Patsy Walker, a.k.a. Hellcat 1

by , ; Published by

Reviewed by 23-Dec-15

“Batgirling” at its finest, Patsy Walker a.k.a. Hellcat gives new vigour to one of Marvel’s longest-established heroines.

PATSY WALKER, LOLCAT!

Lo, there was Batgirl. And Batgirl begat Squirrel Girl. And  Squirrel Girl begat Patsy Walker, a.k.a. Hellcat. And it was all good.

Patsy Walker, of course, is no ingénue in the Marvel U. Created by Stan Lee and Ruth Atkinson for the second issue of Miss America in 1944, Patsy and her Pals – a girl-centric retake on MLJ’s iconic Archie teen comedy – rapidly booted the titular super-heroine out of her own comic, and commenced a career lasting until 1967, starring in no fewer than nine separate titles. It was Patsy, together with Millie the Model and Kid Colt, who kept the company that would become Marvel going through the lean years of the 1950s. She gained a second lease of life when Steve Englehart revived her as a supporting character in the Beast’s short-lived solo series in Amazing Adventures in 1972, and she tagged along when the Beast joined the Avengers, leading to her eventual status as a second-hand superheroine, as she acquired the former costume of Greer Grant, a.k.a. the Cat.

She’s had a couple of mini-series, written by Englehart and later by Kathryn Immonen, but mostly she’s just hung about on the fringes, most recently in the woefully short-lived Marvel Now! She-Hulk series as an investigator for Shulkie’s legal practice.

Our villain-turned BFF, bonding with our heroine over their shared love of Broadway.

This series more or less takes it from there, as Patsy finds herself being “downsized” (though her ex-boss looks like looming large in the series anyway), and, jobless and homeless, she makes a new start by befriending, rather than clobbering, a telekinetic miscreant (though he’s mostly misunderstood) and becoming his new roomie.

Leth and Williams are clearly aiming this book squarely at the people who squeed about the revamped Batgirl, which itself inspired Marvel’s own Squirrel Girl; light-hearted, but not foolish or trivial, adventures with kickass heroines who network with their friends, have lives outside the mask, and are in the biz, not because of tragedy and trauma, but because they love the idea of doing good. Upbeat and optimistic, it’s been cynically labelled the trend of “Batgirling”, but it’s all too refreshing for those of us who are sick unto death of RAPE and MAIMING and ’ORRIBLE MURDER being the keynotes of every bloody series.

Formerly the anodyne love interest of Patsy’s pal Nan, “Tubs” is all growed up and walking his own path…

Leth’s script is charming, hitting all the right notes; none of Patsy’s past “didn’t happen”, and one face from that past returns this issue in the form of Tom – formerly Tubs – Hale, once third-string suitor of Patsy’s pal Nancy Brown, now proprietor of “Burly Books” in Manhattan, where Patsy’s glimpsed browsing through a tome entitled Butts Vol IX (but will she be able to appreciate it if she hasn’t read Butts Vols. I -VIII?). The threat of Patsy’s age old frenemy, Hedy Wolfe, looms large, and of course our heroine does have not one, but two, catastrophic ex-husbands lurking around to create shenanigans.

Skilfully creating an all-ages friendly titles that doesn’t patronise or bore, Leth hits the mark, skilfully introducing characters and making us care for them in a surprisingly short space of time, while including enough nostalgic touches to tickle the veteran reader yet not deter the neophyte. And it’s funny, without demeaning or belittling the characters.

Ick! Sudden dwarfishness! Sweet Zombie Jesus, make it stop!

Williams’ art is mostly delightful, open, bright and inviting, but she has absorbed the deplorable “chibi” habit of, when our heroine is in an emotional quandary, having her shrink and become squishy for no plot-driven reason. It’s ugly, distracting, and throws the reader right out of the page. Seriously, don’t.

Many would regard this series as itself a cynical exploitation of a trend. Perhaps it is. But I care less about the motivation than about the quality of the results, and on this showing, Patsy Walker a.k.a. Hellcat is a delight, and one I hope to go on enjoying for a long time.

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4 responses to “Patsy Walker, a.k.a. Hellcat 1”

  1. Tony Keen says:

    I’d still argue that Batgirl is a response to the more “teen-friendly” and “female-friendly” (i.e. not just catering to the same old superhero fans) approach of Ms. Marvel.

    I also think you do Patsy a disservice by not mentioning her six years as a core member of the Defenders.

  2. Costas Leontarakis says:

    A delightful treat from Marvel and certainly from the same echo as Brenden Fletcher’s Batgirl…..and yes, probably from the revamped Ms Marvel before it and Squirrel Girl and the revamped Spider-Woman most recently – come one, come all, I say.

    It’s always such a tonic to read fun comics again! Don’t get me wrong, fun doesn’t have to be trivial or irrelevant. They can be intelligent and edifying and Kate Leth’s Hellcat has hit the mark perfectly.

    I absolutely love that the above mentioned comics, including Hellcat, can be ‘all ages’ and gender friendly and be perfectly diverse in its cast and storylines showing life in its splendour, with less emphasis on misogyny and misery. I was always the happiest of readers seeing my beloved Legion of Super-Heroes just hanging around the clubhouse and simply interacting.

    Showing diversity as it is without the need for convoluted apologetics is the key I feel and this is perfectly achieved in Batgirl by Brenden Fletcher (who is a gay himself, incidentally) and now in Hellcat. Metrosexual personalities are scattered throughout the text and we are all the better for it.

    Seeing old characters like ‘Tubs’ as a big gay bear is awesome. It sort of affirms that LGBT identity was always secreted in (vanilla) popular culture but has had to be retro-versed (?) diversified such as with Bobby Drake aka Iceman. Of course there are the fictional persona/real actor revelations such as Sulu from Star Trek, but that’s another matter altogether, and no less heart-warming. Personally speaking I’m still waiting for Hoss from Bonanza to be revealed and that’s me with a grateful smile on my face for eternity!

    The artwork by Brittney L. Williams is a little cartoony but fine by me as is Babs Tarr work over in Batgirl. This type of art such as the work done for DC by the late, lamented Mike Parobeck is sublime. I look forward to the next issue of Patsy Walker Hellcat which will feature other heroines in the same style and interpretation. Great stuff folks; give it a try. I’m not sure what appeal such work has with general fan boys and webs abounding glut out there – so let’s support it.

    It appears Marvel is currently throwing out and swamping the market with No.1s to see what sticks. There will be an implosion, of that I’m sure, with some books publishing virtually weekly and at $4 – $5 a throw the purchasing small pool of fools will run out of money eventually. This has, however, allowed experimentation and risks with new titles such as Hellcat, and at the very least we should be grateful for that.

  3. Mike Teague says:

    I picked up #1 on spec and I liked it enough to want #2 and probably beyond.
    I did find the “shrinking” somewhat distracting and put it down to a poor artist, it was only when I read the editorial that I found out it was deliberate and even had its own term. I still don’t like it.
    Ms Marvel is the best title Marvel have since the very first issue, yes even better than the Avengers (well, with Hickman that was no competition, but now that Ms.M is in the all-new all-different version, the team is providing more of a challenge) and I had Squirrel Girl on my standing order list even before #1 (vol.1) of that title came out.
    I think this could well turn out to be three out of three.
    And yes, I like dark, but light and fun can make a very refreshing and enjoyable change !

  4. Mike Teague says:

    #2 is worth buying for the cover alone.
    The contents are great as well !
    Must remember to add this to my standing order.

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