Sunday, December 27, 2015

Review: Patsy Walker, AKA Hellcat #1

Writer Kate Leth and artist Brittney L. Williams' new Hellcat book is pretty interesting in the way it seems to spin-off from Charles Soule, Javier Pulido and company's cancelled She-Hulk series, in which Hellcat was a supporting character. Since that book completely ended, this feels a little less like a traditional spin-off, and more like She-Hulk handing a baton to Hellcat in a relay race (and Soule and Pulido handing their baton to Leth and Williams0, and the new characters and creators all running off in their own direction.

The book's very first panel is set in She-Hulk's office in a Brooklyn building that She-Hulk's supporting character Sharon King rents out exclusively to super-types, as they tend to not fit in other shared-spaces. Patsy Walker is in the middle of a presentation to King and Shulkie proposing "Super Temp: The Patsy Walker Agency for Heroes and Other Cool Friends What are In Need of Work." From there the story flashes back to where Patsy came up with the idea, beginning with a big half-page panel–with five little cat head-shaped mini-panels embedded into it explaining her past and powers and status quo briefly.*

Patsy thwarts a crime committed by a new mutant Inhuman with telekinetic powers, then she spends some time with him, befriends him and ends up moving in with him as his roommate. It's his desire to use his powers to make money but not fight crime that inspires her business plan; imagine a Heroes For Hire, but where the heroes don't really engage in day-saving and villain-fighting so much as, say, moving heavy boxes or retrieving valuable items dropped down city sewer drains.

There's an awful lot going on in this issue–Patsy loses her job and "home," meets a character from the old Patsy Walker comics and discovers that her old frenemy is selling reprint trade collections of those old Patsy Walker comics and making plenty of bank off of 'em–without cutting the title character in on the profits. She also decides to start her new business, and get a job in retail. Oh, and also everyone goes out for drinks.

Leth's script tells a story that could pretty much only be told in a place like the Marvel Universe's New York, which is so crowded with superheroes and super-characters with long and complex histories. I mean, Patsy is a cat-themed superhero whose mother wrote romance comics based on her and her friends' teenage lives and who's most recent job has been working as an investigator a hulk/lawyer in New York City. She's also been an Avenger, and married the son of Satan. Not exactly your typically leading lady, and therefore this isn't the exact sort of story that can be transferred to another hero or setting.

The focus is street-level, but not street-level in the usual sense of the terms, as in "grim, gritty street crime in dark allies," but rather a sort of day-time street-level, as in "walking around the streets in the middle of the afternoon." The concerns are broad, daily, universal ones. Where are you going to live, what are you going to do with your life, where is your next paycheck coming from, why can't you meet a nice person on your dating app, etc.

Williams' art is super-sharp and super-crisp, and color artist Megan Wilson makes it brilliant. Williams' art evokes the style of Colleen Coover crossed with that of Chynna Clugston, but she also has a very good range when it comes to the designs, so that She-Hulk is a big, bold hourglass, and Tom (formerly Tubs) is bigger, burlier and rounder than Ian. She also occasionally shrinks Patsy into a smaller, squatter figure for comedic effect. It's not quite "super-deformed" as in manga and anime, but headed in that direction; call it deformed.

While Patsy is a pretty different character from She-Hulk, in personality as well as powers and appearance, this is a nice successor to She-Hulk, and the cheerful heroine with smaller-scale problems and light-hearted adventure makes this a great, heroine-focused book that should prove especially appealing to fans of such recent-ish Marvel books as Ms. Marvel and The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl.

*Williams draws one awesome Daimon Hellstrom, Son of Satan. I sure hope he appears in this eventually, based sole on how sweet Williams' drawing of him is. I have no idea who the guy who looks like Batman with a sweet mustache is, though.

1 comment:

googum said...

"I have no idea who the guy who looks like Batman with a sweet mustache is, though."

Probably Mad-Dog or something? Patsy's first husband. May've been her love interest in the old comics, but didn't turn out to be a great guy?