Patsy Walker A.K.A. Hellcat #1
Written by: Kate Leth
Art by: Brittany Williams and Megan Wilson
If we’re gonna talk about comics we have to remember that some of these characters were created decades ago. And while some of the characters haven’t aged well—looking at you Mandarin, there are those characters out there with a colorful backstory who would benefit from including it in their stories. Such is the case for Patsy Walker aka Hellcat. Because let’s not forget she was originally stared in her own teen humor book—think Archie but just two women trying to ruin each other’s lives. She’s come a long way since then and now stars in her own solo run “Patsy Walker a.k.a. Hellcat”.
Let’s be brutally honest here, Marvel hasn’t had the best luck with Patsy. She’s had several solo series that haven’t taken off including a run with Stuart Immonen on art, one of my favorite comic artists. One of the problems with the character is the jumbled past Patsy has to carry around. When she was young she was in teen pulp but then she grew up to be famous… kind of? And also she went to Hell and dated the son of Satan. Did I mention she’s a private eye? Because Marvel couldn’t consistently make the character work they kept trying new things to reinvent her. God bless Kate Leth because she took all of this mismatched history and embraced it. Every aspect of Patsy’s past is a part of her story. So she has the undefined magic powers along with the detective skills. To top it off, Kate even wrote in the teen pulp books as a pivotal plotline. It works—kind of scared the character may become a bit schizophrenic later but for right now all of these aspects mesh together well for the character.
I think it’s important to point out that there isn’t much fighting in this book. Not that it’s a bad thing! It fits for the direction of the character. But seeing as Marvel is still trying to wrap up Secret Wars which is non-stop, exhausting fights—this is certainly a new direction. The only fight comes when Patsy foils a robbery by a new Inhuman who has telekinesis. By foil a robbery I mean she punches him in the face once before they talk it out on a park bench. It sounds like I’m being flippant about the violence in this book but I simply can’t find a better way to put it. Reading the issue puts the lack of violence in proper context. In fact it reminded me a lot of the Peter David run on She-Hulk with a lot of the same humor and absurdism. It was a Hulk book without any smashing and yet it was super entertaining. That’s the same sort of thing I get here. Patsy sits down with this would be criminal and finds out he’s having trouble with money since no one wants to hire an Inhuman. And then she gets a brilliant idea: set up a community for Inhumans, aliens, and science rejects who just want normal lives. I know this is a brilliant idea because Marvel already did it. It was called “District X” and it was incredible.
I want to be emphatically clear, I loved this book and I’m not accusing Kate Leth of stealing anything. Though there are worse things than if this book morphed into “District X”. But I suspect her vision for this book is far different from the police procedural for mutants. So far her Patsy has done a great job of being a distinct voice in the Marvel universe. True to character but still distinct. I’ve seen some reviews say the Patsy Walker in the new Netflix Jessica Jones series is similar to this new Patsy and I can’t say I see that. First off this Patsy is broke and homeless. Yeah this seems a superficial difference to highlight but I feel like it’s my favorite aspect. My absolute favorite characters to read are failures. Not just because they tend to be the most comical, but because they have the biggest journey. The growth potential for Patsy is huge and unpredictable and I think that’s the best part about this book.
There’s a great moment in “Patsy Walker a.k.a. Hellcat” #1 where everything around her is unraveling. She’s been kicked out of the storage closet in which she was living, Jennifer Walters lays her off because funds are tight, and Patsy doesn’t really have a clue where she is headed in life. Mark Grayson had a similar moment and ended up teaming up with Dinosaurus but I’m not going to talk about that instance. Instead I want to talk about Atom Eve. There was a little miniseries a while back that explained her backstory. In it we find out she was the result of an experiment to create a weapon but the scientist responsible for her hid her away. When she discovered her powers the government came looking for their weapon. And after evading the government agents she has this opportunity to simply walk away from heroing forever. But it’s in this moment when everything in her life has collapsed that she is compelled to look at others, what they need and what she can provide. She doesn’t go back to being a super hero because a desire for glory. Literally she doesn’t want to waste the gifts she has.