Writer: Kate Leth
Artists: Brittney Williams & Megan Wilson
Can a superhero live a relatively “ordinary” life in the Marvel Universe? That’s the question that Marvel’s latest All-New, All-Different offering seems to be asking as it spins Patsy Walker, a.k.a. Hellcat! out of the pages of Charles Soule’s She-Hulk title and into its own book by rising stars Kate Leth and Brittney Williams. Keeping in the spirit of the earlier She-Hulk title, this book takes a slightly spunkier look at how a young hero deals with staying gainfully employed and confronting childhood rivals while still taking the time to fight some crime on the side.
The casual reader might be surprised that Marvel’s history with Patsy goes all the way back to the 1940s, where she starred in a series of Archie-styled teen romance comics. Patsy was reintroduced with an appearance in the Fantastic Four in the 1960s, with a later retcon that her 1940s comics were in-universe fiction written by her mother. (Leth references that retcon here, but no, she didn’t invent it.) By the 1970s, Marvel reestablished her as the spunky superheroine “Hellcat,” and she had various adventures with the Avengers and Defenders, some good, some not so good (like being killed and sent to Hell). Following a resurrection, Marvel tried her out in a variety of titles that never really took, and most recently made her a supporting character in Soule’s She-Hulk title.
Leth pulls this incarnation out of the more serious aspects of her history (while still acknowledging that they happened) by keeping this title on the bright and less-serious side. While out patrolling for criminals, Patsy catches the “Telekinian,” a would-be thief who turns out to be an ordinary guy named Ian who just happened to walk into one of those Terrigen Mist clouds that pops up all over Marvel these days. Rather than fight, Patsy opts to talk to him and help find him gainful employment. It’s from there that Patsy inadvertently loses her job with She-Hulk. Now, she and Ian need to find jobs, housing, and a new purpose in life.
Leth and Williams keep this book very much on the lighthearted side. It’s a low-threat title, with Patsy’s biggest concerns being where her next paycheck will come from and how to deal with copyright infringement on her old comics, rather than having to fight off Galactus or Doctor Doom. Then again, a low-threat humor book is a welcome change considering that we’re just wrapping up the universe-shattering Secret Wars and almost every spinoff title there took itself too seriously.
Hellcat is full of hidden song lyrics and classic comics trivia (Leth apparently undertook serious Patsy research before taking on this book) and is a decent distraction from the wave of event-after-event that we’re regularly hit with. Williams’ art is also a lot of fun, taking a youthful, caricatured look at its characters. She occasionally takes the caricaturing to the extreme, with Patsy taking on a chibi look when she’s too excited–so readers should be advised that it’s part of the book’s silliness.
One criticism worth addressing is the contention that this book is too similar to the spunky Squirrel Girl. Granted, they’re both female-led humor books in a superhero universe with artwork that leans on the cartoonish side. That’s about where the similarities stop, though. Squirrel Girl leans toward being zany and is more deeply entrenched in the superhero world, with Doreen fighting Galactus and accidentally time-travelling. Thus far, Hellcat seems to be leaning more towards the “real world” with a heroine confronting problems much like our own, like paying the rent and finding a job. Really, it’s more of a successor to Soule’s She-Hulk book, and not just in the literal sense of it picking up where Patsy was when that book was cancelled.
Squirrel Girl fans may enjoy the tonal similarity of Patsy Walker, a.k.a. Hellcat! to what they’re already reading. However, non-Squirrel Girl readers shouldn’t be put off by the superficial kinship. They’re quite different titles, and Hellcat stands just fine on its own merits.
Rating: Five cheese and crackers out of five.