years.
    An interesting premise and a quirky supporting cast all help to ensure that I'll be back for the next few issues at least.

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    1. Absolutely, this didn't feel at all like Patsy had been through a reboot. We already had her mother having written about her in the MU, so it was good to see it as a plot point.

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