Why the latest title just misses the mark.
I had high hopes for the initial run of “Patsy Walker, A.K.A. Hellcat!” after the recent Netflix Phenomenon Jessica Jones included a Patsy Walker of their own. But while the live-action representation was a high-kicking, fast-talking, brave in the face of danger heroine, her namesake comic has thus far fallen short. Despite the fact that the comic has her in full power mode (complete with magical girl transformation!), issues to date have lacked any real amount of action. The art style mimics that of other popular recent releases such as The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl by going with clean lines and bright colors. Sometimes even dipping into an anime style with “chibi” faces to display emotion, making it my favorite thing about the run so far. The writing clearly craves to be fun and light-hearted like its fellow recent releases, but often struggles to keep the reader engaged. Unfortunately, the comic loses a lot of pull with its forced comedic voice. Skipping over an origin story and favoring random flashbacks / alluding to previous encounters, the story can get mildly confusing to someone unfamiliar with Hellcats roots. They do a decent enough job of explaining on the fly and are clearly relying on some of that mystery to try and drive sales.
Now for the plot itself! After losing her job, Patsy embarks on a new quest, revealing one of the grand themes of the series thus far; finding employment for individuals with less-than-super powers. After all, who wouldn’t like to see a telepath who can lift anything his physical strength would also…allow him…to lift. Or how about a boy who can command insects? Fun. On top of all this wild and crazy adventure (sarcasm) we also get to witness things like; Patsy working in a mall. Patsy arguing with her landlord. Patsy flirting with guys. Patsy getting a tattoo. Patsy fighting for publishing rights to her dead mother’s fanfictions written about her life. No lie. This is actually the main secondary plot line, which is quickly working its way to the front. So far Heidi Wolf (long-time frenemy and owner of the rights to Mommy Walkers fanfics) has been more interesting in her 5 panels of page time than any of the other villains to date. I suppose this isn’t hard when so far FOUR of the ‘villains’ have had a change of heart and decided to put their powers in line for the force of good, leaving Patsy to try and find them a place in the world. Remember theme #1? That’s right, kids. It ties together.
To its credit, the comic kicks off with some pretty powerful cameos as Patsy is promptly fired from her job with She-Hulk, and finishes up issue #2 by meeting up with her former boss as well as Valkyrie, Squirrel Girl, (lady) Hawkeye, America Chavez, and Spectrum. We get all of these high-action heroines together in one room and what do they do? Get lunch and talk. And that’s it. All these awesome fighters… with zero awesome fighting. Speaking of cameos, did I mention there are a lot of them? While I enjoy seeing some of my personal favorites, like Squirrel Girl and Doctor Strange, it’s getting a bit old. After all, this is Patsy’s comic. It says so in the name! Twice! And honestly, as much as I love DocMcWeridHands and Twitchy McNutty I’d like to learn more about Ian, her roommate with telekinetic powers *superhero name pending* and her friend-from-forever-ago, Tom. Not to mention Patsy herself, whom so far is being treated as a young inexperienced heroine despite her history and previous battles in the Marvel universe. Focusing more on her crappy mall job and less on her yellow spandex adventures once again make this feel more like an after-school anime rather than a kick butt Marvel heroine. In a comic written and drawn by woman (yay for all woman creative teams!) I would have expected a bit more on the ‘female action’ front by showcasing Hellcats amazing reflexes, strength, totally-not-spider-senses and unnatural stamina. However so far, the main action scenes have mostly involved Patsy jumping off of stuff, and it’s left a bit to be desired. There was even a fight that happened entirely off panel. I wish I were kidding when I say that the main villain of issue #3 is bedbugs. BEDBUGS. Sure, they’re magical bedbugs, but still. With a whopping 2 page fight predominantly filled with acrobatics it quickly loses interest despite its efforts at portraying mystery by slowly revealing bits and pieces about the REAL bad guy (sorry bedbugs), Casiolena.
At this point I kind of wish Bedbugs had made a surprise comeback for a final icky fight, because Casiolena was a major let down. At least the comic had enough comedy to point out that she’s basically a knock off Enchantress, complete with being kicked out of Asgard for generic evil stuff. She basically convinces teens to do bad stuff by saying she’ll wipe out their student debt or fix their credit score. (a cruel prank Casiolena. We don’t joke about student debt.) Cue all of them realizing it won’t work and needing real jobs….and now we’re back to the beginning. Once again the fighting is incredibly disappointing. After all, she was the main villain for the whole first story arch and how do they defeat her? One punch and one kick. That’s it. and Patsy isn’t even the one that punches her. Major let down. I will say they end the issue #5 in none other than Jessica Jones office, so I want to be excited. But after the way things have gone so far, I’m more worried than anything.
I’d like to end on a high note by giving one pat on the back this series certainly deserves. Its LGBTQ+ support is amazing. Not only is Ian openly gay with no one paying it more than a glancing comment about his previous partner, but Tom owns and manages an LGBTQ+ bookstore (Burly Books. How cute!!). Once again this does not get more than a quick passing comment, normalizing the lifestyle in a refreshing and much needed approach. It’s relaxed and comforting, and I will continue to support the series for at least a few more issues, solely for that reason. Who knows, maybe something will jump out at me and leave me hooked. As it stands, the comic reads more like a colorful manga, and less like a super heroine comic. There’s not enough butt-kicking for my taste, but I love the lifestyles they are reflecting and the friends being introduced.