Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat! #14
Writer: Kate Leth
Artist: Brittney L. Williams
Release Date: January 18, 2017
Publisher: Marvel Comics
By: Chris Martinez
Comic books have been around for quite a long time, throughout the decades publishers have attempted to retcon and reboot characters in order to clear things up for new readers. These adjustments work to various degrees of success and in time they too are cast aside by a new writer. Patsy Walker was first introduced way back in 1944’s Miss America Magazine #2 as a teen humor character. She went on to star in her own title and over the next twenty years would become popular enough to spawn a number of spinoffs. A brief appearance in a Fantastic Four Annual firmly established Patsy and her friends in the Marvel Universe before she disappeared from print for nearly ten years. Patsy would remain out of the public eye till the mid-70’s where she reappears in an issue of the Avengers. She acquired an old costume worn by Tigra when she was still fighting crime as the Cat and Patsy dubbed herself Hellcat. Hellcat would then embark on a superhero career as an Avenger then Defender.
Patsy spent the majority of her time with the Defenders and it’s in these pages that readers learn her twenty plus year publication history existed in more than simply reality. Within the M.U. continuity the old Patsy Walker comics were written by her mother Dorothy. This type of Meta commentary is common today but in 1980 it was a fairly fresh concept as well as an excellent example of Marvel’s willingness to experiment. Patsy’s story from here is a crazy one even for a super hero. Somewhere along the way she developed magical/psionic abilities and married The Son of Satan, Daimon Hellstrom. They went into business as occult investigators for a few years until Daimon’s demonic nature got the better of him; this set the stage for a downward spiral that ended up leading to Patsy’s suicide. There was no rest for poor Patsy though, in death she found herself in Mephisto’s realm fated to be an eternal gladiator.
Hellcat is definitely one of those characters where the writers seemed to have kept a large board with every ridiculous idea that occurred to them and they seemed to have chosen by throwing darts. After a few years, Patsy was resurrected through traditionally convoluted comic book means and she returns to her life as a hero. In time the emotional weight of everything she went through inspires Patsy to leave the Avengers to place her focus on street level criminals. Her experiences taught Patsy the value of human relationships, the connections she makes are lasting and the group that gathers around her are the crux of Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat!
The series begins with She-Hulk firing Patsy from her job as a private investigator. She then decides to open a temp agency for super powered individuals and befriends a telekinetic Inhuman named Ian Soo. Patsy and Ian bump into one of her childhood friends, Tom Hale. Tom, who was known as Tubs in Dorothy’s comics, informs Patsy that the rights were held by Hedy Wolfe and the books are being reprinted. Hedy becomes the primary antagonist of the first half of the series as Patsy fights to gain ownership of her likeness, the perfect not too subtle message in this current age of social media.
I know her story is a lot to absorb but all of the nonsense Patsy went through has made her one of the most wonderful characters in all of fiction. Patsy knows the power of pain and does whatever she can to protect those closest to her. She’s kind, loving, strong, funny, okay… if you haven’t figured it out by now I’ll come clean, Patsy Walker is my comic crush. I don’t have enough good things to say about her. Writer Kate Leth has clear affection for the character she’s working with and fills the book with large doses of humor and colossal heart. The art of Brittney L. Williams is kinetic and adorable often resembling the old romance comics. She doesn’t let Leth have all the fun though. One of the interesting things Williams does is drawing certain panels chibi-like if it’s tonally appropriate. This is a fun technique used in Japanese manga and not something often seen in American comics. The creative team behind this book is a powerhouse and the result is a very meaningful work of art.
As I said emotional connection is the driving motivation behind Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat! The best part, the intensity continues to pile on. In the issues leading up to the most recent arc Ian and Tom began dating, Patsy’s ex-husbands attacked and former X-Man now vampire Jubilee became her personal assistant. The excitement never stopped and the group became a family. That is until the Black Cat comes to the neighborhood in ‘Don’t Stop Me-ow’. Felicia Hardy the sometimes hero sometimes villain plays it pretty evil here as she recruits a gang of rough and tumble girls and sets them to spy on Patsy. The Black Cat known as Zoe has a meltdown when she sees that Patsy lives with her ex Ian and blows their cover. After chasing her off Ian and Patsy discuss his feelings of helplessness he had throughout his relationship with Zoe and the contrasting sense of empowerment he gets from being with Tom. Meanwhile the Black Cat herself ransacks the temp agency and kidnaps Bailey with the intention of using her in a robbery. Bailey carries a bag of unlimited capacity that holds and releases whatever she needs at the time, think Hermione’s bag of holding minus the digging. Thanks to their conversation Ian gains the confidence to finally become a super hero and joins Patsy in costume. Along with Jubilee they intercept the Black Cats at a Cosplay museum where B.C. steals a set of jeweled claws. She slashes Bailey with them to put her under some form of mind control.
During the ensuing fight Patsy and co. retain the upper hand until Bailey, after officially naming herself Attaché, manages to capture them in her bag. Back at her lair B.C. slashes the entirety of her gang, missing Zoe; she then goes back to the temp agency to steal Patsy’s rolodex of super powered people. When they arrive they’re met by a concerned Tom who’s looking for Ian. B.C. quickly turns Tom to her side and asks Attaché if she has a weapon for him. She opens her bag giving Patsy and the others the opportunity to escape. Tom roughly shoves Ian to the floor and the Black Cats leave with the rolodex. Zoe stays behind to inform them of the claws magic and together they return to the apartment. As the arc ramps up to its conclusion the creators take a moment of downtime to let Ian confront Zoe about their abusive relationship in a quiet two page sequence that clearly does wonders for his self-esteem.
In the end Felicia’s ambition turns out to be no greater than of any other petty crime boss. After expanding her gang with super powered temps and robbing a bank Patsy and co. find her just lounging in a throne in her lair. During the obligatory final fight Jubilee succeeds in getting the claws off B.C. and Hellcat smashes them. The claw’s destruction breaks the spell causing the Black Cat to cut her losses and run off. Hellcat ropes Bailey into helping her return the stolen money and it’s a nice tidy ending. That is until Hellcat sneezes and the gold bricks in the room turn into fish!
‘Don’t Stop Me-ow’ comes to this overly simplistic ending because I feel that the storyline wasn’t about the Black Cat at all, she just happened to guest star in Ian’s origin story. As Telekinian he’s set for a grand future in the M.U. and thankfully Ian and his friends are working on the name.
The major blow to this arc is the absence of regular color artist Megan Wilson. Her subdued yet still vibrant style is the ideal companion to Williams’ art and this is why I can’t give this book a perfect score. However, Rachelle Rosenberg does an admirable job but the book’s character isn’t quite the same without Wilson. I love this book and just reading it has somehow made me a nicer person. Spend a few minutes chuckling and do something happy, read Patsy Walker AKA Hellcat! Can’t wait for #15!
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