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Patsy Walker, AKA Hellcat! #1

Kate Leth, writer
Brittney L. Williams, artist
Megan Wilson, colorist
Marvel $3.99

You can add me to the chorus of readers who enjoyed the first issue of Patsy Walker, AKA Hellcat! Oh yes, this review is late but don’t take that as a reflection of the story here because you know that time right before Christmas and up to New Year’s can be a little crazy.

Upbeat, lighthearted, whimsical are words that come to mind to describe the tone that writer Kate Leth and artist Brittney L. Williams created for the new series. The first issue set up takes off from Charles Soule’s She-Hulk title that had Patsy working as an investigator for Jessica Walters’ law firm though that changes through no one’s fault. Building owner Sharon is a carry over from the She-Hulk cast too. You may know that Soule hinted that a couple of his characters in that series were LGBT, but it was canceled before any revelations were made. That’s recently been corrected in the Soule penned framing story from the recent Gwenpool Special in which Soule showed Sharon with her wife Ellen. A tip of the hat to Dermie for informing me of this! New cast members include “didn’t have it in his heart to be a villain/ new Wicked quoting” (and gay) roomie Ian Soo and Burly Bookstore owner Tom Hale. That’s “burly” as in “bear” as in gay. Tom isn’t exactly a new character for Patsy since he dates back to the original Patsy Walker series when he was called “Tubs”. Of course Tubs passed for straight (wink) because comics didn’t have out LGBT characters back then. So for those keeping score that’s not one, not two, but three gay and lesbian characters and right now they outnumber the heterosexual cast which is Jennifer/ She-Hulk and Patsy, even if she is the headliner.

The action here is street level/ slice of life with lots of humor, whether Patsy is confronted with personal issues like job security, living situation, and the discovery of your best frenemy making money off your name, helping an anonymous women get even with the boyfriend who dumped her, or her tingling mystic energy sense leading her to the terrifying Telekinian! [Emphasis mine :-)] Nothing is going to keep Patsy down no matter what the problem is and this makes me want all the more to read a story with Patsy having to deal with former husband Damion Hellstrom!

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The word irreverent might apply to some degree with regard to the brief and comical way Leth addresses Patsy Walker’s long history. And what a long history there is from her debut in 1944 as a popular teen humor romance hybrid through to the end of her last series in 1967 to Steve Englehart’s revivai and re-purposing as a supporting character turned superhero in the Beast’s solo strip to the Avengers and then the Defenders, et al. Writer Nick Spencer’s manner is similar over in Ant-Man and it’s an approach I like as it keeps both the story and my brain from getting bogged down in having to know continuity minutiae in order to enjoy a superhero comic. And yes, I know there are superhero fans who pride themselves on knowing incredible details about their favorite series and characters. Once upon a time that was me and once in a while still is.

Brittney L Williams’ art is a clean, accessible, and likeable style that meshes well with Leth’s approach. In a way the art can be seen as a contemporary sensibility in the vein of artist Al Hartley who was the artist on the old Patsy Walker stories at one point. Williams’ occasional switch to portraying Walker/ Hellcat in chibi style may appeal to younger readers while not doing so for others. I’m in the latter camp and only because I read the general practice in the old European tradition of making a character less important than any other characters in a composition rather than the contemporary Japanese ideal. I imagine this is an artistic flourish to which I’ll become accustomed while following the title. Overall Wilson’s coloring brings it all home with a cheerful palette and a light touch on the rendering.

Patsy Walker, AKA Hellcat! is a breath of fresh air that I’ll look forward to reading every month! If you haven’t already, I hope you’ll give it a look wherever you buy comics.

December 31, 2015
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